Government corruption has become an increasingly urgent issue in China in recent years, and dealing with corruption has become a central political objective of the Chinese Communist Party. But two of the most basic and essential issues have also been the most insoluble ones — namely, opening up basic government expenditures (cars, food and miscellaneous expenditures), and giving an open account of the assets held by government officials. In his July 1 speech to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the CCP, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) said the Party faced “three dangers,” including corruption, but Hu said nothing in the speech about making the assets of Party leaders public. A regular concern to ordinary Chinese has been a reckoning of what are called the “three public expenditures,” or san gong jingfei (三公经费). These are, basically:
1. Expenses for overseas trips, ostensibly for government business but often for family vacations.
2. Expenses for food and entertainment
3. Expenses for public vehicles, usually including luxury sedans, private drivers, gasoline and related expenses, including maintenance
Back on February 27, 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao (温家宝) was asked during an online dialogue with internet users whether it was really so hard to deal with the problem of the “three public expenditures.” Wen responded that the government was committed to dealing with the problem, and said two things were necessary: 1. complete openness and transparency about all items of government expenditure and 2. democratic supervision, meaning that the press and public should be able to scrutinize public expenditures. But action on the “three public expenditures” has proved nearly impossible for China’s government.
In this cartoon, posted by artist Zhai Haijun to his blog at QQ.com, the “three public expenditures,” a huge, long-overdue dinosaur of a problem, sits stubbornly and immovably as a handful of ordinary citizens tug ineffectually on its tail in a hopeless attempt to bring change.