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China: Culture of Corruption a Problem

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By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
May 15, 2007

A friend said that, like an arsonist that wants to watch the fire burn, I get great joy from visiting my liberal friends with my ideas that run counter to theirs. That’s not really true.  I just dislike the naivete or misinformed wrong-headedness of some of them. 

One of my views that annoys the media and liberals is that the many cultural differences between the west and Asia--China, in particular--should cause us caution, if not concern.  One of my contentions is that China has a “culture of corruption” that often causes western business people heartburn.  Consider just a few cases:

–In June of 2006, the Communist government in China sacked the Vice-Mayor of Beijing. A western businessman accused him of soliciting a bribe. During the investigation, officials discovered the Vice-Mayor, who was overseeing the construction of Olympic venues for the 2008 Games, had built himself a pleasure palace filled with young concubines on the outskirts of the city.  Mr. Liu Zhihua’s colorful private life emerged after he was removed from his post after a foreign businessman reported him for extorting a bribe.  The Times of London reported: “Mr Liu’s sacking has triggered accusations of widespread corruption surrounding the Games, and highlighted a culture of graft that is said to trouble British and other foreign companies working as specialist contractors on Beijing’s Olympic sites.”  The newspaper also wondered why the mayor was not investigated because China has a history of protecting the top officials when making a show trial for more junior people.

–That same month, a bogus ambulance picked up an injured pedestrian in Beijing, charging him about $100 US, and then driving him not to the closest hospital but to one much further away.  The man bled to death.

Concerned Chinese newspapermen discovered a plot that included unlicensed ambulances intercepting emergency calls and charging exorbitant rates to collect patients.

–On Sunday, May 4, 2003, The Washington Times published an article I wrote about SARS. To refresh the memory, SARS is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. That May 2003 piece was titled “China’s Ham-Handed SARS Response: Omen of The Future In Disease Control?”

In the SARS incident, China first denied that it had an epidemic. It responded with a media cover-up and did not face the medical emergency. As a result, China was just starting to tackle the problem when Singapore and Vietnam were mopping up.

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We also learned during the SARS emergency that China lacked sufficient medications, medical staff and hospital facilities to properly service their own population.  Like many other things in China, the medical system was mostly a sham.  The best educated medical professionals, it was uncovered, went to the west to work once their education was completed.  The World Health Organization estimated that only about 4% of China’s medical professionals were prepared for a disease like SARS. And the medical staff was severely undermanned.

Today, according to China’s Ministry of Health (MOH), “In most countries, the ratio of the number of nurses to the total population is about 0.5 percent, but the ratio in China is only 0.1 percent.”

–On May 10, 2007, the maker of Budweiser beer went to court in Arkansas to claim that an Arkansas-registered company is illegally marketing beer in China, using the American brewer’s trademarks.  Anheuser-Busch sued USA Bai Wei Group in Pulaski County, Arkansas, Circuit Court, seeking an injunction to revoke Bai Wei’s corporate charter and require a name change.  Bai Wei (pronounced By Way) is how the Chinese language trademark for Budweiser is pronounced in English, according to the St. Louis-based brewer’s complaint, filed Friday.

This incident is part of a decades-long disregard for intellectual property rights in China, where western copyrights and trademarks are ignored.  I saw my first illegially republished or “pirated” book in China in 1976.

The bottom line is this: until the culture of Chinese business improves, westerners will always be frustrated and wary of getting taken...more so in China than in almost any other nation in the world.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

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