Ever-controversial Global Times published a surprisingly frank editorial that hit on a long-running Chinese debate over reform, governance, and democracy.
In the airtight Chinese print media world, where officials wield the power to splash the same headline across many newspaper front pages or to keep a taboo subject out of even obscure one-line advertisements, editorials are usually painless scratches over petty social occurrences. One would not expect them to engage their millions of readers on a controversial subject. But that's exactly what Global Times, circulation 2 million, did when it addressed Chinese government corruption. With one unsigned editorial, the paper sparked a heated, if apparently unintended, debate on a sensitive topic that is usually a no-go zone for such large, public discussions.
The tabloid newspaper, owned and published by party mouthpiece People's Daily, dropped a bomb with its editorial last week titled "Fighting Corruption Is a Strenuous Battle in China's Social Development." It argues that corruption exists in all countries, including China, which will not be able to eliminate it any more than can any other country. Rather, it says, the key is to contain corruption to a level that citizens will accept. Comparing China to democratic Asian countries that are also dealing with corruption, the editorial reads, "China is possibly the country in Asia right now where 'the pain of corruption is most keenly felt.'" But unfortunately there is no quick remedy to this pain, because "corruption in China cannot be eliminated through fighting against it or through reform. ... It is a problem embedded in Chinese society's overall level of development," and thus "needs to be solved through 'development.'"