The corruption index also offered the opportunity for Web users to
see how China measured up to peer nations. Microbloggers relished the
opportunity to draw comparisons and put their standing in broader
context. @往事如风云 pointed
out Taiwan's ranking at 37: "I'd been surprised to hear others call
Taiwan more corrupt than the Mainland. I haven't been there, and I'd
rather believe this survey."
Some comments expressed a mixture of pride and nationalism. "How do I
see China's ranking? At least we're ahead of a bunch of those
'democratic' countries like India, Russia, Mexico, Argentina, Greece,
and we're better off than the post-Arab Spring countries Egypt and
Libya," @超级小璁璁 wrote.
Putting the results in context
The buzz around the corruption perception index provides yet another
example of how online information and social networking are providing
channels for citizens to develop a more independent sense of how their
The chatter offered a snapshot of the public cynicism and the credibility gap that the new leadership is seeking to bridge. Foreign, Hong Kong,
and domestic Chinese media are taking note of the new Xi
administration's emerging policy platform, which appears to have
anti-corruption and clean government at its core. Taking its cue from
the administration, the official party media outlet People's Daily showcased eight city and provincial-level government officials
that have come under internal investigation for improprieties and
alleged illegal conduct since last month's 18th Party Congress. Official coverage has highlighted the fact that online networks of citizens exposed corruption in a number of these cases.
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The Xi administration is, of course, not the first Reform Era leader
to take up the banner of clean government. With limited success, prior
administrations have dealt with government corruption through internal
investigations and Communist Party disciplinary actions. In the past,
Party leaders have also used charges of corruption as a pretext to purge political enemies, and one might be tempted to ascribe such a motive to a new administration seeking to consolidate its power.
A more optimistic view is that the Party has realized that it needs
to deal more effectively with the lack of confidence many Chinese people
have in their legal and political systems.
Significantly, official media coverage of the recent investigations
emphasizes the importance of public participation. According to an op-ed in the government-run People's Daily,
these online exposés of corruption prove that the Internet is an
important platform for interaction between citizens and leaders even if
there is a danger that social media spreads misinformation and rumors as
well as unearthing the truth. The op-ed is short on policy
prescriptions beyond a vague need to "systemize" and "standardize"