In his outgoing presidential speech in late 2012, Hu Jintao warned that
failure to tackle corruption could “prove fatal to the party.”
Since taking the helm, Xi Jinping has been cracking down on corruption and ‘gift-giving.‘ But the campaign is “barely making a dent,” according to William Wan a China correspondent for The Washington Post.
Wan points out that in China, children learn about corruption at a very early age, because parents often need to bribe schools to get their children a spot. From Wan:
“Almost everything, from admission to grades to teacher recommendations, is negotiable in Chinese schools if you know the right person or have enough cash, parents and teachers say. As a result, many believe, the education system is worsening rather than mending the vast gap between the elite and everyone else in China.”
While public education in China is expected to be free, parents frequently cough up a small fortune to ensure admission. Wan reports that admission to a “decent Beijing middle school” can cost $US16,000 or more in payments or bribes. Sometimes the payment can go up to six figures.
And these ‘gifts’ aren’t just in the form of cash. They can including gifts of organic rice to teachers worried about food safety, or medication for a teacher that is sick, buying elevators for schools, or lavish gifts from their travels abroad.
For a nation trying to crack down on income inequality, this only widens the gap between the rich and the poor. Wan explains:
“Getting into a good middle school means a shot at Beijing’s top high schools. A top high school means proper preparation for China’s infamously rigorous college admissions exam, called the gaokao.
“A good gaokao score means a secure job, higher income, better housing, better marriage prospects.”
Some of these payoffs have even become “semi-legal” Wan reports. For instance, government ministries and state owned enterprises reserve seats for children of their employees through large donations. Some schools also charge a “school choice fee” for students from different school districts, and these can range from $US5,000 – $US40,000.
One self-made businesswoman Yang, told Wan that she didn’t save up for such payments and argued that her child would get in on merit alone. At some point she began sending in gift cards of $US20 – $US30, but these went unnoticed compared to larger sums that other parents could afford.
In second grade, when her daughter Qianyi lost out on an award, she blamed her mother for not giving her teacher medication when she was sick. Qianyi claimed another girl won because her mother had.
For Xi, this is proof that his campaign against corruption is failing at a grass root level.
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