Leadership: China Exorcises The Military Ghosts


October 25, 2013: China has been energetically fighting military corruption for two decades now. There has been some success, but the problems were widespread and well entrenched. Cleaning it all up has been slow going. For each problem that is addressed (like forcing generals to sell off businesses the military bought or built and served to make a lot of officers rich) new ones pop up (like generals finding new ways to extort cash or favors from companies supplying the military). Some overall progress has been made, and by Chinese standards (which favor long-term rather than short-term success) that is a good sign.

The latest effort is an attempt to halt, or at least reduce, the sale of civilian jobs in the Defense Ministry. All armed forces have civilian employees, who handle support and administrative jobs. In China a lot of the civilian jobs in the military were for sale and were often not real jobs at all but an excuse for someone to steal the pay and benefits that went with that job. These phantom employees are called “ghosts” (among other things) and the practice has been around as long as the military has had a payroll and bureaucrats to maintain it. China now intends to make it less of a temptation by adding more transparency to the recruiting process. That and more auditing and tracking of people once hired is making it much more difficult to mess with these civilian jobs and get away with it. So, on October 19th, China began recruiting civilians openly via the web, mainly for technical jobs. These are the positions you don’t want political appointees, or no one at all, in. By openly recruiting on the web the Defense Ministry reaches a larger audience of potential candidates and, so the thinking goes, makes better quality job candidates available.  

There will continue to be efforts to corrupt the hiring process, but with the public recruiting, the government is letting more people know about what jobs exist and that makes it harder for someone to later use that job to pay off a supporter or just steal a paycheck. Not impossible to be more corrupt, just more difficult to carry out. For Chinese leaders, that’s progress.




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