Corruption in the People’s Republic of China is nothing new to Western media consumers. The usual story is some corrupt politician in one of the ministries or provincial government who has been giving favorable contracts to friends and family for kickbacks. But in the past couple of years, a rise in a new type of corruption has been coming to light: corporate corruption.
Major Chinese corporations are generally state-owned and state-controlled. This makes these corporations arms of the government, even though they are participating in the private sector like other private sector firms. So, when corporate corruption takes place, the Chinese government is on the hook for them.
Chinese state-owned enterprises, especially China Construction Corporation (CCC), have been bidding for construction contracts in South Asian, Middle East and Africa against, primarily, South Korea. With the financial backing of the Chinese government, these firms have been winning the contracts for building infrastructure in Africa and private real estate projects elsewhere. Though these firms are working outside of China, their practices haven’t changed. Client-governments have been receiving bills that are twice as expensive as comparable projects, environmental studies and other feasibility studies have not been performed, and local officials have been getting offers to look the other way on these activities.
In a bold move, the Chinese government has primarily taken to defending CCC, asking client-governments to respect the contracts and pay up. Local governments find it hard to swallow such counter-accusations when China won’t produce evidence of work being done properly or at all. The Chinese government has a difficult time with diplomacy under such circumstances because they are considered intimately involved in these firms.
Corruption for Chinese firms like CCC puts Chinese government in a bind because it has been trying to crackdown on corruption in the government and cleanup its image. In the technology sector, firms like Xiomi has been able to prove to the world very quickly that it can compete fairly by producing better phones. If other sectors in China are to attempt to work across its borders, it’ll have to learn to compete with rules it can’t break.
About the Author: Marcus Maltempo is a compliance professional with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses.