I saw a post on Chinese blogger Hecaitou’s Twitter account today that I think bears translating and thinking about a bit. Quoting a comment he saw somewhere else on the net (he didn’t cite the source beyond saying a “netizen” said it), he wrote:
Doing one hundred good things for a leader is not as good as doing one bad thing together with a leader.
Admittedly, it’s a bit obvious, but this really is the problem with corruption: it propagates itself out of necessity. Even if a corrupt official has a change of heart, they’re obligated to continue supporting and promoting their former accomplices to keep them quiet (unless they’re willing to spend time in prison). And even a good man will have an easy time convincing himself there are reasons he needs to stay out of prison even if he does owe a debt to society — after all, who else will support his family and mistresses?
There needs to be some kind of incentive — a general amnesty, rewards, something drastic — to entice corrupt officials to actually change their ways. Harsher punishments are useless without real judicial oversight or the rule of law, so the government either needs to implement that (ha!) or find a way to make not being corrupt profitable.
In the meantime, you might as well hold off on any favors you were thinking of going for your local government officials. Think about committing some crimes with them instead. Or do one better than I have, and suggest a practical solution to official corruption in the comments.