Smoker with expensive tastes and now aspiring novelist, Zhou Jiugeng
We were alerted to this interesting, if somewhat off-kilter opinion piece in China Daily that lists corrupt officials now in jail and their common hobby: writing books. It seems like a lot of officials, now that they have not much else to do, devote it to the pursuit – or at least recording – of knowledge. The list of previously politico scribes now in jail include:
- Zhang Erjiang, former Party secretary of the city of Tianmen in Hubei province, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail for embezzling public money and accepting bribes in 2002. He has had four books published since then, all of them on Chinese literature.
- Zhou Jiugeng, a former bureau chief who became famous on the internet after a picture showing him with a super expensive brand of cigarettes was released. He got 11 years… and maybe a book deal? He’s “progressing well with his novel in jail.”
- Xu Enxing, former party secretary of Henan Financial College who was sentenced to six years for accepting bribes in 2004. He has also published four books, but ironically on finance and economics. His digressions haven’t stopped securities companies from trying to hire him upon release.
That’s all well and good, except China Daily opinionist Zhu Yuan then goes on to equate this whole trend with too many smart people being put in high positions. That’s right, that’s the conclusion this guy reaches:
The message is that almost all of them are well-educated. This reminds me of the connection between knowledge and power: In the late 1970s, Francis Bacon’s quote “knowledge is power” was very popular when national college entrance examinations were restarted after being suspended for a decade. And placing well-educated people in top positions was a priority and it was taken for granted at the time that power in the hands of knowledgeable people would be used to better the interests of the people and the country.
There is nothing wrong with the hypothesis. But knowledge can be a double-edged sword when it comes to the use of power. We have numerous lessons from ancient dynasties, when officials were selected through imperial examinations. There were hardly any court or local officials who were not familiar with classics such as The Analects by Confucius. Yet, corrupt officials were everywhere in every ancient dynasty. Some of the notoriously corrupt officials in history were at the same time well-known calligraphers.
Bacon is right that knowledge is power. But such power can be abused. If that is the case, an illiterate person with enough common sense might cause much less damage to the interests of the public than a well-educated person in the same official position.
Really? So it’s “knowledge” that’s corrupting these guys and not say… easy money thanks to a “gifting culture,” a lack of stringent regulation, and a system that’s about as transparent as a block of wood? Thanks China Daily, you never fail to inform.