Monday, January 14, 2008

The China Law Center Co-Hosts Workshop on Anti-Corruption Reform

On January 12-13, 2008, the China Law Center co-hosted a workshop on anti-corruption law and policy with Peking University’s Administrative and Constitutional Law Research Center.  The conference, “Constructing Legal Institutions for Anti-Corruption,” brought together top scholars, policymakers, judges and prosecutors to debate institutional and legal reforms to help address China’s enormous corruption problem.

Susan Rose-Ackerman, the Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School, led a delegation of U.S. experts, which also included Nancy Boswell, president of Transparency International-USA; Peter Clark, a former senior Department of Justice lawyer and partner of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; Professor Alasdair Roberts of Syracuse University; and Professor Melanie Manion of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The workshop was organized by Center deputy director Jeffrey Prescott and fellow Zhen Liu, along with other staff.

In the two-day discussion, participants focused on institutional and legal solutions for anti-corruption reform, drawing on China’s recent experience and efforts in the United States, Hong Kong,Singapore, and Taiwan.  The frank and sometimes heated discussion included issues of transparency, the need for institutional independence, administrative and regulatory reforms, the role of the media, and other reforms which might help check or prevent corruption.China's recent twenty-five years have been marked by rapid economic growth and enormous changes in society; however, various forms of corruption — including graft, embezzlement, bribery, and outright theft — have remained a serious problem.  Many experts believe corruption is intensifying, despite high-profile efforts to crack down on the problem.

Professor Rose-Ackerman highlighted the danger of failing to address corruption, even in the context of rapid economic growth, noting corruption’s contribution to economic inequality.  For this reason in part, many scholars in China believe that corruption needs to be addressed in a fundamental way, and the ruling Chinese Communist Party has publicly acknowledged that corruption may “threaten its survival.”

The workshop sessions focused on institutional reforms that, if adopted, might help stem or prevent corruption.  The discussion focused on international experience which might help reform efforts in China, and also included a frank debate of the challenges to serious reform.  In addition to China’s leading legal and political scholars, the workshop also included officials from the China’s national legislature, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the State Council, and a new National Corruption Prevention Bureau.

The conference was reported widely in the Chinese press.  One particular focal point was a discussion of proposals in China to require the reporting and disclosure of assets of senior officials and their family members as a transparency-enhancing ethics measure.  Peter Clark spoke about the widespread U.S. experience with these regulations, and recent articles in the Chinese press have continued to debate the issue.

A volume of papers from the conference are expected to be published by Peking University later this year.  For Chinese coverage of the workshop, see Beijing News, Southern Weekend, and China Court.