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Please Find Attached Gift: A Mistress

1 December 2006

The last dozen years saw fast economic growth at phenomenal rates in China. The last dozen years also saw bribery and corruption widespread at a phenomenal speed in China.

Previously many thought the crime of bribery/corruption of Chinese style was mainly committed by corrupt government officials and sinister local businessmen. But new evidences show that there is in fact a third party involved: a certain number of multinational companies doing business in China.

According to some figures released by the relevant organisations, of 500,000 bribery/corruption allegations investigated in the past ten years, 64 percent are related to international trade and multinational companies.

Bribery by multinational corporations in China has presented a serious threat in the local business environment. And even more disturbing is the new trends displayed with respect to BBM, which include:

The values of the transaction that involved bribery are increasing

It often includes luxury real estate properties overseas, and financial assistance to cover the living expenses for the official and his family members while staying abroad.

The methods of the bribery become more innovative

Now the most used method of bribery is not of direct monetary payment from one part to another, but by way of a third party transfer into the bribe receivers' overseas accounts.

Other methods that have been found include helping the offspring of the corrupt party to pursue their career interests or achieve business success. The bribe company may provide the youngest with opportunities to study aboard, or offering partnership to assist him in developing his own business, or simply inviting her to take up a position as the multinational company’s representative in China.

As to the corrupt officials, the rewards to their "services" could be overseas training trips, or gifts after retirement.

One of the most igneous practices is to supply a mistress to a bribery target. Those multinational companies would take care of everything, from searching for right candidate, organising her living arrangement to sponsoring her to overseas.

But the most intricate of all is to make an organise approach through multinational business association and to arrange their own men to the key positions in the government.

The action of bribery becomes harder to define

In some cases it is not a certain individual who accepts bribe but an entire organisation or institute. And the bribe or kickback often assumes a legitimate appearance such as setting up science research foundations, providing joint research programs, inviting to work as consultants, initiating research visits overseas, offering research awards, purchasing artworks by the bribery targets, or buying the copyrights of their books.

The target level of the bribery becomes higher

Evidently some multinational corporations are no longer content with their influence at local government levels. They want to go higher and now are targeting the officials in the central government. Their goals are to see China adopt policies that would allow them to secure big government contracts, to pay cheap prices for land acquisitions and to further lower the wages of local workers. They are not merely a passive part in the whole bribery/corruption game.

Take the case of the former president of China Construction Bank, Zhang Enzhao, who was sentenced to 15-years imprisonment last month. His long road to get himself behind the bars began at an overseas golf course four years ago.

(References: 香港大公报,国际先驱导报)

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