Corruption in Asia and the Power of the Peasant in China

April 29, 2014

Corruption is a fact-of-life in Asia, and China may be one of the few countries in Asia doing something about it.

The Corruption Perceptions Index of 2013 reveals most of Asia is “very” corrupt—the smaller number is better and 175 is the worst global ranking, and that infamy is shared between Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia.

Of 177 countries ranked for corruption, Myanmar (Burma) was ranked 157; Iraq 171; Laos 140; Cambodia 160; Vietnam 116, and Indonesia 114.

Even India, the world’s largest democracy, was ranked 94. Singapore, by comparison, is 5th—one of the least corrupt countries in the world and it’s tied with Norway. The countries with the least corruption in the world were Denmark tied with New Zeeland. Third place goes to Finland and Sweden, another tie.

Thailand, another democracy, was ranked 102, but China—you know—the country that gets so much bad press in the United States for corruption, was ranked 80th—55% of the world’s countries were rated worse.

The power of the Chinese peasant demonstrated in this video may have something to do with China’s improved score as one of the least corrupt nations in East Asia. Few were better than China. South Korea was ranked 46 and Japan 18 which is better than the United States at 19.

It may come as a surprise to many Western critics but in rural China, democracy’s ballot box has been active at the village level since the mid-1980s. In fact, in 1997, The Independent reported that China’s rural peasants were discovering the power of the ballot box.

“Under Communist Party rule, village elections are the only example of one-person, one-vote democracy in China. Launched in the mid-eighties, they were originally introduced to replace the village communes that were dissolved after the Cultural Revolution.”

Few outside China have heard of China’s rural democracy. Nearly one million villages with 600 million Chienese hold elections and each time there is an election, the peasants learn more about democracy in action.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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