Prema Sagar, Principal and Founder, Genesis B-M has been, once again, recognised in IMPACT magazine’s list of Top 50 Most Influential Women in 2014. She has been ranked 19, up from 24 last year, amongst the most influential women in media, marketing and advertising and has been acknowledged for her pioneering work in India’s Public Relations industry. The third edition of the list was revealed last evening, March 19, 2014 in Mumbai.
GBM’s client, Aditya Ghosh, President, IndiGo congratulates Prema and says, “I have known Prema for more than 25 years now and so it is difficult to pick on a few aspects of her versatile personality to highlight. At the core, Prema is uncompromising in her integrity. Every thought and in every action, she repeatedly demonstrates what she firmly believes in. Often, a good advisor, needs to have the conviction to tell you what not to do! Prema has no dearth of that personal conviction and yet, she is someone who makes an enormous amount of effort in understanding her client’s world and best interests. But if there is one thing that Prema needs to be recognised for is the fact that she is truly self-made and an inspiration for those who get to watch her in action!”
Genesis Burson-Marsteller, leader in integrated communications, organized a post-election panel discussion in association with Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI) in New Delhi.
With this panel discussion, Genesis Burson-Marsteller has set the ball rolling for Being More Conversations, a thought leadership platform for expertise and experience come together to deliver insights and ideas to approach a constantly changing world.
The panel discussion convened acclaimed academia, including Dr Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, Research Director, India Development Foundation and Dr Rajiv Kumar, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research along with senior members of the press, including Anil Padmanabhan, Deputy Managing Editor, Mint and Shekhar Iyer, Senior Associate Editor, Hindustan Times.
The panelists offered their views on how the outcome of the 2013 state elections is likely to influence the political and economic outlook of India in the coming year. The discussion was moderated by columnist and former newspaper editor, Rahul Sharma, President – Public Affairs at Genesis Burson-Marsteller.
On the occasion, Prema Sagar, President, PAFI and Principal & Founder, Genesis Burson-Marsteller said, “After the recent state elections, Indians have woken up to newer possibilities, we want to know what is in store for the future, we want to know who will fight for our cause more. A panel as accomplished as we have today, write, critique and keenly observe changing trends. They are our best guides to give us a glimpse of those new possibilities.”
PRWeek celebrated its 15th anniversary in the US by introducing a Hall of Fame to recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to the communications industry and PR profession.
The inaugural group of six inductees (listed below) were honored during a celebratory dinner in New York City on December 2nd. PRWeek will induct three more individuals into the Hall of Fame each year.
The 2013 inductees are:
Harold Burson, founder, Burson-Marsteller
Al Golin, founder & chairman, GolinHarris
Jon Iwata, SVP, marketing & communications, IBM
Charlotte Otto, senior corporate strategist, Weber Shandwick; former global external relations officer, Procter & Gamble
Marcia Silverman, former global CEO, Ogilvy Public Relations
Marilyn Laurie, former EVP of PR and brand management, AT&T
A busy week of PRWeek Awards judging and our first Influencer Summit ended with the sad news of the passing of Nelson Mandela at age 95: one of the greatest people – and communicators – of the 20th century.
There’s no need for me to add to the acres of newsprint and bits and bytes that will be devoted to the great man over the next few days, suffice to say his example is one that can inspire people in all walks of life, not least the communications profession.
But it set me thinking about role models, inspiration, leadership, and fortitude in the face of adversity.
Also this week, on Monday night, we honored our own legends at the inaugural PRWeek Hall of Fame dinner, instigated to coincide with the 15th anniversary of our brand in the US, and the first of what will now be an annual fixture on the PR calendar.
Burson, the founder of PR agency Burson-Marsteller; Golin, founder of GolinHarris 55 years ago on the back of startup client McDonald’s; former Procter & Gamble comms chief Otto; and former Ogilvy PR CEO Silverman accepted their honors in person and then joined me for a discussion about changes in the PR industry over the years, their mentors, and tips to aspiring PR superstars of the future.
There was a real feel-good atmosphere amongst the audience of senior communicators in the room, as normal competitive instincts were set aside for the night to honor the Hall of Fame inductees and the wider profession.
Attendees included agency heads such as Andy Polansky, Renee Wilson, Karen van Bergen, Chris Graves, Donna Imperato, Fred Cook, Robert Dowling, and Pat Ford; and client-side folks including Kelly Vanasse and Paul Fox from Procter & Gamble, Bridget Coffing from McDonald’s, Angela Buonocore from Xylem, Paul Hicks from the NFL, and Bill Hughes from Pitney Bowes.
As usual, Harold stole the show without really knowing it. He was fresh from a recent trip to DC where the texts of his reporting from the Nuremberg Nazi war crimes trial in 1945 and 1946 had been published for the first time. Harold is donating the transcripts of his work for the American Forces Network to The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The standing ovation from the whole room that greeted his arrival on stage was heartfelt and meaningful – he is truly an icon of our industry, and what he has to say about communications and business still resonates completely. And he admitted to me that, for him, the evening was the equivalent of being awarded a Nobel Prize.
Just as Mandela lays serious claim to being one of the most influential people of the 20th century, Harold more than lives up to the “most influential PR person in the 20th century” tag bestowed on him by PRWeek in 1999 – and he is still going strong well into the 21st century.
Another highlight for me was when former AT&T comms head and founder of Earth Day Marilyn Laurie’s daughters Amy and Lisa accepted the Hall of Fame honor on their mother’s behalf. Each honoree was featured in a two-minute video summing up their career and achievements and there were more than a few teary eyes in the house as these were relayed on the big screens in the room, especially during the segment on Marilyn.
She too was a real pioneer in more than one field. She invented Earth Day in 1970 when environmentalism was not an issue and, one year later, began her journey in the communications department at AT&T that would involve transitioning from being a “little Jewish girl from the Bronx” to being part of the management executive committee with an EVP title “trying to help row the boat.”
In her video, Marilyn said she “started as far from the center of power as you could get in a company of that size,” but she and her colleagues “believed they could change the world – and we did.” She added that she hoped “I caused some people who do what we do to think you can do it with integrity and with courage – and you won’t get killed along the way.”
When facing difficult decisions, Laurie’s associates and co-workers would often ask “What Would Marilyn Do.” She said she liked to think “she changed a few things along the way,” and she sure did.
The same can be said of Harold Burson, Al Golin, and the other honorees – and at the end of a sad but still uplifting week, it’s a great time to reflect on the timeless values, humility, and founding principles that define great communicators – from our inaugural Hall of Famers through to Nelson Mandela himself.
6th December, 2013 http://prweekus.com/
Every year in November, we come together to celebrate the birthday of this incredible place we call home-Genesis Burson-Marsteller. And every year, I am struck by how far we have come, how large we have grown, how many clients we have. You might wonder why it seems surprising. Well, the reason is that it still feels as warm and close-knit as it did when we started out. We may have grown up to become a ‘mid-size company’, but at heart we remain the small, cozy firm, where the person sitting next to us is not just a colleague but a friend, a confidant, almost like family.
As I look back at the 20 years’ journey, it doesn’t feel like two decades-it feels like yesterday.
I am reminded of my father every time someone calls me a successful entrepreneur. He was of firm belief that no one in our family could succeed in business-we were thoroughbred service-class! I still remember the look on his face when my brother and I announced we wanted to set up a printing press. We started Genesis Printers in 1981 with one Mercedes brand letter-press printing machine and one client. It was there that I learnt that there was no job too big and none too small. We used to do everything. We even started a magazine that I wrote, published and delivered. They really were my formative years.
In 1989, my life took a different turn and brought Priya Paul, of the Apeejay Surrendra Group that owns the Park Hotel, into my life. They were looking for an image change without going for advertising. No one knew about public relations back then-nor did I. But we didn’t need to know the definition-we just needed to be creative. Thus was born ‘Going Public at the Park’ a monthly speaking event that brought attention to the hotel as a high-profile hospitality location.
Many moons and a course at the Frank Jefkins Institute of Public Relations in London later, I decided it was time to plunge headlong into this. In November 1992, Genesis PR came to life. There were three of us servicing three clients-Thai Airways, Travel House and of course, The Park Hotels, which was a relationship that lasted a decade.
A few people came into my life at that point, giving me just the right nudges. One of them was Kavin Sethi, then the public relations manager at Lufthansa. I remember constantly locking horns with him and discussing the nuances of PR with him. Tarun Das, back then the secretary general of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), was another strong influence in my life. He gave us the chance to manage the PR for the Indo-British Partnership Initiative (IBPI), a high-profile event to be held in Mumbai, and this gave us the launch-pad to enter the big league!
These people didn’t just help me. They also helped Genesis PR to develop better PR for PR, which was a nascent industry in India at the time. Indian companies didn’t have exposure to PR or the concept of PR as a strategic communication function. Former editor of The Financial Express YC Halan encouraged me to write about issues relating to PR and gave us the opportunity to come across as thought leaders.
Another remarkable experience of these first few years was the launch of Daewoo’s Cielo car in India. It was a luxury car, and for the first time in India, this was a product launched purely through public relations. Cars were flown from Korea for the multi-city launch press conference. We called journalists in the morning, prospective dealers in the afternoon and potential customers in the evening over dinner. Everyone got a chance to experience the car first-hand and were wowed by the overall look and feel. Against a target of 60,000 cars, Daewoo was delighted to find that 123,000 cars had been booked in advance, without any advertising! For us, it was a huge learning experience and a chance to really firm up our place in the minds of the Indian companies as people who could really provide impact through PR.
Time flew and as our client base grew, so did our business. We realized that we needed to strengthen our leadership. We also realized that we needed to expand our services to cover Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata. In 1996, we opened our Bangalore office, while in 1997, we set up the Mumbai office. An office was also set up in Kolkata mainly to service Indal.
Even as we grew, though, we were all very clear that business growth would never come at the cost of integrity and ethics, which is something that we stand by even today. The value system at Genesis has been the same from day one.
We also decided to invest back aggressively into the company to build capability, expand our service offerings, and create differentiators that would make us invaluable to our clients.
To deepen our relationships with the existing clients and to nurture loyalty and continuing business, we began creating more value by expanding our services to include PR-allied functions such as event management, content writing, news monitoring, reputation audit and evaluation, editorial services, research training workshops, online communications solutions and government relations.
Technology was to be our differentiator from get-go. Even though many of our clients didn’t have a computer for everyone, we ensured that there was one on everyone’s desk. Then, we made sure that our regional focus remained strong and so we did away with having a central business plan, relying on the regions to lead from the front. We also were the first to introduce practice areas: industries, services, consumer and entertainment, IT and telecom, and others.
To accommodate our growing ambitions, we moved the corporate headquarters to a swanky office in Signature Towers, Gurgaon. In my head I was clear-we had to be the best PR firm in the country!
We also realized that as a leading light, we also needed to elevate the industry even as we climbed up our own growth path. The PR industry as well as the overall business environment needed to be made more aware of the role that PR could play. Through workshops, talks and one-on-one sessions we sensitized clients as well as media on how we could add value at both ends. We also realized that measurement, audits and research had a huge role to play in making the PR industry more credible in the eyes of the clients and led us to get a seat at the strategy table with them.
Over the next few years, we strengthened our processes and also put in place measures to make the firm more professional-both in terms of what we did and how we did it. We also expanded to Chennai and Hyderabad. We were also rising steadily in the eyes of our clients, who began to trust us with more strategic counsel. Slowly but surely, I could see Genesis PR take on a life of its own. My baby was growing up!
As years passed by, people came and went, and each of them left a lasting impact on the firm and on us. Each of them brought invaluable experiences, knowledge, capabilities and insights, and added value in their own way. And then, in 2005, Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations giant, came to India and we became a part of them, charting a new course in the history of public relations.
I truly believe that we are where we are because of our people and the relationships we have built over the years. In all the madness of over-communication, too many platforms, rising stress, the one thing that shines through as a beacon is the deep connection each of us have with each other. It is the reason why so many of those who move on come back and join us! Even among our clients, the daily ups and downs may carry on, but at the end of the day, there is a high value they place on us.
Today, we are no longer teenagers-we are 21. And the maturity and balance expected of us, especially given the ups and downs of the economy, is much higher. No matter how far we come from where we began, though, we can never be far from our roots-our values, integrity and client focus. I always say you must understand the client’s pain points. If we see around us, those pain points have grown, so we must be even more concerned.
The wonderment and excitement with which we started our journey is still there. In this new phase, we look forward to the next level of growth with our integrated offerings, our growing centers of excellence and our expanding services. We have to keep this light burning inside each of us!
In the two years since the Kerala cabbie voiced his support for Modi, the perception that the Gujarat chief minister (and yes, he continues to be in that role) is a strong administrator, decisive, incorruptible and a man who keeps his promises has only strengthened. In New Delhi, in Kolkata, in Lucknow, Bhopal, Jaipur and Mumbai, Modi looks down upon us from posters and billboards – half smiling, half mocking, challenging everybody – especially the Congress that seems to merely follow his political agenda.
Never has an Indian politician been “branded” as Modi has been. We have NaMo phones, we have NaMo tea stalls, there are already two biographies out in the book stores and a biopic is underway. We also have a NaMo kurta, and probably many other products to come as the election temperatures rise.
Pitched as Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) potential prime ministerial candidate after the 2014 elections, Modi is setting himself up against a much younger, yet non-branded, Rahul Gandhi – the scion of a political family that has either ruled or helped rule India for a very long time. A perception battle between the two – amplified by the media – is probably the most top-of-the-mind dinner table discussion these days and one that Modi seems to be winning, at least for now.
As Modi launches his political blitzkrieg, mowing miles with his first-mover advantage, it is amply clear that he is working to a sharply targeted multimedia strategy put together by a war room that is propping him as a leader who can change India. The early start bodes well as it will give Modi and his team enough time to convert the fence sitters and break away those charmed by the Congress.
The media is helping by headlining every word Modi utters and television panel discussions are only cementing his position as a man who matters. Slowly, but surely, Modi’s image of a steely leader is getting entrenched into the political and social frequency of an election that is still some months away.
On the other hand, Gandhi seems weak, indecisive, and battling his own party, as he tells people his mother was upset with his choice of words when he interrupted a party press conference to oppose a proposed ordinance allowing convicted parliamentarians to keep their seats that was cleared by the prime minister and his cabinet.
Set up against a wily politician and an orator who can transfix the crowds, Gandhi’s image of a reluctant inheritor only gets a fresh shine every time he speaks.
The battle is between a man who thinks on his feet and seemingly wants to lead this large and diverse country, and another who still doesn’t seem to have made up his mind about whether he wants the job. In the public relations battle, Modi has won the first set. He’s still got to win the match though.
The shift in perception since the days when the national media called Modi a “murderer” after the deadly 2002 religious riots in Gujarat has been slow but huge.
No longer is Modi the pariah he once was. No longer is he hated or reviled as he was. No longer is he a political embarrassment (to many) as he was. No longer is he in the headlines for the “wrong” reasons as he was. Feted by the industry, the youth seeking jobs and a middle class frustrated with the Congress government over poor governance, dynastic politics and inflation, Modi seems to have grabbed people’s imagination and emotions.
Gandhi is sincere, but he lacks the power to hold the crowds and veer them to see his point of view. That’s because while Modi is all over, Gandhi pops in and out with statements that only raise more questions. New Delhi’s political citizenry is widely convinced that the young man wants Congress to lose badly so that he could then clean up the grand old party’s corrupt, wobbly script.
I remember watching Modi make the crowds dance during his election rallies in his home state back in 2007. Thousands of people wearing the “Modi Mask” followed the slow wave of the man’s hand from left to right – hypnotized by the sheer power of his oratory and stage theatrics. It scared many a political pundit. Gandhi is no match. In fact, the entire Congress party is made of weak speakers who sound unconvincing even when they mean business.
But let’s remember that a few months is a long time in politics and a lot could happen between now and the elections due by May next year. Winning a public relations and a perception skirmish is only part of the larger battle that Modi has to fight to help the BJP return to power after a decade in the wilderness. Voters might love Modi, but they might still choose not to cast their ballot for his party.
Eventually, Modi will have to make people believe that he is not as divisive as many believe him to be if he wants the top job. That’s easier said than done. The posters and potshots are fine for now. The winner in the public relations battle between Modi and Gandhi will only be announced next year – the day the votes are counted. Until then, watch the political theatre and enjoy.
Rahul Sharma, former newspaper editor, President, Public Affairs, Genesis Burson-Marsteller and a founding member of the Public Affairs Forum of India
10th Oct, 2013 http://PRmoment.in/
India can learn lessons from the Americans, who worry about China’s rise as much as we do. The first lesson is to be pragmatic. The second is to find a right balance between politics and business
At a time when India needs to attract higher foreign investments – not only to bridge its gaping current account deficit, but to also create millions of new jobs – there is a need to look at Chinese companies differently than we have in the past. And we can learn lessons from the Americans, who worry about China’s rise as much as we do.
The first lesson is to be pragmatic. The second is to find a right balance between politics and business despite the usual noise that tends to drown reason to accommodate the interests of both sides.
Last year, two Chinese technology companies – Huawei and ZTE – were hauled over the coal by the intelligence committee of the U.S. House of Representatives after concerns over national security threats. “Chinese telecommunications companies provide an opportunity for the Chinese government to tamper with the United States telecommunications supply chain,” the committee’s investigation report said.
It recommended that the United States should view with suspicion the continued penetration of the US telecommunications market by Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturers and private companies should consider the long-term security risks associated with doing business with these Chinese companies. Of course, the two companies protested loudly as anybody would, but the report is now a permanent marker in US-China relations.
However, Americans turned out to be eventually pragmatic. They have not only allowed Chinese companies to invest in the key energy sector, last month the largest acquisition of an American company by a Chinese firms went through without serious hiccups.
There was cause of celebrations when shareholders of the US Smithfield Foods Inc. agreed to sell their company to China’s Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd for $4.7 billion. The deal went through despite initial concerns over national security.
Let’s return to India. The same telecommunications companies that got hammered in the United States have also been under the government microscope for some time. Every Chinese company looking to invest in India quickly becomes a victim of a 50-year-old narrative when India and China went to war over a border issue. Since the issue remains unresolved, the mindset demands that everything China and Chinese needs to be looked at suspiciously.
If for a moment we do agree that Chinese companies have sinister plans to destabilize India, we need to look West – towards Europe, Africa and both North and South America where cash-flushed Chinese state-owned and private firms have been on a business buying spree for some years now. While the big focus was energy earlier, the trend has changed as different businesses (going cheap everywhere post the 2008 financial crisis) are being eyed and bought.
Given that most American companies have virtually given up on India and are keener to invest in their domestic economy that is beginning to finally expand, the only source of investment that India could possibly look at is China. However, it has to be pragmatic and balanced in attracting the kind of investments it wants and in sectors where the threat factor is low. Let’s not forget that the eventual plan of the two countries is to raise bilateral trade to $100 billion in the next few years, and that opens up several possibilities for Chinese investments in sectors that are safer from a “national security” point of view.
While geopolitics will always continue to play a strong role in India-China relations, let’s also understand and appreciate that the two need each other – for different reasons of course. While it is in India’s interest to bridge its trade deficit with China, it is also in China’s interest to get a toehold in the Indian market at a time when its exports to the West are shrinking and its overall economy beginning to slow down.
Similarly, it is in the interest of Chinese companies to overtake Japanese and South Korean brands that have made India a strong home in the last two-odd decades. For India, which is now talking of allowing Chinese companies to set up shop in special economic zones (than let them run around freely in the countryside), the focus should be on getting the best deal for the government and the people.
National security, like everything else, is relative to the situation on ground at a certain period in time. India needs to handle matters with China confidently and keeping its interests in mind.
Let’s go back to the Americans again. Back in 1971, President Richard Nixon and his right hand man Hendry Kissinger set the ball rolling to bring China into the global economic mainstream. The reason was geopolitical, For three decades after that American companies poured in billions of dollars into that country, bringing it to a point that now Americans themselves have started looking at China as an emerging global power that could overtake the United States in the near future.
The threat of China to the superpower is as real as it to a regional power such as India, which also happens to share a troublesome border issue with the large neighbor. Good business always makes for good politics and, therefore, it is in the interest of bother India and China to ramp up investments.
India doesn’t have to entirely follow the American way, but it can surely learn how to deal better with the Chinese by letting them in in a manner that helps New Delhi resolve its economic troubles.
Oct 7th, 2013 http://www.businessworld.in
Modi knows that if the young – a brand new, vibrant constituency – start believing he will get them jobs and the financial sustainability, they can help him win the election
By Rahul Sharma
Special for Caravan
The state of the young in India is dismal and the mood gray. A slowing economy and high cost of living have only added to their woes. Add to that the fact that business sentiment will continue to be poor for the next several months in the run up to the elections – and even after that if a sustainable government doesn’t come to power – and you see a horribly potent recipe for social unrest.
Modi knows that if the young – a brand new, vibrant constituency – start believing that he will get those jobs and the financial sustainability that would let them buy all the gadgets, goods, automobiles and apartments, they would come out in throngs and help him win next year’s general elections.
Given the state of India’s shrinking job market into which 12 million youth trundle in every year, Modi’s call resonates well not only in large urban centres, but also the smaller towns where aspirations and opportunities have made traditional roles redundant.
So how badly off is the situation?
If you believe a new Confederation of Indian Industries-Economic Times (CII-ET) survey of India’s young, it’s pretty nasty out there. Of its 1.2 billion people, 800 million are less than 35 years old – and they seem to be really upset with the way things are.
According to the survey, findings of which were published in The Economic Times, three out of four of them believe that the economy today is worse off than it was in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crises. More than half say it is the worst time to look for jobs and nearly 60 percent have postponed buying a house, a car or having children. Worse, nearly 40 percent of the people polled in 28 cities said they won’t mind taking a pay cut if that improves their chances of holding on to a job.
It can’t get worse for the Congress; and it can’t be better for Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is still looking for that one issue that could change its fate and bring it out of its decade-long political wilderness.
“This is the most disturbing micro impact of the macro slowdown,” the newspaper quoted Rajya Sabha MP and entrepreneur Rajeev Chandrashekkhar as saying. According to him, educated Indians looking for their first or second jobs are hurting the most.
Thousands of engineering, medicine and businesses schools in India produce millions of graduates each year. But they hit a hard wall when they get into the job market. The impact is two pronged. Fewer jobs also mean there aren’t many takers for the seats in the graduate and post-graduate schools, many of which are beginning to shut down.
“The following set of numbers shows the young have read the grim job market right. Andhra Pradesh has over 700 engineering colleges and 350,000 seats – the highest in any Indian state. But just 200,000 seats were filled up this year. Why? Because just 20% of the class of 2013 have got jobs. When young Indians give up the chance of getting an engineering degree, you know there’s something very wrong,” the Economic Times wrote.
The other, bigger, impact is on the consumer, automobile and real estate markets, which are now losing their sheen as poor demand pulls the economy down. No wonder, the government is being forced to ask state-owned banks to offer cheaper loans for consumer goods and two-wheelers to boost demand in an otherwise depressing economy.
These are problems only politicians can address. There is a need for a fresh thinking and new policies that could create more jobs, both in the manufacturing and services sector. There is a need to lift business sentiment so that investments on hold can be channeled into infrastructure and other industries that would create jobs. These are issues that can’t be solved overnight, but if you have a large chunk of your population that is either unemployed or underemployed, you have a huge problem on hand.
If you believe Modi, then he probably understands the issues better than other politicians. The Congress doesn’t seem to have a solution, nor can it explain its lethargy in fixing the situation in the 10 years that it has ruled India. The grand old party is not even talking about jobs – at least not yet. A disgruntled youth is not good for politicians and the country. The leader who can show a way to the youth stuck in between a rock and hard place is likely to win the next election.
It is up to politicians and the next government to take the right steps.
Oct, 2013 http://caravandaily.com/
September 14th 2013 – Storyboard CNBC TV18
Expect more headline grabbing cases as authorities begin to snare top officials on charges of corruption. While very few would bother about the “flies,” the “tigers” will need to be watched
One, the Chinese government seems keen to close the former Chongqing party boss’s embarrassing corruption-laden chapter before senior party leaders meet in November to discuss the new economic agenda.
Two, Bo’s trial – which made global headlines — seems to be just the start of a serious campaign against corruption that has not only tainted the Communist Party, but also raised questions about its ability to continue to influence a nation that is beginning to ask hard questions.
The big battle against corruption in a society, which once dreaded to question its political leaders, is being led by none other than China’s President Xi Jinping, who earlier this year vowed to go after both the low-level “flies” and the high-ranking “tigers” in his campaign against corrupt officials.
So, expect more headline grabbing cases as authorities begin to snare top officials on charges of corruption. While very few would bother about the “flies,” the “tigers” will need to be watched since they would be the ones paying a price for being either close to Bo or losing out in a political game that will ensure that Xi ousts his potential enemies and critics from the system he wants to cleanse.
The bugle has been sounded by the political bureau of the Communist Party of China, which late last month passed a four-year plan to establish a system to punish and prevent corruption. Indeed, the party well understands that if it has to continue to wield power it needs to quickly change the public perception that it does little to end corruption, which has created a “grim and a complicated” situation in the country.
A statement clearly stated that a major task and goal for the party is to stop the spread of corruption. It was a direct message to party officials: shape up, or ship out. The call to fall in line and give up the unofficial perks that come with the job is a difficult one, but necessary at a time when China is battling an economic slowdown that has brought into focus the huge rich-poor divide and the unacceptable practices of officials – many of whom, Bo included, used their position to allegedly make lots of money on the sly.
The big question is whether there will be a perceptible shift in the way officials work, or the government’s efforts would remain an exercise in futility. Given the big “tigers” already snared in the anti-corruption drive, the attempt seems to be make examples of senior officials in the hope that the harsh punishment meted out to them would discourage their colleagues from continuing to loot people and the economy.
Let’s start with Bo, the once-powerful party boss of Chongqing, who was tried for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. During his trial, details of which were shared by the court in a blog it ran, Bo of course denied all charges and claimed that his wife and the former provincial police chief who ratted on him had an affair and that he was being fixed. He is waiting for a court verdict after a five-day trial that gripped the nation and others elsewhere.
The next big fish on the list seems to be Zhou Yongkang, who in his capacity as the domestic security chief was one of the most powerful men in the country until his retirement last year. Zhou – who has close connections with the state oil industry — fell out of favour for backing Bo. The recent arrests of several top oil officials have lent credence to the view that the net might be closing in on Zhou.
Last month, a high-ranking official who headed the powerful body that oversaw state enterprises also came under the microscope for suspected serious disciplinary violations, the state media said. Jiang Jeimin was earlier the party chief of Asia’s largest oil and gas producer – the China National Petroleum Corporation.
Several other senior party leaders, including the former railways minister Liu Zhijun who was given a suspended death sentence for taking bribes and abuse of power, have been used to show the state’s seriousness against widening corruption.
The chances of the battle against corruption gaining in intensity is high, given that Xi has made it one of his main planks of governance at a time when he has to continue consolidating his position and show people that he means business, and that he is perfectly capable to looking after the world’s second biggest economy that has to launch dramatic reforms to reach the next level of growth.
Traditionally, that jump has not been achieved without stamping out corruption, and China – which aspires to overtake the United States to become the world’s biggest economy in the next few years – knows that the big boys have to be first stopped if the little fellows need be controlled. Rooting out the rot, therefore, seems to be one of the most important objectives of Xi’s rule.
At least somewhere the rotten are being punished!
Sep 3th, 2013 business-standard.com