The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility

Business Ethics in China: What Would Chairman Mao Think?

Mao_2

By James Hyatt

My, how things change.

Once upon a time, China’s Chairman Mao – whose guidance often took the form of widely circulated quotations – could simply declare:

“Our duty is to hold ourselves responsible to the people. Every word, every act and every policy must conform to the people's interests, and if mistakes occur, they must be corrected - that is what being responsible to the people means.” (1945)

This year, the Communist Party’s Central Committee has gotten more specific. In late February, it issued a code of ethics specifying 52 unacceptable practices and warned that violators would be “severely” disciplined and subject to criminal charges. The official news agency Xinhua said the 52 practices include accepting cash or financial instruments as gifts, and using influence to benefit spouses, children or others in employment, stock trading or business.

It said leaders are “strictly prohibited from meddling in economic activities against relevant regulations with respect to construction projects, land transfer, government purchases, real estate development and operation, mineral resources exploration and utilization, intermediary services and enterprise restructuring.”

Other forbidden activities include using public funds for personal interests, engaging in insider trading, and spending “inappropriately large” amounts of government funds on the purchase of vehicles, office receptions, recreational activities and overseas tours.

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Photo: © Raimond Spekking / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL

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