Saturday, March 04, 2006

George Orwell must have predicted this

George Orwell, or as the Mandarin says in Mandarin 喬治歐威爾 Qiaozhi Ouerwei, didn't die in 1950, as you will read in palces like Wikipedia -- he is alive and well and living in China.

The Mandarin recalls back in the 1980s, when he was traipsing the length and breadth of China trying to find a single Chinese entity creditworthy enough to make a loan to them, that one year (in the late 80s?) the central government decided to crack down on extravagant entertainment of local officials by limiting all banquets to five courses (or was it three?). This of course was at a time when many business proposals were approved after undergoing further "study" by the Chinese side. Hint: "study" 研究 sounds a lot like "cigarettes and liquor" 煙酒. Nudge, nudge.

So, shortly after that announcement, the Mandarin was at a bank meeting (where a borrower and their bankers meet to discuss a new loan proposal) in Shenzhen and after the third course (or was it the fifth?) of a long maotai-filled dinner, all the local officials got up stony-faced (especially since it was mid-winter and the snake soup was just coming out of the kitchen) and excused themselves.

Ah, nostalgia. Sometime, the Mandarin will have to describe the public toilets at the Lhasa (Tibet) Airport.

Anyway, imagine the Mandarin's surprise to read this today:

BEIJING (Reuters) - An adviser to the Chinese parliament has urged curbs on civil servants' body weight to aid the fight against corruption.

In a country where people often complain that police officers seem too well fed to catch villains, Miu Shouliang said limiting the weight of officials would stop them spending government money on wining and dining, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Such a measure "should also contribute to regulating their working styles and improving morality," Xinhua said, citing Miu, a businessman from the southern boom town of Shenzhen.

"However, some experts doubted the scientific basis of such a method," Xinhua added.

The proposed measure, which Miu did not detail, might do more than limit waste of public funds. Low-level bribery in China often takes the form of elaborate banquets, which, unlike cash, cannot be traced after being eaten.

Well, the Mandarin wonders if perhaps tiny multi-colored indigestibe plastic balls mixed into the sauces might overcome the "cannot be traced" public funds waste problem....

Anyway, the Mandarin can see it now: the monring weigh-in at the Shenzhen Bureau of the State General Administration for Foreign Exchange Control.

"Next, Comrade You Qianren 有錢人 [Mandarin joke: it means "rich guy"], step on the scales please; we know you were entertained last night at a banquet by the decadent right-wing revisionist running dog capitalist lackeys from Citibank.... Uh oh, up two kilos from last week. Get out the castor oil."

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