Art Market Fueling Rampant Chinese Corruption

China’s anti-corruption watchdog is warning against disguising corruption as arts patronage. The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) says officials should not occupy seats within arts associations, or hawk their calligraphy works as though they were professional artists.

A report published on the website of the agency on Tuesday says officials shouldn’t “grab meat from the plates of artists.”

Calligraphy is one of the popular hobbies of Chinese officials and is associated with scholarship and wisdom. Chinese leaders such as Mao Zedong have been praised for their penmanship and ink calligraphy, which is said to be revealing of one’s depth of character. Officials will often create auspicious calligraphic works at the enterprises or work units that they visit as a memento that would then be proudly displayed by the companies.

But the CCDI warns that some officials who are not actually good at calligraphy are passing off their inferior works as valuable items. They explain that the works are then sold as a means of concealing bribes being paid to the officials by the buyers of the “artworks.” The system, which essentially amounts to a form of money laundering, is known as “elegant bribery” in the country.

Bureaucrats are also occupying seats within arts associations that should go to professional artists. The CCDI report singled out the Shaanxi Calligrapher’s Association which unnecessarily has 34 deputy chairmen.

“As you have promised to make contribution to the party and to the country, why are you greedy for an unnecessary title for unjustified interests?” wrote Wang Qishan, the head of the CCDI.

The report also points out that officials who have barely grasped the standard script of calligraphy are jumping ahead to the more advanced cursive style of writing and mounting their works as gifts. The report’s publication comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for more art that glorifies the state (see Chinese President Calls Artists “Market Slaves” and Journalism Prize for Photo of China’s President With Umbrella)

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