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Liz Carter senior contributor

Grand Theft China: Tase Corrupt Officials in New Online Game

(Fair Use/Weibo)
(Fair Use/Weibo)

Official corruption in China is a serious matter: In Jan. 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping openly vowed to tackle it, and a 2013 Pew study found that 53 percent of Chinese consider it a “very big problem.” But fighting bribery, extortion, and graft isn’t just a presidential directive in China; it’s now also online entertainment. On Jan. 6, the Communist Party-run newspaper People’s Daily introduced an online video game called “Fight Corruption” on Weibo, China’s Twitter. Much like whack-a-mole, players gain points for using an electric prod to strike corrupt officials as they appear and disappear in the windows of a prison. “Click on your mouse to activate the electric prod,” the People’s Daily urges, “and get yourself on the anti-corruption high-score list.”

The game contains four types of corrupt bureaucrats: one, with hearts for eyes and a salivating mouth, is no doubt a nod to dirty officials’ predilection for keeping mistresses. A second type flaunts cash, likely embezzled; a third type grasps a bag of money; a fourth holds a red stamp, the kind used to approve contracts, which may indicate abuse of power. Players receive 100 points for every official successfully tased, and lose 100 for shocking police officers, who also appear in the prison windows to entice the trigger-happy.

The People’s Daily encouraged web users to play the game by claiming that “everyone has a responsibility to fight corruption and embezzlement.” But one anonymous Weibo user argued that there were better ways to increase public participation. “If China passed a law that entitled whomever reported a corrupt official to 10 percent of that official’s embezzled assets,” he wrote, “then everyone would get involved.”

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Liz Carter

Liz Carter is a DC-based China-watcher and the author and translator of a number of Chinese-English textbooks available on amazon.cn. She and her cat Desmond relocated to DC from Beijing, where she studied contemporary Chinese literature at Peking University, after learning that HBO was planning to adapt Game of Thrones for television. She writes at abigenoughforest.com and tweets from @withoutdoing.