International cooperation is key to halting illicit outflows

Updated: 2015-07-20 08:02

(China Daily)

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International cooperation is key to halting illicit outflows

A photo illustration shows a $100 banknote placed above Chinese 100 yuan banknotes in Beijing. [Photo/Agencies]

Many people and organizations are giving China lessons about managing its financial system. However, gaps in the regulatory authority are not a product of intentional design, as conspiracy theorists suggest.

Instead, they arose because of the difficulty of keeping up with the rapid evolution of the economy and, on the corporate and individual level, increasing ways to chase higher returns from money, most importantly those extralegal and downright illegal ways, not from a lack of understanding or ability to monitor and regulate the new business activities.

The same might be said of the claim in a United States Department of State document alleging that "China leads the world in illicit capital flows." The State Department's 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report quoted the non-profit, Washington, DC-based research and advisory organization Global Financial Integrity, that over $1 trillion in illicit money left China between 2003 and 2012.

One trillion dollars is a serious number, though where it comes from and whether it is close to the truth, is contested by many critics. However, for a Chinese citizen, the research, not merely the number, has three significant implications.

Point one: The period covered by the research was indeed a time in which tremendous wealth was created in China's market-oriented reform, and not matched by equal growth in the central government's financial regulatory power.

Point two: That so much of a nation's newly created wealth could have been directed abroad as illicit money reflects all the more the necessity in China's ongoing anti-corruption campaign to root out bad officials and executives of State-owned enterprises and to strengthen its financial regulatory authorities. Admittedly, a good justice system cannot be built through just one campaign. But Chinese citizens are glad that their nation is making progress that they didn't hear about as often just a decade ago.

Point three: Some developed countries, the United State being the leader of the group, are the choice destinations of the Chinese illicit financial outflow, as Chinese law-enforcement departments have discovered.

Playing with different justice systems has been a modus operandi for all illicit money in the world. The best way to fight back is through international cooperation.

It is therefore the responsibility of the US government to not just announce to the world how illicit money once flowed from China, but also to help China - and through that to do a favor for the world as well - catch the corruption suspects that are still at large in its country.