Recent posts on Weibo have revealed a campaign to expose officials who purchase luxury brand watches, as illuminated by the case of Yang Dacai, a safety supervision official whose insensitive smile at the site of a bus crash in Yan'an, Shaanxi Province, propelled him to online infamy. Beyond the smile, it was his expensive watches which led to a government probe into his assets, demonstrating that the ability of online exposure to combat corruption is increasing.
In the past, instances of corruption exposed online were isolated. Now, groups of netizens can target officials they don't like and expose their wrongdoings through "human flesh searches" to track down every scrap of information possible.
Due to the staggering numbers of Chinese netizens, the power this group has to curb corruption may grow exponentially, changing the landscape of the fight against corruption in China.
The deterrence of such online exposure, which can destroy an official's career overnight, seems far more effective than anti-corruption education measures.
It's likely that many officials will instinctively resist wearing luxury watches in public, and be aware of how they use other luxury items as well. This will strike a heavy blow to the despicable practice of sending officials luxury items as gifts.
Due to these powerful "human flesh searches," consumption of other luxury products will also be restrained to a certain degree. This undoubtedly helps combat corruption in China.
The Internet imposes a stern, somehow idealized standard on officials' honesty and integrity, a standard that is way above the actual level of Chinese society.
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