Tea Leaf Nation

Grand Theft China

A new video game allows netizens to tase corrupt officials.

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 looks ready to pass along 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 encourages 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."

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 looks ready to pass along 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 encourages 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."

Liz Carter is assistant editor at Foreign Policy's Tea Leaf Nation. She lived for several years in Beijing, China, where she wrote and translated three Chinese-English textbooks and studied contemporary Chinese literature at Peking University. Since returning to the United States, she has co-authored a book on subversive linguistic trends on the Chinese Internet and been interviewed about developments in China by the Christian Science Monitor, Forbes, the Washington Post's WorldViews, and PRI's The World. Twitter: @withoutdoing

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