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Corruption jackpot

Although I’m no gambler I’ve always had a soft spot for Macau. The city bares no resemblance to its pre-Vegas days, say, 15 years ago, but still there’s a unique atmosphere here, and some of the best food in Greater China – do try A Lorcha if you happen to be passing through, it comes with a Chambers money-back guarantee.

However, things have gone rather quiet in the former Portuguese colony of late. In February, gambling revenue in Macau plunged 49% from a year earlier, rocked by China’s crackdown on corruption. The drop was the ninth consecutive month of falling revenues for the Special Administrative Region, illustrative of how the corruption crackdown has been quite a party pooper for many high fliers in the People’s Republic.

Maritime firms have been at the centre of the incessant anti-graft campaign which president Xi Jinping has been leading since he came to power in 2013. Although it is illegal for Chinese citizens to hold two passports, this year’s must have accessory for the queasy Chinese executive is a get out of jail foreign passport. Increasingly we’ve been reporting on our daily news site tales of top management at shipping firms doing runners, just upping sticks and fleeing, leaving behind huge debts, like rats leaving a sinking ship.

Another constant on our site has been the number of maritime-linked firms that have come under scrutiny from Beijing’s anti-corruption team. Big names such as Cosco, China Shipping and the two main shipbuilding groups – CSIC and CSSC – have all had their books scrutinised this year. A host of the nation’s top shippers have also been put under the microscope.

Judging by recent soundbites there’s unlikely to be any let up soon. The fact is, corruption is still rife and is a source of deep irritation and frustration for the population at large.

Transparency International ranks China the 76th most corrupt nation in the world out of 175 nations profiled. Putting that in perspective, Egypt and Colombia are viewed as less corrupt.

Li Keqiang, China’s premier, speaking at the National People’s Congress at the start of March said: “Our tough stance on corruption is here to stay; our tolerance for corruption is zero, and anyone guilty of corruption will be dealt with seriously… We will intensify government supervision, make full use of auditing oversight, and strictly monitor public funds, public resources and state-owned assets.”

President Xi has said he would target high-ranking “tigers” as well as lowly “flies” in his anti-corruption drive. Expect some more high profile names in our industry to be taken down and the tills at the Las Vegas of the east to ring hollow for a time to come.


This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of SinoShip Magazine, which can be read online here.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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