Officials Collude with a Graverobber

Published on Author bednart15

Grave Robbing

A grave robber and two provincial Chinese officials were arrested last month for taking corpses from graves in order to meet the cremation quota for each region, set by the government in Beijing. Cremation runs in direct contradiction to the tradition of Chinese burial that allows for ancestor worship. Beijing has put the policy of cremation into place in order to keep cemetery expansion in check and reserve land for farming and expansion of cities and industry.

This case illustrates the tension that occurs between provincial governments trying to meet the edicts of Beijing and local desires and needs. China does not have the system of federalism that the U.S. or other nations do, but has a central government and varying degrees of power in provincial authorities. If provinces had more power to determine policy or even push back against central government policy, maybe more of these types of situations would be avoided. This example of grave robbing for quota meeting may seem isolated, but it provides a key insight into the cross sections of culture, political structure, and rapid population growth and urbanization.


3 Responses to Officials Collude with a Graverobber

  1. This reminds me of stories Li Huaiyin highlighted in the book “Village China”. During the Great Leap Forward, numerous provincial Chinese officials felt so pressured from Mao and the Beijing government to implement the national policies, that they routinely lied about grain/crop yields in order to placate the National Government.

    • I was reminded of the same story while reading this. It also draws parallel to the development of cities taking away from the whole nation’s agricultural production. Cities want to act in their own best interest which often directly opposes the central government. These central/local government tensions seem to be deep rooted, but must be solved or at least improved before it hinders growth too much in China.

  2. These stories are worth remembering. In the US we’re into quantitative personnel evaluations. What you can measure numerically may not matter much, but once you start measuring it, people (you, fellow workers / employees / subordinates) will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make your number look good. Worse, what can be measured may reflect random, exogenous factors so that rewards become disconnected from competence and effort. Read Dilbert!!