China’s Bureaucrats Are Increasingly Judged on What They Do After Work

(Bloomberg) -- For Chinese bureaucrats, getting a promotion isn’t just tied to their performance on the job -- it’s increasingly about how well they behave in their leisure time.

Last month, the southeast city of Quanzhou became the latest to start rating civil servants’ personal behavior. Earlier Wenzhou -- a commercial hub in the east -- began equally weighting behavior at work and at home for promotions and other rewards. The coastal city Zhoushan also keeps files on the so-called social credit of public servants to assess them.

China is increasing pressure on its public servants, who are constantly expected to prove their loyalty to President Xi Jinping and the party. A new emphasis on personal behavior being rewarded over competence and ability is leaving bureaucrats disillusioned, as Xi curbs dissent and tightens his grip on power.

The government is ramping up efforts to stamp out corruption among public servants and dissuade them from taking advantage of their positions and influence, amid an ambitious government plan to build a nationwide social credit system by 2020 to assign lifelong scores to citizens based on their behavior.

In January, China’s top judge Zhou Qiang vowed to strengthen rules barring government employees who defied court orders from making investments and holding certain jobs.

China’s already monitoring civil servants through a number of avenues, including a mobile app used to test Communist Party members’ loyalty to the party. Millions of citizens have downloaded the program to score points with the government.

‘Dishonest Records’

China’s State Council listed public servants as a crucial test group for building personal credit systems in a 2016 document that was later adopted by 20 provinces. The council separately ordered all court decisions, penalties or disciplinary actions taken against civil servants be recorded in a system of “dishonest records” to be collated on a national platform naming and shaming individuals.

Public servants who end up on the list will face consequences in their performance reviews and when being considered for promotions. Provinces and cities across the country have since formulated local versions of the plan.

The advances made by Wenzhou to monitor government workers parallels others in social credit pilot programs across China. The city’s authorities said in August public servants who defied or obstructed local court orders would face disciplinary action and have their wages withheld. In February, the courts teamed up with 41 government departments to share government employees’ social credit information.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.