Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog, says Chinese companies are more likely to bribe to get business done abroad than almost any other nation in the world.
The group's 2011 Bribe Payers Index ranks "the world's wealthiest countries by their propensity to bribe." Out of 28 countries, China was the second most likely to bribe after Russia.
[Editor's note: See a graph ranking the countries here. Countries are scored on a scale of 0-10, where a maximum score of 10 corresponds with the view that companies from that country never bribe abroad and a 0 corresponds with a view that they always do.]
Transparency International also reports in another index (the Global Corruption Monitor) that one-third of Chinese people said that "they thought the government was ineffective in the fight against corruption and 46 per cent said corruption had increased in the previous 12 month period."
Ordinary people who have protested strongly against the nation's authoritarian capitalism and fanatical economic growth model in recent months rate the nation's business community, which is largely dominated by state-owned enterprises run by the Communist Party of China, as the nation's most corrupt institution followed by the police and political parties.
The Conservative government of Stephen Harper and the Alberta government have actively supported Chinese national oil companies (Sinopec and PetroChina) backing the controversial Northern Gateway project. In addition Harper has aggressively sought Chinese investment to fund tar sands expansion.
His government also proposes to ratify an investment and trade promotion treaty with China that critics and economists characterize as a national mistake.
One of China's largest state-owned enterprises, CNOOC, has offered $15 billion to buy Nexen, the Canadian-based oil and gas multinational with key assets in the North Sea, Africa and the tar sands. CNOOC's purchase offer is three times the actual value of the debt-ridden company. Ottawa has until Dec. 10 to approve or kill the deal.
According to a variety of polls, the majority of Canadians oppose selling natural resources to China's state-owned enterprises.
According to Transparency International, corruption in China is feed by many institutional problems. The central government hogs taxation revenue leaving local municipalities strapped for cash. The government also pays public servants poorly. Widespread secrecy also prevents any government accountability or transparency.
In such an environment, the state regards China's three million non-government organizations, many of which are fighting against corruption, as "potential anti-government forces."
Calgary-based journalist Andrew Nikiforuk is a regular contributor to The Tyee on energy issues.