China state media urges officials to read more books

Discs are decorated on bookshelves at the 13th Beijing International Book Fair at China International Exhibition Center 30 August 2006 in Beijing, China.Image source, China Photos
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News outlets linked a lack of a reading habit to corruption

China's state media has urged officials to read more to develop sound values and avoid corruption.

News outlets published commentaries this week citing the case of a Shenzhen official who had no books on his shelves, which were instead filled with liquor and works of art.

They said the only reading material found was "unsuitable for the young".

Under China's anti-corruption drive, officials have been urged to cut down on lavish and excessive lifestyles.

'Nary a book'

Mr Jiang, whose arrest was announced in March, is accused of accepting large bribes and engaging in gambling and adultery, according to Chinese media reports.

On Thursday, news outlets quoted an unnamed investigator who had recently searched one of Mr Jiang's houses as saying: "Such a big and palatial home, and yet there was nary a book to be seen."

The investigator said the bookshelf in Mr Jiang's home was filled with expensive whiskies, jade wares, paintings and calligraphy works.

He said the only publication he saw was a magazine by Mr Jiang's bedside that was "reading material unsuitable for the young".

Image source, AFP
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One commentary said reading built one's "quality of character, world view, values, and understanding of power"

Anti-corruption agency Central Commission of Discipline and Inspection's newspaper published a piece by Xinhua commentator Zhang Yusheng on the case.

Mr Zhang noted that a recent government survey of officials found that 71% rated their reading habits as "average".

He wrote: "Reading is not just a private matter for officials, but is also a significant and important matter that concerns one's quality of character, world view, values, and understanding of power."

An article in Xinhua's Outlook magazine noted that in ancient China officials would spend years studying to pass the imperial exam, and quoted experts lamenting modern bureaucrats' lack of a reading habit.

"They will see their spirits flag, their thinking become shallower, and even go down the road of corruption and crime," an unnamed interviewee was quoted as saying.

A commentary in Chutian City Paper by reporter Shu Jiquan said: "If one doesn't read books for a long time...sooner or later one's mind will be conquered by other things."

Image source, Reuters
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Former security chief Zhou Yongkang is the most high-profile case in the anti-corruption campaign

The pieces also noted that President Xi Jinping had previously ordered officials to read more books.

Mr Xi vowed to root out corruption in China shortly after he took office in 2012. Since then thousands of officials have been investigated, most notably former security chief Zhou Yongkang who was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday.