Grand Theft China: Tase Corrupt Officials in New Online Game

Official corruption in China is a serious matter: In January 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping openly vowed to tackle it, and a 2013 Pew study found that fifty-three percent of Chinese consider it a “very big problem.” But fighting bribery, extortion, and graft isn’t just a presidential directive in China; it’s now also online entertainment. On January 6, the Communist Party-run newspaper People’s Daily introduced an online video game called “Fight Corruption” on Weibo, China’s Twitter. Much like whack-a-mole, players gain points for using an electric prod to strike corrupt officials as they appear and disappear in the windows of a prison. “Click on your mouse to activate the electric prod,” the People’s Daily urges, “and get yourself on the anti-corruption high-score list.”

The game contains four types of corrupt bureaucrats: one, with hearts for eyes and a salivating mouth, is no doubt a nod to dirty officials’ predilection for keeping mistresses. A second type flaunts cash, likely embezzled; a third type grasps a bag of money; a fourth holds a red stamp, the kind used to approve contracts, which may indicate abuse of power. Players receive 100 points for every official successfully tased, and lose 100 for shocking police officers, who also appear in the prison windows to entice the trigger-happy.

The People’s Daily encouraged web users to play the game by claiming that “everyone has a responsibility to fight corruption and embezzlement.” But one anonymous Weibo user argued that there were better ways to increase public participation. “If China passed a law that entitled whomever reported a corrupt official to ten percent of that official’s embezzled assets,” he wrote, “then everyone would get involved.”