Over the last several weeks, China has been the source of whistleblowing of various kinds. Unlike the scope of the NSA leaks performed by Edward Snowden, the leaks that are seen in China are of a more business level, through accusations of corruption. However, given that many of the major businesses in the People's Republic are at least in some way connected to the Communist Party of China or People's Liberation Army, and thus are connected to the government, one could say that both these leaks go hand in hand. The main difference, however, is the vehicle in which these leaks are revealed. While Snowden relied on journalist Glenn Greenwald to provide the leaks to various media outlets around the world, Chinese whistleblowers, who either work for state-run media organizations or are monitored by the state, have to rely on microblogging, in particular popular service Sina Weibo.
The recent wave of Chinese whistleblowers includes a reporter for Caijing Magazine, who accused a prominent political figure involved in handling China's energy use of using his family to profit from his position, as well as keeping a mistress. Despite denials by the National Energy Administration, the CPC put the politician, Liu Tienan, on ice for "severely breaching party discipline," which will likely to his dismissal or a demotion. In another case, a reporter for a magazine run by Xinhua accused the chairman of one of China's most powerful corporations and a deputy minister in the Party had bilked shareholders hundreds of millions of dollars in a shady business deal. Shortly after the posts went viral, shareholders sued the corporation's Hong Kong branch, and shares in the company, China Resources Power Holdings, plunged.
The microblogging services have a distinct advantage over normal ways of leaking: The sheer volume of traffic makes it hard for state internet censors to block or suspend whistleblowers, while the nature of the Chinese written language makes a 140-character post read like a paragraph with details. These efforts are not without any risks, of course. A popular whistleblower was burned with acid after a recent wave of accusations against local CPC leaders. The government has also moved to block several microblogs that it has found to be threatening to the Party, despite their corruption accusations.
Still, in the post-Wikileaks era of whistleblowing, the fact that corporate corruption has been mainly called out in China of all places is unsettling. There is certainly plenty of corruption in America. But in spite of big stories coming out of the woodwork, especially on banks manipulating the markets for their profit, there's been little effort to leak malicious information. Is it because the culture has shifted, and workers are essentially holding beliefs that they have too much of a stake to blow the whistle, and are too selfish to care? Or is that the corruption has become so endemic, especially at the political level, that we have become desensitized to it, and nobody cares anymore?