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China update – Shenzhen promotes anti-bribery management system through Honesty Certificates

16.10.2017 Anti-bribery, Compliance

China’s high profile campaign against corruption is now nearly four years old. During this time, the campaign introduced political and legislative reforms as well as much anticipated new legislation to assist in the crackdown on corrupt party members, officials and conglomerates. However, most of the directives were initiated in Beijing, at the Central government level, and targeted at official corruption leaving loopholes at the commercial level.

In a novel step taken by Shenzhen, China’s fourth largest and wealthiest city, China piloted its first Corporate Honesty Certification System standards in the city in June 2017. The system which is ostensibly modelled on the ISO 37001:2016 standards on anti- bribery management system, provides a first of a kind unified standard in relation to anti-bribery management systems adopted by business, the local communist party and social organisations in Shenzhen.

Though certification is not compulsory, publicly available figures show that more than 60 corporations have voluntarily expressed their interests in applying for the new certification system claiming that the certification system will help with building their reputation as “honest, good and orderly” companies. Shenzhen government officials have also said that certified corporations will stand a better chance at winning government procurement contracts and obtaining government funding.

Shenzhen’s introduction of the Corporate Honesty Certification System is a welcome addition to China’s arsenal of weapons to combat corruption. It plugs the loopholes that currently exist in the anti-commercial corruption landscape. It also standardises anti-bribery systems thereby making implementation easier, and as a result, the effects of adopting such a system more quantifiable.

In a country where the concept of ‘Guan Xi’ is a cultural  norm and ‘money talks’, the voluntary adoption of the new certification system by 60 corporations is a good start. It is hoped that as more corporations get certified, the success of the program will incentivise other cities to introduce similar programs to promote the implementation of anti-bribery and corruption systems by local entities thereby bringing about a slow but sure cultural shift in the way business is done in China,