China Cracks Down on ‘Illegal’ Golf Courses as New Front in War on Corruption

AP Photo
AP Photo

The Chinese government has announced a widespread crackdown on golf–both the practice of it by senior officials, which is a sign of potential “corruption” on their part, and the construction of golf courses, which has been illegal since 2004.

The crackdown is part of a larger campaign against government graft and corruption, though it has deep roots in Chinese communist ideology. As Dan Washburn explains at CNN, Mao Zedong banned the game of golf as a “bourgeois” indulgence that was not to resurface until the 1980s Chinese economic boom. Since then, however, golf has become increasingly popular in the nation, and President Xi Jinping appears to have begun a campaign to stunt that growth.

CNN reports that Chinese law enforcement announced at the end of March that at least 66 golf courses would be shut down across China for being constructed “illegally.” The network notes that it has been illegal since 2004 to build golf courses for ecological reasons–China simply does not have enough arable land per person to afford building more golf courses–but many builders have evaded the law by renaming their facilities. Some call their golf courses “ecological restoration” sites, others nothing at all, but are wary that it never be officially labeled a golf course.

In addition to shutting down the courses themselves, the government announced it is “investigating” a senior official for attending a golf event.

The Want China Times reports that the initial 66 are not expected to be the last of the courses shut down, citing the ultimate figure at around 100 golf courses.

The tenure of President Xi Jinping has been marked by an aggressive stance against the Communist Party’s definition of corruption. Xi ordered the nation’s army of “discipline inspectors” to go through the ranks of government officials nationwide for any evidence of accepting bribes or spending too much of the state’s money in October. By late February, the Chinese government announced that it had rounded up and arrested 2,000 Communist Party officials for a wide variety of corruption charges, most involving bribery.

Among the many that have been named as wanted folks for assorted corruption charges are at least 150 who the Chinese government claims are “economic fugitives” in the United States. Xi’s cabinet sent a letter to the United States requesting the extradition of dozens of former government officials believed to be living in the United States, claiming they had “either worked for the government or state-owned enterprises and took bribes or embezzled public funds.”