BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has once more laid down the law with government workers who are trying to kept a low profile amidst a corruption crackdown, saying that “just muddling along” is exactly the same as actually being corrupt.
Li has already this year criticised officials for being “lazy and slack” in implementing Beijing’s policy directives as they kept their heads down to stay out of trouble during President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-graft campaign.
In remarks released by the government on Thursday following a cabinet meeting the day before, Li struck a similar tone, but used even stronger language.
“‘Cleanliness’ and ‘working hard’ are two sides of the same coin. If you can’t be clean then you are corrupt, and if you can’t work hard then that is covert corruption,” Li was quoted as saying.
“Holding down your job without doing a stroke of work is corruption, as is doing nothing while in office,” he added.
“Behavior such as loafing about, non-action and just muddling along must be severely held accountable to ensure that this year’s economic targets are achieved on time.”
On the state of the world’s second-biggest economy, Li struck a sanguine note. China’s labor market had fared better than expected, and incomes were rising faster than economic growth.
And even the government’s aim of growing the economy by around 7.5 percent is not a target set in stone, Li said.
“The world always misunderstands in thinking that a 7.5 percent growth rate is the bottom line,” Li said. “But I have said earlier, what is called around 7.5 percent is that it is OK if it is slightly higher or slightly lower than that.”
China’s economy has had a rough ride this year. A cooling property market has exacerbated slowing domestic demand, cutting short a brief rebound in growth and forcing the government to loosen policy in successive measures to lift activity.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Robert Birsel