After graduation from university, I was assigned to work in the Documentation Department of China Import & Export Commodity Inspection Bureau (CCIB Guangdong). Within CCIB, there was a department called CCIC – China Commodity Inspection Company. Later CCIC was developed into an international corporation with branches in about 30 countries. I served four years with CCIB and nearly eight years with CCIC.
When I joined CCIB in Guangzhou in 1989, the bureau had a total staff of less than 1,000 with offices in a only few major cities in the province like Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Foshan. In about ten years, the organization became huge with over 10,000 people in over 20 branches in the province. In those years, the work load of CCIB Guangdong accounted for about 60 percent of the national amount.
In my department, we issued inspection certificates to export-oriented factories as well as import and export companies. GSP certificates (Generalized System of Preferences) were among the major certificates that we issued to businesses. GSP is a preferential tariff system granted by a bunch of developed countries to developing or least developed countries.
Besides translation of certificates and other documentation work, my routine job included visiting manufacturing lines together with inspectors from various inspection departments. I was also the main interpreter during visits or bilateral talks with official delegations from foreign governments.
According to CCIB rules, companies as applicants would expect to get their certificates 7-21 days from the date they submitted their application for inspection. We had an express channel that the applicants could receive their certificates within 3-7 days if they paid an extra 20 RMB for one certificate. In practice, most applicants would choose to pay the extra to get their certificates as CCIB would make it very difficult for an applicant to get their certificates in time if they chose not to pay the extra. Because this 20 RMB would go into a separate account as benefits for the whole department.
And please don’t think this 20 RMB was a small amount, as we issued thousands of certificates daily. We had 40-50 people in our department and the average basic salary was about 300 RMB per month in the early 90s. With the extra 20 RMB per certificate, each of us would receive an monthly allowance of 120 RMB and the department still kept a huge “little coffer” on an off-book account.
Although the CCP government is mean with workers’ compensation, its officials are very generous in spending, especially in the reception of foreign delegations. During a visit of five members from the European Union Commission, I remember, we had five accompanying officials from CCIB at a dinner in Foshan city, and I happened to check with the cashier that the dinner cost over 10,000 RMB which was astonishing to me at that time.
As government cadres, CCIB provided us lots of other benefits besides free accommodation. Every month or on festive occasions, we were allocated subsidies like toilet paper, eggs, seasonal foods or drinks, and others which might come from commodity samples for inspection. Colleagues from other departments like Light-industrial Goods Inspection Department, Agricultural Foodstuff Inspection Department, Chemicals Inspection Department, etc, would receive different benefits of their own specialties according to their own professions. We had a colleague who was an inspector of seafoods, so we often saw him taking home and to us seafoods like shrimps and canned fish.
Within CCIB, as in other government organizations, contracted or temporary workers were less fortunate employees. Compared to government cadres, they were looked down upon as second-graded citizens with much less compensation and no medical coverage.
Normally close to the Spring Festival, most individual colleagues in our department started to receive “small presents” from clients. An ordinary employee at our Reception Section would receive 200-300 calendars (each valued at 20-30 RMB) during the Festival.
According to CCIB practice, when CCIB employees went out to work for sampling, survey or inspection, the applicants would send for a work vehicle. To please our inspectors or surveyors, the companies would normally send a good-looking car or van; some might even send a Mercedez Benz. Some inspectors would look very unhappy if an old or poor car was sent.
As a general practice, the applicants would invite our inspectors to lunch although this was not a CCIB rule. After lunch, the applicant would give some gifts to our inspectors. A bunch of cigarettes was norm. It was sure that other forms of corruption was possible under the table.
We had 15 college graduates joining CCIB in the same year and about 30 young men lived in the same building for years. As these colleagues had joined different departments, information was widely shared among colleagues. Yet, differences and conflicts occurred as time went by.
At one time, some inspectors talked a lot about eating special or even strange meals outside. There were “meals of a hundred birds”, “meals of snakes”, “meals of masked palm civets”, or meals of other animals.
I remember some colleagues talking about “meals of monkey brains”. The monkey brain was opened and cooked in front of the guests while the monkey was still alive. This was totally barbaric and disgusting!
What most of these inspectors or surveyors did after work was drinking and gambling with playing cards or Mahjong. In addition, most were keen to look for pretty girls and have sex with them. I used to learn that some colleagues had made it a plan to sleep with 100 virgin girls in their lives and this later became quite a fashionable practice for CCP officials.
Every Friday afternoon, as Chinese Communist Party members, we would have a session of political study. During the session, we would first read an article or editorial from the People’s Daily. Then the Department Chief would spend an hour or so to tell about his ideas. After that, each of us CCP members would say a few words to agree with him and make the atmosphere friendly and family-like. After that, the Department Chief would continue with a lengthy talk about his own stories or work experience. That was absolutely boring, but most of us would pretend to be attentive in listening.
The Bureau had a simple administrative structure but complicated personnel relationships. In the head office with a staff of about 500, we had one director, 6 deputy directors and one director assistant; they were at the top of the administration. Then there were department chiefs. Most of the directors had family members or relatives working in the same office. They were normally assigned to “better” positions. A surveyor for an oil tanker of a quarter of a million tonnes had a lot of room for corruption.
A CCIB director might have a son or daughter working in the Customs, other government organizations, or in large state-owned trade corporations. Directors of the Customs or other government organizations may have a son or daughter working in our office. The son of my Department Chief worked in Guangdong Electronics Imports & Exports Corporations. CCP’s government organizations are more like markets for power exchanges.
The most evil department within the administration was the Personnel Department. The unit had political assessments of all employees annually and made into files records of their performances. They made things difficult for most employees and they were the sources for most internal conflicts and political persecution.
All CCP’s officials are double-faced and CCIB was no exception. All the directors and department chiefs said one thing on stage which is “high-class and noble”, but always “fake and exaggerated”. They said one thing but did the other.
Special days like the Spring Festival and Moon Festival were the times for gifts-giving. Many colleagues had to pay personal visits with “gifts” to family homes of their leaders or chiefs of the Personnel Department for a promotion. I was suggested to send “gifts” to them as well on some occasions but I refused to do so.
Ms. Xu Lijun, deputy chief of the Personnel Department, had committed lots of evil with Party rules and done harm to many employees. She once said to me with such arrogance, “CCIB is not a place where you can come when you want to come, or leave when you want to leave”, implying she would tear off a layer of my skin if I tried to leave without her approval. She lost one of her legs in a traffic accident and many of us took it as a retribution from God.
In 1999, Li Jun, Party Secretary and Director of CCIB Guangdong, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for corruption. And with his case, dozens of CCIB officials were imprisoned or punished by the CCP’s disciplinary authorities.
The following years might have been the best time for Guangdong CCIB (then renamed to Guangdong CIQ) when Zhang Shuying became the director. Zhang was the wife of Li Changchun, a standing member of the CCP’s Politburo and the Party’s Central Committee. When Ms. Zhang was in office, Li Changchun was Party Secretary of Guangdong province.
CCIB or CIQ is a government organization and nearly all government organizations have their subordinate state-owned enterprises. But in reality, they don’t serve the people; they only serve the CCP and an elite class of the population.
I thought I was different from most people. Most colleagues would enjoy the benefits and privileges with their employment in CCIB. Many thought themselves to be in the elite class and would look down upon people on the streets. I thought things differently. I saw evil in the system. My resignation was out of everyone’s expectations.
For too long with CCP’s propaganda, most people thought that the Party was noble. It is the CCP who has raised them up, fed them and taken care of them. Few would think the opposite, the other way round which is reality.
After I left CCIB, I did not pay the party membership dues for many years. After I migrated to Australia in 2003, one of my most important things was to make a public announcement that I quit the CCP membership and no longer served the evil party.
In 1998, to prepare for joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), CCIB joined the Quarantine Department of the Agricultural Ministry and the Quarantine Department of the Health Ministry to form a new ministry called AQSIQ (and provincial CIQs)- Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
In January 2019, the CCP government had another structural reform and AQSIQ was totally abolished. The function of inspection and quarantine were restructured into departments under the General Administration of Customs while the quality supervision became the work for the Market Supervision Authority. CCIC Group was made under the administration of China Customs.
Some of my former colleagues with Guangdong CIQ either lost their job or were removed from their official titles if not restructured to join the Customs departments.
Most of my colleagues were decent, kind-hearted and hard working people, but once in uniforms pinned with the national emblem, many began to have a dirty mind. Under CCP’s rule, all government organizations look solemn and magnificent, but the nature of humanity is hard to find within the administration.
At a proper time, I will reveal how China’s state-owned enterprises are operated overseas.
And in the system, the bad guys seem to live a better life than the good guys.