Chinese netizens have shined a sharply comic spotlight on the lack of transparency in how the Chinese regime uses taxpayer money, with a professionally-edited animation that is going viral.
Within 24 hours, the video had registered over 1 million hits on popular video sharing site Tudou and sites where the video had been posted, according to statistics on that website.
The title of the video, “Where did the taxpayer’s money go?” has been mentioned hundreds of thousands of times on Sina Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like service.
The animation, despite its clever humor and cute iconography, is an incisive attack on the costs run up by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, and their lack of accountability in spending public funds.
The video holds up Chicago—historically not the most transparent of U.S. cities—as an example. The city spends seven months planning its budget for the following year, and its budget document is over 600 pages long, the video says. (The total number of pages in the combined budget documents are actually 1,543).
It then sarcastically suggests that it’s “just too inharmonious” when there is disagreement on what the government spends its money on and City Hall has to close. The term “harmony” has become a watchword of the Communist Party as it represses dissent and unifies opinions, and netizens have latched onto it, calling censorship “harmonization.” The reference here is ironic.
Chinese authorities, on the other hand, spend six months figuring out the budget for the present year and produce a 20-page report which is always approved.
The video notes that government expenditures in democratic countries are a matter of public record, because taxpayer dollars are on the line. In China, however, the taxpayer and their money “are in different dimensions.” Bubbles appear around Mario and his golden coin--icons used throughout the video.
Total expenditures by local and central authorities were 9 trillion yuan ($1.43 trillion) in 2010, according to the video. The number increased in 2011 to 10 trillion yuan, with an additional 12.7 percent used to fund the military, according to China Economic Net.
There are 25 standard items to be funded, but, as the video notes, the worst for the taxpayer is the 26th: “The Three Public Consumptions,” consisting of overseas trips for officials, vehicle purchases, and receptions.
Of the 98 departments in the central government, 95 made public their “Three Public Consumptions” in 2011, the video said, which amounted to 9.47 billion yuan ($1.5 billion).
The National Administration of Taxation had the highest public expenses, 2,214 times greater than the Office for Letters and Calls that deals with petitioners and complaints.
There are other oddities in the regime’s budget. In 2010, local government expenses sat at 7.3 trillion yuan, consisting of 23 items, the largest of which was education (at 1.2 trillion yuan). That was seven times the expense of education in 2000, but the number of elementary schools dropped by half, and nearly half a million teachers were let go over that decade.
“Where’d the money go?” the video asks. It cuts to a cartoon showing a crowd of people with blank faces. A string of ellipses shout silently from along the bottom of the screen.
One local government building constructed by officials was eight times the size of the White House and had enough space for 2,180 apparatchiks.
The disparity between the Party’s expenses and those needed for the running of the country are also highlighted. Based on 2004 data, for example, officials’ expenses were 1.2 trillion yuan (data for other years was secret, the video said). The video says that to adequately fund school buses it would have cost 460 billion yuan, or 160 billion for proper healthcare for the nation. Whatever the actual figures, the argument has been made.
At the end of the video the llama-like creature—it is actually the infamous “grass mud horse,” a homonym for a term whose degree of vulgarity, directed squarely at Party censors, precludes explanation here—sings the theme song from the popular Chinese children’s show “The Little Dragon Boy,” saying: “I have horns on my head, behind I have a tail, nobody knows how many secrets I hold.”
The beast then chases the taxpayer off the screen singing “I just won’t tell you! I just won’t tell you! I just won’t tell you!”
A somber note, in contrast to the lighthearted and mocking tone of the rest of the piece, is placed up the top as the animation ends. “This video is for people who have the right to know and the right to monitor, but who for now can only look at the sky from the bottom of the well. All reference data comes from the Internet, the press and the China Statistical Yearbook.”