China’s Disgraced Official Skimps on Breakfast Eggs but Squanders Embezzled Money

Wang Zhengqiang, a male born in February 1963, started his career in August 1983 and joined the Communist Party of China in October 1984. He held positions including Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of the Guizhou Provincial Botanical Garden; Deputy Director and Deputy Party Secretary of the Guizhou Provincial Physical and Chemical Testing Analysis Research Center; Deputy Director and Party Secretary of the Guizhou Provincial Analysis and Testing Research Institute; and Director of the Science and Technology and Economic Strategy Research Center of the Guizhou Academy of Sciences.

In June 2022, the Disciplinary Inspection Team No. 12 of Guizhou Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Panzhou City Supervisory Committee initiated a disciplinary review and supervisory investigation into Wang Zhengqiang for serious disciplinary and legal violations, and he was subjected to detention measures. In January 2023, Wang was expelled from the Party and dismissed from public office, and his alleged crimes related to his official duties were transferred to the prosecution for legal review and prosecution. In July 2023, he was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and bribery and fined 500,000 yuan.

Born into an ordinary rural family, Wang Zhengqiang became a county-level leader at a young age due to organizational training. However, he took his seniority for granted as capital for promotion. When his career didn’t go as desired, he became despondent, lost his ambition among pseudo-cultural interests, and committed crimes against the wind at an age when he should have known better. He wantonly accepted bribes and embezzled funds, becoming ensnared by “hunters,” and ultimately found himself imprisoned in his sixties, which is both regrettable and thought-provoking.

Imbalance of Mind, Small Lapses Accumulate to a Great Fall

“I was a student who completed my studies with a scholarship, and I ended up being a ‘parasite’ that fed on the interests of the people…” Wang Zhengqiang pondered deeply during his confession after being detained. Wang Zhengqiang grew up in poverty but was diligent and studious, getting into university at 16, which became a celebrated story in his hometown. As he neared graduation, he submitted an application to join the Party and volunteered to work in a remote grass-roots area. In 1983, at the young age of 20, Wang Zhengqiang, as part of the first batch of selected graduates, was dispatched to Taiping Commune in Jiangkou County, Guizhou Province, for training. Due to outstanding work performance, he was promoted to Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of the Guizhou Provincial Botanical Garden in 1992 at the age of 29, becoming the youngest deputy director-level leader of the unit. However, he became complacent and prideful.

In 1994, when the Guizhou Provincial Botanical Garden’s leadership team was adjusted and he was not promoted, Wang Zhengqiang became dissatisfied, no longer proactive in his work but merely going through the motions. Out of care and concern, the organization reassigned him to the Guizhou Provincial Physical and Chemical Testing Analysis Research Center, where he served as Deputy Director and Deputy Party Secretary, and later in 2000, he was sent to the grassroots for poverty alleviation. With the organization’s care, Wang Zhengqiang gradually improved in his work and was promoted to Party Secretary of the Guizhou Provincial Physical and Chemical Testing Analysis Research Center in 2006, which was later renamed to the Guizhou Provincial Analysis and Testing Research Institute.

In early 2013, Wang Zhengqiang, then Party Secretary and Deputy Director of the Guizhou Provincial Analysis and Testing Research Institute, saw his colleagues being promoted while he remained in the same position. This once again led to dissatisfaction and an imbalance of mind. Influenced by the erroneous notion that “one’s official career ends at the department level and life ends at 50,” he began to plan for his second half of life. Since he had authority over personnel arrangements and administrative management, during the Spring Festival of 2013, he readily accepted four bottles of high-end liquor from two new employees. Subsequently, business owners and subordinates seeking Wang Zhengqiang’s favor became a constant presence, especially after the first time he received a significant red envelope, which gave him a great sense of satisfaction. He began to reach beyond the integrity baseline, thinking it better to seek a “financial path” while still holding power instead of clinging to a hopeless future.

Initially, when Wang Zhengqiang helped petitioners gain benefits, he was cautious not to attract attention and did not choose a one-off “cash-out” but rather a trickle-down approach to disguise his actions. The kickbacks he received were usually cash amounts ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 yuan, and those under his management were happy to build a closer relationship through frequent interactions.

From 2016 to 2021, during New Year’s Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, Spring Festival, and other holidays, contractors Feng and Zhang of the institute’s engineering projects, subordinates like Li, and others presented Wang Zhengqiang with holiday cash gifts… With a mindset that small actions were harmless, he gradually stepped onto the wrong path. Disaster often accumulates from negligence, and by the time of his arrest, Wang Zhengqiang had accepted a total of 508,000 yuan in property from those he managed.

Calculative Measures, Leading the “Four Winds” of Misconduct

For a while, the Guizhou Provincial Analysis and Testing Research Institute saw rampant irregular dining and excessive subsidy issuance. After the central government’s eight regulations were introduced, facing the widespread extravagant indulgence, Wang Zhengqiang, as the Party Secretary, not only did not lead by example to stop it but continued to participate in the irregular distribution of subsidies, setting up a director’s fund and a chief’s fund, and issuing subsidies against regulations. From 2013 to 2020, Wang Zhengqiang organized irregular subsidy issuance totaling 53.38 million yuan, and he himself improperly received 1.42 million yuan.

“In 2016, after I became the director and had the power to sign off on reimbursements, I became even more brazen in reaching for public funds…” Wang Zhengqiang confessed. With decision-making power after becoming the sole Party and government leader, he saw “yearly surpluses” on the books as he claimed more in subsidies than was actually distributed. He decided to divide the surplus with the then vice-director Zhu (handled in a separate case). From 2016 to 2020, Wang Zhengqiang and others divided 712,000 yuan in surplus subsidies, of which he took 421,000 yuan.

In September 2017, the “Regulations on the Comprehensive Prohibition of Alcohol in Official Activities in Guizhou Province” were implemented. Instead of surrendering the institute’s stock of high-end liquor for official receptions as required, Wang Zhengqiang cunningly arranged for subordinates to embezzle public funds under the guise of selling the reception liquor, creating the illusion that it had been cleared and continuing to arrange for subordinates to falsely list expenses and purchase high-end liquor under the name of official receptions. To avoid inspections, Wang Zhengqiang arranged for Zhu to store the reception liquor in various places such as the experts’ apartment managed by the unit and the basement of the experimental building. In April 2020, realizing that the 192 bottles of high-end liquor illegally purchased and stored were unknown to others, Wang Zhengqiang and Zhu decided to divide them privately, with Wang taking 96 bottles and hiding them at a friend’s house labeled with the year of production.

As the “head” of the unit, Wang Zhengqiang was not only calculating in issuing subsidies and profiting from alcohol, but also in his work and life. To highlight his status, he arranged for unit official vehicles to take him back to his hometown for class reunions, demanded that the company undertaking property management for the unit provide vehicles for his son’s commute, and even conspired with subordinate Zhang to purchase two cars registered under a motor vehicle trading company’s name, instructing subordinates to rent these vehicles, with Wang pocketing rental income of 242,000 yuan, maximizing the use of his power.

Lack of Principles, Abusing Power for Convenience

“I am weak-willed, indecisive, afraid of making decisions, lacking steadfast principles, yet acting recklessly, treating principles as a bargaining chip…” Wang Zhengqiang confessed while admitting his role in allowing the culture of extravagance and pleasure-seeking.

In 2013, due to the needs of the institute’s development, the Guizhou Provincial Analysis and Testing Research Institute initiated the construction of a comprehensive experimental building project. During the project’s implementation, driven by Zhu, the then director of the institute’s office, Wang Zhengqiang added to the budget without approval from higher authorities or decision through meeting research, primarily for peripheral environment design and luxury interior decoration, which were non-rigid needs, leading to superficial and impractical additions. For example, just the purchase price of a sea lily fossil for hall decoration reached 140,000 yuan.

After the project was completed, an audit identified that the project exceeded the budget by more than 20 million yuan. To cover the funding gap and demonstrate his “hard-hitting and swift” approach, Wang Zhengqiang unilaterally decided to divert 21 million yuan from research funds to pay for the over-budget decoration works, resulting in nearly 100 research projects of the institute unable to be completed on time due to lack of funds, and new research projects could not be applied for due to unfinished existing ones.

Subordinate Zhu, who urged him to “do better” on the project, made a fortune in the process of additional investment. Zhu took bribes several times from various contractors in the design and decoration contracting process, trying to curry favor for petitioners. He even instructed the contractors to win over Wang Zhengqiang’s favor. The first significant bribe that Wang received also came from a contractor of this project. The businesses that gained supply qualifications through “hunting” engaged in buying low and selling high, making a profit of up to 2 million yuan just from the 3.4 million yuan procurement of office furniture for the laboratory building.

Apart from turning a blind eye to his subordinates and being susceptible to “hunting,” Wang Zhengqiang did not forget to take his share in the construction of the experimental building, exploiting his authority over project acceptance and fund allocation approvals to extract small profits. At his request, the project contractor had to purchase cement from his relatives and hire his relatives to work, despite having existing suppliers and construction teams. To avoid offending Wang, the contractors had no choice but to offer “benefits” to appease him. In 2017, Wang demanded contractor Di to renovate his house and purchase furniture. After the work was completed, facing an expense list of 80,000 yuan handed over by Di, Wang only paid 50,000 yuan, indirectly soliciting a bribe of 30,000 yuan. Subcontractor Wan, who obtained the ventilation and fire protection projects for the laboratory building from Di, was not settled in time after completion. Desperate Wan sought Wang’s help to prompt Di to disburse the project funds. After receiving a facilitation fee of 20,000 yuan, Wang agreed to assist, scraping profits off the top with utmost finesse.

Addicted to antiques, he sought comfort in “elegance” but was consumed by it

“Without ambitions in my work, I adorned my facade with fake antiques and pretended to be cultured and genteel…” Wang confessed that what played a decisive role in his corruption was his obsession with antiques. Believing his career to be a dead end, he began to indulge in accepting dinners and gifts and made friends with antique enthusiasts, following them in purchasing and collecting antiques to pass the time and seek spiritual solace. After hearing numerous rumors in the antique world about people getting rich by “picking up overlooked treasures,” Wang became uncontrollable in buying and collecting antiques, dreaming of striking it rich overnight.

“I have a strong possessive desire; I can’t sleep peacefully until I get what I want. After getting into antiques, I felt that money was never enough, constantly thinking about how to buy these bottles and jars…” Driven by desire, Wang started accepting red packets and gift money from his subordinates. With expenses exceeding income, he began to target public funds and project contracts, and personnel arrangements, embarking on a one-way journey towards money.

At this point, Wang had become irrationally obsessed with antiques, spending all his time outside of work studying them. He couldn’t wait to head to the antique market right after work and even arranged for the company’s official vehicles to transport antiques for him throughout the year. Most of the proceeds from his disciplinary and illegal activities were spent on purchasing antiques. Since most of the “antiques” he bought were replicas, he was even more discontent, dreaming of one day finding a “big leak” and making a fortune to earn back all he had spent with interest. Driven by a gambler’s mentality, Wang became increasingly reckless in accepting bribes and embezzling funds. In his residence, not only were antiques piled up beside his bed and on tables, but his other three properties were also filled with them, often leading to quarrels with his family. “I lost my ambition over these objects, and in the end, I turned my home into three junk collection sites, full of replicas and fake antiques,” Wang said with regret.

“My everyday life is very frugal. A 10-yuan vest, bought wholesale in packs of ten, can last for years. I couldn’t even bring myself to add an egg to my breakfast, so why did I embezzle and take bribes to buy so many useless bottles and jars?” Recalling how he was tripped up by these objects and will end his life bearing a criminal name, Wang wept bitterly, but there are no ifs in life.