Austin Ramzy writes:
HONG KONG — President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on vice and corruption in China has gone after drugs, gambling, prostitution, ill-gotten wealth and overflowing banquet tables. Now it has turned to a less obvious target: golf.
In a flurry of recent reports, state-run news outlets have depicted the sport as yet another temptation that has led Communist Party officials astray. A top official at the Commerce Ministry is under investigation on suspicion of allowing an unidentified company to pay his golf expenses. The government has shut down dozens of courses across the country built in violation of a ban intended to protect China’s limited supplies of water and arable land.
And in the southern province of Guangdong, home to the world’s largest golf facility, the 12-course Mission Hills Golf Club, party officials have been forbidden to golf during work hours “to prevent unclean behavior and disciplinary or illegal conduct.”
The provincial anticorruption agency has set up a hotline for reporting civil servants who violate nine specific regulations, including prohibitions on betting on golf, playing with people connected to one’s job, traveling on golf-related junkets or holding positions on the boards of golf clubs.
“Like fine liquor and tobacco, fancy cars and mansions, golf is a public relations tool that businessmen use to hook officials,” the newspaper of the party’s antigraft agency declared on April 9. “The golf course is gradually changing into a muddy field where they trade money for power.”
Dan Washburn, author of “The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream,” said the crackdown was not surprising given the game’s reputation in China as a capitalist pastime and the extent of Mr. Xi’s prolonged campaign against corruption, which has toppled senior party and military leaders.
“This is Xi Jinping’s China, and it’s clear he’s intent on making his mark,” Mr. Washburn said. “Everyone’s a potential target in this ongoing crackdown on corruption, and golf is a particularly easy and obvious one.”
Read the rest here.