Home / Robert Farley / An Awkward Position…

An Awkward Position…


Shades of American Gangster:

Two Indian Air Force pilots who flew Chinese Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie in a special aircraft from Mumbai to Delhi on Wednesday received an unusual gift from the visiting dignitary.

The pilots were given two envelopes on their arrival in Delhi. On opening the envelopes, they found Rs 50,000 in Indian currency in each.

Sources said the captain of the aircraft informed Air Headquarters, and it was decided the cash would be deposited in the government depository. The cash could not be returned due to diplomatic sensitivities, they added.

Liang, who is on a five-day visit to India, arrived in Mumbai on Sunday.

I’m guessing that accepting the… gratuity would have resulted in more than the standard level of professional jeopardy that such transactions involve. The IAF also has a strong reputation for professionalism. I wonder what would have happened if the situation had been reversed…

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  • Major Kong

    When I was in the USAF, I seem to recall any gift over some token amount ($200 maybe?) had to be reported to the State Department.

    • Warren Terra

      For context, Google tells me Rs 50,000 is around $900. A very generous tip indeed.

  • greylocks

    It also raises the question of whether Chinese military pilots routinely receive such gifts from their own dignitaries.

    • “It also raises the question of whether Chinese military pilots routinely receive such gifts from their own dignitaries.”

      That’d be my guess. Lightly bribing a couple of presumably mid-level pilots (chauffeuring around foreign dignitaries can’t be the most sought after job in the air force) can hardly be worth the defense minister’s time or effort. He may just be so used to doing it that he forgot he was on an Indian plane instead of a Chinese one. Would it really surprise anyone if higher ups routinely slipped envelopes to their important subordinates in the PLA?

      • RedSquareBear

        He may just be so used to doing it that he forgot he was on an Indian plane instead of a Chinese one.

        Which itself raises the question: Do Chinese officials usually tip Chinese military pilots using Indian currency?

    • Heron

      I’d imagine a lot of things in the CCP are well-greased by -if not run on- bribery. A government which is exclusive(party members only), hierarchical(you won’t get anywhere without a patron), geographically variable(active near the capital, allowing significant autonomy in the provinces), reactive(the central committee only gets involved if your behavior has severe negative consequences), and consciously class-producing(upper party members are filthy rich) is necessarily going to be built around the maintenance of relationships rather than the observance of laws. That means gift giving.

      • DrDick

        Given the frequency of public bribery/corruption scandals among low and mid-level bureaucrats, I think we can take that as a given.

  • RepubAnon

    I rather expect that, had they kept the cash, they would soon have gotten a call from Chinese intelligence agents informing them that they could either be exposed, or do some “little jobs” for the spies.

  • wengler

    I think people are reading too much into this. This guy is swimming in cash, just like all of the upper level Chinese government officials. On one hand a ‘tip’ this generous could be seen as an insult to the professionalism of the Indian Air Force.

  • cpinva

    i could be wrong, but i suspect, had the situation been reversed, it would have resulted in the same thing (well, sort of): it would have been reported to the higher ups, who would have relieved the pilots of their burden. where it went from there would be the only question.

    i say this because (for the most part) the world’s air forces and navies, reliant as they are on high tech, and reasonably well educated personel, tend to be, on average, operating at a much higher level of professionalism than the ground forces. part of that would be a much higher level of ethics.

    i could be wrong.

    • Murc

      Ethics aren’t part of professionalism.

      Professionals have standards.

      They’re a bit different.

    • Heron

      We could also look at this from a class perspective. The ethics of propriety tend to be a common part of a middle-class upbringing, as the middle-class tends to provide the myriad types of servitors (from transport pilots to tax assessors) who actually implement policy, and honesty in policy implementation leads to reliable, trustworthy governance. While one might have greater difficulty finding similar standards among India’s patronage-staffed civil servants(who, as a result of how they got their jobs, would see rent-farming as the point), these sorts of relatively well-paying but not terribly important posts might be awarded more on merit, leading to greater honesty in the staff.

  • Atticus Dogsbody
    • Karate Bearfighter

      Exactly — these kinds of gifts, either from social superior to social inferior, or between equals, are given regularly in China to demonstrate status. I would hestitate to call it a bribe because it’s not generally seen as improper; many Chinese actually consider it an appropriate way to order relationships.

    • elm

      From the link: “Red envelopes are also used to deliver payment for favorable service to lion dance performers, religious practitioners, teachers and doctors.”

      I’m gonna struggle all day to figure out the link between these four groups. Certainly teaching often feels like dancing with lions, but the other parts aren’t quite so obvious.

  • owlbear1

    Interesting way to find out a little bit about the chain of command.

  • Greg

    Funny thing about this was I typed “convert 50000” into the google search box, and it already knew what currency I wanted. Resistance is futile…

    • elm

      I went to the first google-listed currency converter page and in it’s “most recent currencies” list, Indian rupees were third, after the Euro and the Yen. If the Chinese minister’s goal was to educate the world on the value of the rupee, he seems to have succeeded!

  • Major Kong

    The Indian Air Force is reported to be quite good.

    In a joint exercise a few years back, their SU-27s did surprisingly well against our (then) front-line F-15s.

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