Corruption 'rife' at every level of Chinese Communist Party
SIX months ago, Chen Xiaodong's uncle came to him with an idea -- for £15,000 (€18,760) upfront, the 28-year-old could leave his office job and become a policeman in Inner Mongolia.
He would earn only £170 (€212) a month for the first three years, rising to £330 (€412) with more experience. But his parents and his in-laws clubbed together to raise the money -- they thought it was a good investment.
"The job is stable and there is profit in it," said Mr Chen. "The other cops in my bureau have houses and possessions that do not match their salaries. The deputy chief drives a Toyota Prado which is worth £50,000 (€62,500)."
Two months into his new job, Mr Chen still has a desk job, but is hoping to soon get his share of the police station's wealth.
"The bureau manages a few areas full of entertainment joints like karaoke parlours and massage houses, so they get protection money," he said.
Corruption in the Communist Party runs from the billions allegedly amassed by the families of China's political leaders all the way down to the lowliest state employees.
One source who used to work at the Ministry of Railways now runs a recruitment company providing low-level employees, such as train attendants.
He recently charged eight new recruits £3,000 (€3,750) each for their jobs, dividing his kickbacks with his contacts in the ministry. The price for a train supervisor's job is £10,000 (€12,500).
For the applicants, the positions come with a salary of around £300 a month but plenty of benefits, including a three-day week and a pension.
But even here, China is increasingly becoming divided into those who have connections and those who do not.
"It is impossible to get a proper office job at a state-owned company without solid connections," said an investment banker whose parents work in two of China's big state firms.
And with thousands of applicants vying for every state job, the phrase "mai guan", or "buying a job", has even entered the dictionary.
He Guoqiang, the head of the party's internal investigations department, said: "Corruption has become one of the major factors undermining relations between party and government cadres and the public."
In his speech on the opening day of the 18th party congress, President Hu Jintao was even more blunt. Corruption, he said, "could prove fatal" to the party.
A professor at a university in Beijing said one of his best students was quoted a £100,000 (€125,000) fee for a top job with a government company.
"He was determined to come back to China after completing his graduate studies abroad to do good but could not afford it," he said.
"The problem with the payments is that it forces you to be corrupt whether you want to be or not.
"He said it was possible to get jobs at state firms through the exams alone, but those people would not get promoted." (©Daily Telegraph London)