Want to expose corruption? Seek out aggrieved mistresses.

A curious spate of corruption and sex scandals is roiling Chinese politics, gripping the attention of the gossip-loving Internet community. First, a sex tape showing a top official in the prosperous municipality of Chongqing in the company of 18-year-old girl spread like wildfire through blogs and websites, leading to his sacking after an embarrassed Communist Party of China (CPC) went into damage-control mode. The trouble for the CPC didn’t end there. Within days “netizens” got hold of a letter sent by Shan Zengde, a top official in the Sichuan provincial government, to his mistress, promising to divorce his wife.

Strangely, many of the recent corruption cases in China have involved the mistresses of top officials. Even the high-profile former Politburo member Bo Xilai, who was sacked from the CPC this year, was accused by the Politburo of “maintaining improper sexual relationships with a number of women”.

Foreign Policy accurately and aptly described the corruption problem in China in an article recently as being driven by a “Mistress-Industrial Complex”. Li Chengyan, a professor at Peking University’s optimistically named Research Center for Government Integrity, told the magazine “the scale today is really unprecedented”. He said, “About 80 to 90 percent of (corrupt officials) also have mistresses.” His suggestion to investigators is to first seek out aggrieved mistresses to expose the corrupt. Several recent cases, he pointed out, had relied on information from them. “Changes in relationship status,” concluded Professor Li, “always produce unstable results.”