Rescuing Autocracy from Itself: China's Anti-Corruption Campaign
54 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2016 Last revised: 1 Jan 2017
Date Written: November 6, 2016
China’s unique system of hiring and promoting talented people within the state, under the supervision of the Communist Party, has been held up as an important institutional factor supporting its remarkably rapid and sustained economic growth. We explore this meritocracy argument in the context of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign. Some question the sincerity of the campaign, arguing that it is nothing but a cover for intra-elite struggle and a purge of Xi’s opponents. In this article, we use a dataset we have created to identify accused officials and map their connections. Our evidence supports the Party’s claim that the crackdown is primarily a sincere effort to cut down on the widespread corruption that was undermining its efforts to develop an effective meritocratic governing system. First, we visualize the “patron-client” network of all probed officials announced by the central government and identify the core targets of the anti-corruption campaign. Second, we use a recursive selection model to analyze who the campaign has targeted, providing evidence that even personal ties to top leaders have provided little protection. Finally, we show that, in the years leading up to the crackdown, the provinces later targeted had departed from the growth-oriented meritocratic selection procedures evident in other provinces.
Keywords: anti-corruption campaign, meritocracy, political purge, economic growth
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