Leniency, Asymmetric Punishment and Corruption: Evidence from China

30 Pages Posted: 7 May 2018

See all articles by Maria Berlin

Maria Berlin


Bei Qin

Hong Kong Baptist University

Giancarlo Spagnolo

University of Rome Tor Vergata; EIEF; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Stockholm School of Economics (SITE)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 23, 2018


Fostering whistleblowing through leniency and asymmetric sanctions is regarded as a potentially powerful anti-corruption strategy in the light of its success in busting cartels. The US Department of Justice started a pilot program of this kind in 2016. It has been argued, however, that introduced in China in 1997, these policies did not help against corruption. We map the evolution of the Chinese anti-corruption legislation and aggregate enforcement data, documenting a large and stable fall in prosecuted cases after the 1997 reform. The fall is consistent with reduced corruption detection, but under specific assumptions also with improved deterrence. To resolve the ambiguity, we collect and analyze a random sample of case files from corruption trials. Results point indeed at a negative effect of the 1997 reform on corruption detection and deterrence, but plausibly linked to its poor design: contrary to what theory prescribes, it increased leniency also for bribe-taking bureaucrats that cooperate after being denounced, enhancing their ability to retaliate against whistleblowing bribe-givers.

Suggested Citation

Berlin, Maria and Qin, Bei and Spagnolo, Giancarlo, Leniency, Asymmetric Punishment and Corruption: Evidence from China (April 23, 2018). CEIS Working Paper No. 431, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3167345 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3167345

Maria Berlin

SITE ( email )

P.O. Box 6501
S-113 83 Stockholm, 11383

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.hhs.se/sv/personsida/?PersonID=25531033

Bei Qin

Hong Kong Baptist University ( email )

Department of Economics
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Giancarlo Spagnolo (Contact Author)

University of Rome Tor Vergata ( email )

Faculty of Economics - DEF
Via Columbia 2
Rome, RM 00133

EIEF ( email )

Via Due Macelli, 73
Rome, 00187


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

Stockholm School of Economics (SITE) ( email )

P.O. Box 6501

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/giancarlospagnoloshomepage/

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