The following summary (or ‘Abstract’) of an invaluable study titled “…China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign” arises from exemplary research by Xi Lu and Peter L. Lorentzen of the University of California, Berkeley. Their study comes at an especially helpful time: Scholars (not to mention journalists and Western government officials) have been endlessly puzzling over the true nature of the anti-corruption effort on the mainland of China. The question has been whether the effort is more carefully targeted political score-settling or true across-the-board non-partisan corruption control. The conclusion of the Berkeley professors is fascinating and important because it helps illuminate the true political character of President Xi Jinping, who initiated the anti-corruption campaign. The Berkeley scholars write-
“Abstract: In order to maintain popular support or at least acquiescence, autocrats must control the rapacious tendencies of other members of the governing elite. At the same time, the support of this elite is at least as important as the support of the broader population. This creates difficult tradeoffs and limits the autocrat’s ability to enforce discipline. We explore this issue in the context of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign. There have been two schools of thought about this campaign. One holds that it is nothing but a cover for intra-elite struggle and a purge of Xi’s opponents, while the other finds more credibility in the CCP’s claim that the movement is sincere. In this article, we demonstrate three facts, using a new dataset we have created. First, we use the political connections revealed by legal documents and media reports to visualize the corruption network. We demonstrate that although many of the corrupt officials are connected, Xi’s most prominent political opponent, Bo Xilai, is less central by any network measure than other officials who were not viewed as challenging Xi’s leadership. Second, we use a recursive selection model to analyze who the campaign has targeted, providing evidence that even personal ties to top leaders provided little protection. Finally, using another comprehensive dataset on the prefectural-city level, we show that the provinces later targeted by the corruption campaign differed from the rest in important ways. In particular, it appears that promotion patterns departed from the growth-oriented meritocratic selection procedures evidence in other provinces. Overall, our findings contradict the factional purge view and are more consistent with the view that the campaign is indeed primarily an attempt to root out systemic corruption problems.
For the full paper: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2835841