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Corporate Crime and State Legitimacy: Non-Issue Making in The 2008 Chinese Melamine Milk Scandal


While the study of corporate crime began nearly seventy years ago, academic access

to Asian countries, and China in particular, has become available only in the past two

decades. The growing economic crime rate in China remains a difficult area of

research, but recent studies demonstrate the impact China's economic reform on crime

in general. This study aims to apply western corporate crime and state theories to

China in an effort to explain both China's economic crime rate and the government's

response. This qualitative study draws on information about the 2008 melamine milk

scandal from both Chinese and western newspapers, as well as scholarly journals. An

analysis of these sources reveals China is similar to the United States of America and

other developed nations: economic crime is tolerated if that crime provides a direct

benefit for the offending corporation and indirect benefit for the state. China's

authoritarian government increases this tolerance as the state is able to both censor

the media and use force to prevent social movements, liberties that have a dampening

effect on economic crime in western democracies. This implies that without a

liberalization of government to match the liberalization of economy, China's economic

crime rate will remain high.

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