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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Essays in China's Anti-corruption Campaign

  • Author(s): Lu, Xi
  • Advisor(s): Wright, Brian
  • et al.

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. Jointly with Professor Peter L. Lorentzen, 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 the first chapter of my thesis, we use a dataset I 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.

In addition to its motivation, I also discuss the campaign's effects on economic efficiency. The second chapter of my thesis tests the "greasing-the-wheels'' hypothesis in the context of China's residential land market. We show that China's anti-corruption campaign, aimed at removing corruption in China's monopoly land market, caused a decrease in land transaction volumes. Furthermore, not removing any form of corruption would also lead to a similar decrease. It is only necessary to remove corruption that enables real estate developers to circumvent red tape and reduce trading costs. Our findings support the "greasing-the-wheels'' hypothesis hypothesis: when an economy has a low outcome owing to some preexisting distortions, corruption could be a positive factor in that it offers a "second-best world.''

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