Weapons of the powerful : authoritarian elite competition and politicized anticorruption in China

Jiangnan ZHU, Dong ZHANG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

What motivates authoritarian regimes to crack down on corruption? We argue that just as partisan competition in democracies tends to politicize corruption, authoritarian leaders may exploit anticorruption campaigns to target rivals’ power networks during internal power struggles for consolidating their power base. We apply this theoretical framework to provincial leadership turnover in China and test it using an anticorruption data set. We find that intraelite power competition, captured by the informal power configuration of government incumbents and their predecessors, can increase investigations of corrupt senior officials by up to 20%. The intensity of anticorruption propaganda exhibits a similar pattern. The findings indicate that informal politics can propel strong anticorruption drives in countries without democratically accountable institutions, although these drives tend to be selective, arbitrary, and factionally biased.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1186-1220
Number of pages35
JournalComparative Political Studies
Volume50
Issue number9
Early online date10 Oct 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

weapon
elite
China
corruption
power struggle
propaganda
turnover
campaign
regime
leadership
leader
democracy
politics

Keywords

  • China
  • anticorruption
  • authoritarian politics
  • elite competition
  • patronage

Cite this

@article{9766d478e6f745de8994b2f27d086d19,
title = "Weapons of the powerful : authoritarian elite competition and politicized anticorruption in China",
abstract = "What motivates authoritarian regimes to crack down on corruption? We argue that just as partisan competition in democracies tends to politicize corruption, authoritarian leaders may exploit anticorruption campaigns to target rivals’ power networks during internal power struggles for consolidating their power base. We apply this theoretical framework to provincial leadership turnover in China and test it using an anticorruption data set. We find that intraelite power competition, captured by the informal power configuration of government incumbents and their predecessors, can increase investigations of corrupt senior officials by up to 20{\%}. The intensity of anticorruption propaganda exhibits a similar pattern. The findings indicate that informal politics can propel strong anticorruption drives in countries without democratically accountable institutions, although these drives tend to be selective, arbitrary, and factionally biased.",
keywords = "China, anticorruption, authoritarian politics, elite competition, patronage",
author = "Jiangnan ZHU and Dong ZHANG",
year = "2017",
month = "8",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1177/0010414016672234",
language = "English",
volume = "50",
pages = "1186--1220",
journal = "Comparative Political Studies",
issn = "0010-4140",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Inc.",
number = "9",

}

Weapons of the powerful : authoritarian elite competition and politicized anticorruption in China. / ZHU, Jiangnan; ZHANG, Dong.

In: Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 50, No. 9, 01.08.2017, p. 1186-1220.

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

TY - JOUR

T1 - Weapons of the powerful : authoritarian elite competition and politicized anticorruption in China

AU - ZHU, Jiangnan

AU - ZHANG, Dong

PY - 2017/8/1

Y1 - 2017/8/1

N2 - What motivates authoritarian regimes to crack down on corruption? We argue that just as partisan competition in democracies tends to politicize corruption, authoritarian leaders may exploit anticorruption campaigns to target rivals’ power networks during internal power struggles for consolidating their power base. We apply this theoretical framework to provincial leadership turnover in China and test it using an anticorruption data set. We find that intraelite power competition, captured by the informal power configuration of government incumbents and their predecessors, can increase investigations of corrupt senior officials by up to 20%. The intensity of anticorruption propaganda exhibits a similar pattern. The findings indicate that informal politics can propel strong anticorruption drives in countries without democratically accountable institutions, although these drives tend to be selective, arbitrary, and factionally biased.

AB - What motivates authoritarian regimes to crack down on corruption? We argue that just as partisan competition in democracies tends to politicize corruption, authoritarian leaders may exploit anticorruption campaigns to target rivals’ power networks during internal power struggles for consolidating their power base. We apply this theoretical framework to provincial leadership turnover in China and test it using an anticorruption data set. We find that intraelite power competition, captured by the informal power configuration of government incumbents and their predecessors, can increase investigations of corrupt senior officials by up to 20%. The intensity of anticorruption propaganda exhibits a similar pattern. The findings indicate that informal politics can propel strong anticorruption drives in countries without democratically accountable institutions, although these drives tend to be selective, arbitrary, and factionally biased.

KW - China

KW - anticorruption

KW - authoritarian politics

KW - elite competition

KW - patronage

UR - http://commons.ln.edu.hk/sw_master/5959

UR - https://www.scopus.com/inward/record.uri?eid=2-s2.0-85021746476&doi=10.1177%2f0010414016672234&partnerID=40&md5=30d0a104c7521872aafa0024b7583d79

U2 - 10.1177/0010414016672234

DO - 10.1177/0010414016672234

M3 - Journal Article (refereed)

VL - 50

SP - 1186

EP - 1220

JO - Comparative Political Studies

JF - Comparative Political Studies

SN - 0010-4140

IS - 9

ER -