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History Of The Corruption In China Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 4233 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Chinas economic ascendance puts China in a position to have many wonderful prospects. In 2008, Chinas strong economic and political systems seemed to resist the idea of a global economic crisis. China’s massive growth has enhanced China as an important economic power in the world. With over one billion people and the second largest national economy, China is still controlled by an authoritarian political regime; the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese Communist Party seems to be able to rule the state and keep a stable and sustainable economy. However, corruption poses a serious hindrance to China’s economy and political systems. The failure to eliminate political corruption could cause the collapse of China’s economy and the Chinese Communist Party in the future (Bergsten C. F 2009 P.97). Corruption also causes the biggest disaster in Chinese history, Tiananmen Square Massacre (Harris 2003). In fact, many of the developing nations that have fast economic growth seem to have a lot of political corruption. Perhaps corruption in a fast developing nation is inevitable. Corruption was widespread in Singapore during the 1960s (Quah S.T. P.31). Singapore was one of the serious corruption countries during its economic development. Many of developing countries with the rapid economic growth have different levels of corruption. The argument in this paper is: corruption in authoritarian states is more prevalent than democratic states. And corruption is a deeply ingrained issue, which is not easy to remove in Chinese society and from China’s government corruption.

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This paper will introduce the historical background of China after the Chinese Communist Party overthrew the Chinese Nationalist Party and it will address how its culture and people have changed under the leading Chinese Communist Party. In this paper, moreover, Chinese economic reform is the main factors to cause corruption in China (Chow G. C. 2006 P.266). Chinese economic reform is the most important revolution which is different from the original ideology of communism. Because of the economic reform China’s great economic achievements rely on the new modern- socialist market economy- a mixture of open- market economy and state-owned enterprise. Economic reform, at the same time as political reform, or new directions of the party, has never been engaged before by the Chinese Communist Party. The causal factors of an open- market economy impacted on the new western ideologies, and the social and political climates have changed quickly in China. For these reasons, current Chinese society, culture, and politics are being changed, and it is causing major internal issues, political corruption and other relative crimes. This paper will address and explain how and why China’s economic reform, and China’s political system, caused corruption and related crimes in contemporary with China. Also, I would like to introduce the different kinds of corruption in China’s government and in Chinese society. For example, political corruption has influenced the entire state, as well as the leaders of its government. In China, most influential senior officials and high level business and government positions are held by the elite who have propelled their family members and caused inheritance of their power for next generations. Those powerful people are called “princelings’ party” or Crown Prince Party. They and even their relatives control most entrepreneurs, so they are capable of shifting the profits and starting the money laundering out of their state. They are the one who mostly believed to be involved in the political corruption in China. An example of this is the biggest political corruption case: the former of party chief Bo Xilai’s and his families making billions of U.S. dollars by privileged upbringing and political influence (Barboza D. April 23, 2012). Secondly, bribery is another kind of corruption in China. This paper will introduce guanxi, the practice that is such a rule and code to conduct businesses with local business partners. In China, Guanxi used to be widely translated as connections and relationships, which reflects the process and maintaining of interpersonal relationship. Guanxi is a method of exerting power to gain more benefits and it is being used succeefully in all networks of society, such as jobs and business. This paper will also analyze how Guanxi plays an important role in corruption, and more importantly, to analyze the largest amount of smuggling and bribery in Chinese history- the criminal cases of Lai Changxing. Lai Changxing operations were based on his good social networks and Guanxi, and he smuggled over £3.3 billion, and bribed 64 officials during the 1990s (Watts J. May 18, 2012).

There is a wide range of literature on corruption from which to choose, and the literature review in this paper should focus on the definition of general practice of corruption, the different levels of corruption by macro-level, and how corruption practice occurs in authoritarian states. I will explore China’s individual case with special political and economic orientation. Peter Hays Gries’s book Chinese Politics: State, Society and the Market, is an excellent source in which to study the specific cases of corruption in China, and how corruption is performed in China. Yan Sun’s book, Corruption and Market in Contemporary China, researches the author’s viewpoints and controversial points in the academic field. Richard McGregor’s book The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rules, is an excellent source which reveals the integrity of China’s Communist Party and the top secret of the central power rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

Literature Review

Meanings of Corruption

Corruption is not a new practice, but one which has existed for many years. There are various definitions of corruption in literature scholars. Corruption currently is a term which used to be studied in philosophy, social science, and political science. In general, to define corruption in academic work is usually in various forms. Klitgaad writes:

“In ordinary usage, too, “corruption” embraces a wide array of illicit behaviors, including bribery, extortion, fraud, nepotism, graft, speed money, pilferage, theft, embezzlement, falsification of records, kickbacks, influence-peddling, and campaign contributions. (Klitgaard 1998, P1.).”

Klitgaard (1998) gives different violations terms to describe corruption. When people are involved in these terms, they could be accused of corruption. In philosophy, corruption is a moral deviation or depravity in human behavior. In economics, it is an exchange between people who give payment to enjoy privileges and receive payment to provide services. Klitgaard (1998) indicates corruption is an illegal act, and it has expended some of terms of crimes. All these criminal activities are too narrow to understand corruption in a particular field of study. But bribery is first term that Klitgarrd’s (1998) pointing to as a usual term by which many people perceive corruption. By studying particularly regional corruption in this paper, bribery and the mainly characterized of authoritarian regimes, nepotism, are important fields to study in this topic of the paper.

Bribery and Briber

Bribery is one of the most common terms of thought under the topic of corruption. It is based on the improper acceptance, giving, receiving, offering or solicitation of a gain or advantage from the briber, including the some actions, views, advices, or decisions of a public official, or person in a position of trust, or person bound by a duty to act impartially (Bribery and Corruption Law. 2012). In bribery and corruption law, it notes that it is necessary to understand that bribery is two exchanges with purposes of payment and receiving benefits from each other. Or a person merely attempts to bribe, even though unsuccessfully, could also be considered to be a briber. On one hand, a person who provides implication of money or gift could be defined as a briber. Gifts do not only include objects of value, such as goods and property, but also includes immaterial matters, such as services and emoluments (i.e. salary, fees or other benefits). On the other hand, a person who gains all these advantages or materials directly or indirectly from briber could be defined as being involved in bribery. Bribe, as well as corruption, is an illegal act with different levels, and the person may be accused of corruption which is a criminal activity.

Low level of Corruption: government official corruption

Low level corruption is characterized often by the traffic cop asking for bribes on the street. It undermines people’s trust in political institutions and its leaders. (Kristoff M and Pertio, R May 01, 2010 P.2) There are many scholars who discuss corruption as multi-level, which involve different magnitudes of the bribe. The authors, Kristoff and Pertio (2010) argue two levels of corruption, higher and lower levels of corruption. Low level corruption has a higher impact on the social fabric of society, with small amounts of money or other benefits. It usually takes place in some government officials, institutions, or public organizations. It erodes people’s trust and the public confidence in government. Kristoff and Pertio (2010) think that police corruption is a common corruption in low level of corruption. Police can gain from corruption easily and commonly, which damages the effective security in society.

Low level corruption also includes corruption of government official. Government corruption is usually defined that the sale, by government officials, of government property for personal gains. Government officials usually receive bribes from a particular person or a group of people for providing permits or licenses, for giving passage at customs, and for prohibiting the entry of competitors. Also, government officials charge privately the products for their own using. (Shleifer. A and Vishny. R. W. May 1993. P3) In addition, government officials note that the cost of producing goods is immaterial to the official since the government pays this cost. They cover the sale of licenses, passports, or a passage on a government toll- charged road, or a policeman sells services that he is supposed to offer for free, and this exerts personal effort (Shleifer. A and Vishny. R. W. May 1993. P5). The authors, Shleifer and Vishny (1993) clarify how government officials or police offices engage in corruption and provide different offers to bribers. Government officials include particular institutions or organizations by the government, which has an obligation to provide public services, such as educational institutions. These institutions do not have rights to sell any products or services privately, and expropriate any frees by unofficial announcement. Based on the authority of government officials, such as policemen, they may force or inflict the charging fees which are supposed or obligate to be provides free services. In some weak governments, they even sell passports and driver’s licenses, as long as people could make a certain payment or provide personal connections within the government. People living under a weak deviant government do not a desk to compliant or report police and government misconduct. This causes some government officials, such as police officers, to provide or to force charging fees for services which are received from the briber. Because there can be an absolute execution by powerful people, this prevents the right to inspect government procedures and activities. Therefore this results government corruption becoming serious.

High Level of Corruption: Political Corruption

A high level of corruption usually involves substantial amounts of payment, and it often involves senior levels of government officials. The procurement of high level corruption can deal with the massive amounts of money, but it has a high secrecy from the public. (Kristoff, M & Pertio, R May 01, 2010 P.2) Kristoff and Pertio (2010) indicate high level corruption that appears in higher level senior of the government or leading politicians. It has also involves a massive amount of money in procurement. Unlike low level of corruption, high level corruption has a lower impact on society, and people or citizens do not recognize high level corruption on the daily lives. Moreover, some political party in power requires their members to dominate government positions. Its members can be controlling key positions in awarding government contracts with businesses for a price of a briber, and then give money to the party. The illicit activities, including funds or huge infrastructure projects could be funneled into the party (Governance, Corruption and Conflict, 2010, P.12). In this article, the author examines how politicians and businesses corruption and gain benefits. High level of corruption often involves in politicians or political parties who could influence public decisions, politics and rules. It is a common skill for most misconduct political leaders and their party to start political corruption when they are in office. Politicians utilize their political power in a state, and they attempt to dominate all key positions by appointing their party members or even their relatives. Most government contracts are assigned by particular businesses that would have provided bribes to the politicians for getting governmental contracts. For businesses, they could be a huge infrastructure project, such as bridge and freeway. This can be considered as a high level political corruption. Citizens usually cannot recognize the serious political corruption in the state. Therefore, it causes that high level corruption of political parties and politicians occur in both democratic and autocratic countries.

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Meanwhile, high level of corruption often occurs in election campaigns in democratic states. In order to remain in office, politician may manipulate election campaigns by corruption related to campaign financing, which is a serious political issue in some states. Some elect officials help the welfare of people in constituencies, in the hopes of getting their votes. For example, a politician may be required to present expensive gifts at a wedding by a supporter in the electoral district. Or a politician may also need to participate wed receptions, birthday parties, celebrations and fund raising ceremonies that can cost huge amounts on elected officials (Myint U. December 02. 2000 P.40). To Myint (2000), high level corruption especially occurs on politicians in some democratic countries. In which the politicians or leaders of states are elected by citizens. Therefore, election campaign contributions are placed in high importance to them. Soliciting financial contributions for the election campaign is extremely important for every candidate because it may very well determine whether or not the candidate wins the election. In order to have sufficient funds for an election, campaign most candidates attempt to draw contributions from the people or from entrepreneurs in the election campaign of their political parties. These rich people, entrepreneurs or dignitary, will provide benefits to the new leaders in the future government. And these benefits may foster many of the connections between leaders and entrepreneurs, which may result in the politicians participating in different gatherings of entrepreneurs. This could cost huge amounts of money to the government.

Corruption in Autocracies

Corruption in Autocratic and Corruption in Democratic States

There are many scholars to argue that corruption in autocratic country is higher than democratic country. According to the article “Governance, Corruption and Conflict,” one-party system has a higher potential for corruption. This is because of the lack of “checks and balances” in their countries. Without checks on government and a strong public voice that can cause difficultly if it sees corruption, there will be no one who can accomplish putting pressure on the government for accountability and transparency. There is also the argument that democratic states have lower of corruption. Corruption exists in all societies, but democratic systems have a high check on corruption (Governance, Corruption and Conflict, 2010, P.10). The writer argues that corruption is more prevalent in autocratic states. The authoritarian states have more corruption is not surprising. He explains there are some major factors including the lack of check from the public, no independent media, and no public voice, with the result that widespread corruption cannot be combated efficiently. Most authoritarian states are closed societies in which the government controls newspapers, television broadcasts and internet. Therefore, citizens cannot hold the government to be transparent. The writer states there is no guarantee that a state can free from corruption. But in most democratic states, fair elections and the stronger public voice determine the nature and integrity of the government and the leadership. Corruption can be recognized by citizens based on the structure of government, and people can check government by different ways. Most democratic states have corruption investigations and anti-corruption agencies that can efficiently combat corruptions. But, unlike democratic states, most authoritarian states do not have strong independent commissions to combat and investigate corruption. It concludes that corruptions in autocratic states are higher than corruptions in democratic states. Meanwhile, the redistributive demands by the poor’s mute voices and their oppression have little or no effect, when the rich have a direct political power, or easy access to political authorities, in countries with authoritarian regimes (Khagram & You. December 09, 2003. P.3). Khagram and You (2003) illustrate that the degree of unequal redistributive demands between two groups of people, the poor and the rich, have different social status, which determines if the people can speak out or not. The rich, with higher social status can express themselves much easier and have easier access to government. Thus, the greater disparity between the poor and the rich, the greater is impact of high corruption in authoritarian or communist countries.

Dictatorship corruption

In most authoritarian states, a significant contribution to corruption is the deviated behavior of leaders. Authoritarian or totalitarian regimes do not have an institutionalized provision for succession. So, leaders in personalist dictatorships face uncertainty regarding their political futures. In dictatorships, government officials are without a democracy’s preoccupation and concern about their citizens’ evaluations. A Dictator can be considered to be a robbery, who steals the state for satisfying their short-term desires and needs, but might ultimately destroy the state’s economy in the long-term consequences. They completely control public life and maintain resources to benefit its elites and other strategic coalitions (Harmel & Yeh 2011 P. 2, Ezrow & Frantz 2011 P. 134). Ezrow & Frantz (2011) argue that most dictators are only desired to dominate their power in their state and hold most executive positions, or even control their whole state by appointing executive positions. They only abuse tangible power for their own interests. Ezrow and Frantz (2011) describe leaders in authoritarian states as robbers, who dare to misappropriate the states’ natural resources and public lives. Importantly, they also determine to increase their personal wealth. Only corruption can enable them to satisfy their own interests. There are many of “State-owned” enterprises, such as telecommunications and television broadcasting, when, in fact, the dictator and his elites monopolize these enterprises and embezzle the funds of the state-owned enterprises. On the other hand, citizens live under an authoritarian regime suffer different levels of social control, including information control, cultural control, or even “thought control”. Thought control, which is one of the social controls, is used by most dictators to consolidate their political power in their states (Oh, K. and Hassig,R.C. 2000 P. 140). Thought control teaches that loyalty to the leader is necessary for every citizen, who should obey their leaders completely. It is similar to a cult of personality where monarchs or leaders are held in reverence. Without the citizens’ inspection, corruption in authoritarian states cannot be perceived, and this has contributed to rampant dictator corruption. So the dictator and his political corruption is one of the main types of corruption in authoritarian states.


By discussing the character of corruption in authoritarian or communist regimes, it is important to understand how nepotism is practice in these societies. Communist officials consistently prove that they are corruptible and nepotistic. It is not the first time to notice that nepotism thrives in communist bureaucracies, such as the Soviet nomenklatura, is a famous for nepotism during the 1920s (Bellow July 13, 2004, P.98). Bellow (2004) argues that nepotism is a common term within communist regimes. Some communist states announce that nepotism is a rule for dictators to consolidate their power in a country. In fact, this is an informal and personal mode, which is commonly adopted by government officials and societies in communist countries. The widespread building of nepotism in a social network is important for the governmental elites to hold their positions and enlarge their influence in the government. According to “The Clearing House,” it clarifies the meanings of nepotism in a normal society:

“Nepotism in Georgia schools, as well as over the nation, is one of the most serious hindrances to the development of a democratic and effective system. On almost every hand we find wives, daughter, sons and in-laws of members of boards of education teaching in our public schools. In many places a system of reciprocity is in vogue where one board member agrees to vote for another’s kin in return for a vote for his own kin. There is nothing good about nepotism. It is unfair to the teacher for it creates envy among other teachers who feel that many earned advances are the result of favoritism (The Clearing House 2005).”

To the author, nepotism is a serious hindrance to the social network. The author (2005) gives a negative view to nepotism because he thinks that it carries an unequal treatment of people in both democratic countries and in authoritarian countries. Nepotism is a powerful influence for people to have great achievements in jobs and politics. Based on favored groups and social relationships, such as friends or relatives, people engaging in nepotism could be appointed or granted a position, or promoted or employed in government positions, as well as in some enterprises. When people rely on this informal mode, however, it often becomes a significant deviation in most societies, from what is good. It has been usually included in the topic of corruption, because nepotism carries many of conveniences which characterize the one who is bribed and the briber who corrupts others.


I began the research by reading a lot of books and journal articles that consisted of topics relating to corruption, such as corruption in China, and political corruption in China. By understanding the characteristics of China’s corruption, I should first study general corruption in the world, and how different practical modes of corruption are used in different states. Second, corruption in similar regimes has similar features, so corruption in both authoritarian and communist states should be discussed in this topic. Most authoritarian and communist states have similar political systems, such as one-party system or dictatorship. To succeed in this paper, it is important to know the factors of a topic, Corruption in China, including the contribution of Chinese economic reform, the Chinese political system, and China’s society today. I have also gathered all information for this paper by accessing most sources from online to find media sources which include Google scholar, ProQuest, LexisNexis, JSTOR and some of China’s websites, such as China Daily. Using Google scholar to search primary sources mostly, it widely provides numerous relevant articles. And some websites including CNN International, South China Morning Post, New York Times and China Daily provide many useful cases that I can study for this paper. For example, the case of former of party Chief Bo Xilai and his families who stole billions of U.S. dollars. And the case of Lai Changxing, who bribed numerous of officials and smuggled products with values of billions of pounds.


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