Title

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

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Comparative Political Studies

Publication Date

8-2017

Volume

50

Issue

9

First Page

1186

Last Page

1220

Publisher

Sage Publications, Inc.

Keywords

China, anticorruption, authoritarian politics, elite competition, patronage

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.

DOI

10.1177/0010414016672234

Print ISSN

00104140

E-ISSN

15523829

Funding Information

This project is sponsored by HKGRF (Project No. 17411814).

Publisher Statement

Copyright © The Author(s) 2016

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Recommended Citation

Zhu, J., & Zhang, D. (2017). Weapons of the powerful: Authoritarian elite competition and politicized anticorruption in China. Comparative Political Studies, 50(9), 1186-1220. doi: 10.1177/0010414016672234