CCCH9042 China: Culture, State and Society
Corruption and Anticorruption in China


Course Description

One of the enduring problems harassing Chinese regimes since imperial times has been corruption, which seems to be deeply embedded in the Chinese culture. Corruption has grown particularly fast since the marketization reform in 1978. Given its wide impact on economic growth, social stability and welfare, corruption is arguably the topmost challenge to contemporary Chinese government in the 21st Century. Therefore, studying corruption and anticorruption in China enriches our understanding of the nature of Chinese culture, politics, and economy, and helps us foresee the prospects of China in the new millennium. In this course, through exploring major forms of corruption, the causes of corruption and the effectiveness of anticorruption measures in controlling corruption, students will get a glimpse of various perspectives on understanding contemporary China, such as the hidden rules of the Chinese state, the informal institutions of government, the formation of social network, elite politics, the legal system, and the media-government relationship.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe and explain corruption, a major challenge to contemporary China and an enduring problem in Chinese history, from social science theories across disciplines, and eventually form a deeper understanding of China.
  2. Critically examine the limitations of different theories on corruption’s causes, socio-economic impacts, and its solutions.
  3. Apply theories and class knowledge into real world corruption cases and propose analyses and solutions.
  4. Critically reflect their own values and behaviors in influencing social integrity and the building of a responsible society.
  5. Better understand corruption in other countries and bridge experiences of different communities and cultures together to better understand the universal problem of corruption and its impact.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First Semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 26
Tutorials 10
Fieldwork / Visits 4
Reading / Self-study 55
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 20
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 4
Assessment: Group project 40
Total: 159

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Lecture participation 10
Tutorial participation 15
Tutorial presentation 10
Response essays 30
Group research project 35

Required Reading

Introduction: Why are we interested in corruption and anticorruption in China?

  • Ambrasseys, N., & Bilham, R. (2011, January 13). Corruption kill. Nature, 153-155.
  • Zhu, J. (2017). Corruption networks in China: An institutional analysis. In T. Gong and I. Scott (Eds.), Handbook on corruption in Asia (Chapter 1.2). Routledge. [Pages to be assigned]

A fuzzy concept: What is corruption in China?

  • Ko, K. & Weng, C. (2011). Critical review of conceptual definitions of Chinese corruption: a formal-legal perspective. Journal of contemporary China, 20, 359-378.

A moving target: The overall trend and changing formats of corruption in the reform-era

  • Gong, T. (1997). Forms and characteristics of China’s corruption in the 1990s: Change with continuity. Communist and post-communist studies, 30, 277-288.
  • Guo, Y. (2008). Corruption in transitional China: An empirical analysis. The China quarterly, 194, 349-364.

Sources of corruption: Explanations in different perspectives

  • Hao, Y., & Johnston, M. (2002). Corruption and the future of economic reform in China. In A. J. Heidenheimer & M. Johnston (Eds), Political corruption: Concepts & contexts (pp. 583-604). New Bruswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers).

The ‘double paradox’: Corruption, economic development, and its other social impacts

  • Wedeman, A. H. (2012). Double paradox: Rapid growth and rising corruption in China. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [Pages to be assigned]

An enduring war: Fighting corruption in China

  • Guo, X. (2014). Controlling corruption in the party: China’s central discipline inspection commission. The China quarterly, 219, 597-624.

Seeing and believing: The mass media’s role in controlling corruption

  • Zhu, J., Lu, J., & Shi, T. (2013). When grapevine news meets mass media: Different information sources and perceptions of government corruption in Mainland China. Comparative Political Studies, 46(8), 920-946.

China in comparative perspective: Corruption and anticorruption in other Asian countries

  • Ang, Y. Y. (2014). Authoritarian restraints on online activism revisited: Why ‘I-paid-a-bribe’ worked in India but failed in China. Comparative politics, 47(1).
  • Manion, M. (2004). Corruption by design: Building clean government in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [Chaps. 2, 3]

International collaboration: Anticorruption in a globalized world

  • Rose-Ackerman, S. (1999). Corruption and governance: Causes, consequences and reform. Cambridge University Press. [Pages to be assigned]
  • Edes, Bartlet. (2017). Regional cooperation to curb corruption in Asia. In T. Gong & I. Scott (Eds.), Routledge handbook on corruption in Asia (Chap. 4.6).

Summary: What have we learned from studies of corruption in China?

  • Treisman, D. (2007). What have we learned about the causes of corruption from ten years of cross-national empirical research? Annual review of political science, 10.

Recommended Reading

Introduction: Why are we interested in corruption and anticorruption in China?

  • Svensson, J. (2005). Eight questions about corruption. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(3), 19-42.

A fuzzy concept: What is corruption in China?

  • Gardiner, J. A. (1993). Defining corruption. Corruption and Reform, 7(2), 111-124.
  • He, Z. (2000). Corruption and anti-corruption in reform China. Communist and Post-Communist China, 33(2), 243-270.
  • Johnston, M. (2005). Syndromes of corruption: Wealth, power, and democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [pp. 10-13]

A moving target: The overall trend and changing formats of corruption in the reform-era

  • Gong, T. (2002). Dangerous collusion: Corruption as a collective venture in contemporary China. Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 35, 85-103.
  • Shieh, S. (2005). The rise of collective corruption in China: the Xiamen smuggling case. Journal of Contemporary China, 14, 67-91
  • Wedeman, A. (2004). The intensification of corruption in China. The China Quarterly, 180, 895-921.
  • Zhu, J. (2008). Why are offices for sale in China? A case study of the office-selling Chain in Heilongjiang Province. Asian Survey, 48, 558-579.

Sources of corruption: Explanations in different perspectives

  • Chang, E., & Golden, M. A. (2010). Sources of corruption in authoritarian regimes. Social Science Quarterly, 91(1), 1-20.
  • Li, L. (2011). Performing bribery in China: Guanxi-practice, corruption with a human face. Journal of Contemporary China, 20(68), 1-20.
  • Lu, X. (2000). Cadres and corruption: the organizational involution of the Chinese Communist Party. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. [Pages to be assigned]
  • Millington, A., Eberhardt, M., &Wilkinson, B. (2005). Gift giving, guanxi and illicit payments in buyer-supplier relations in China: analyzing the experience of UK companies. Journal of Business Ethics, 57, 255-68
  • Sun, Y. (2004). Corruption and market in contemporary China. Ithaca, NY: Cornell    University Press. [Pages to be assigned]

The ‘double paradox’: Corruption, economic development, and its other social impacts

  • Meon, P. -G., & Khalid, S. (2005). Does corruption grease or sand the wheels of growth? Public Choice, 122(1), 69-97.
  • Seligson, M. A. (2002). The impact of corruption on regime legitimacy: a comparative study of four Latin American countries. The Journal of Politics, 64(2), 408-433.
  • Shleifer, A., & Vishny, R. W. (1993). Corruption. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 108(3), 599-617.
  • Wang, Y. (Forthcoming). Beyond local protectionism: China’s state-business relations in the last two decades. China Quarterly.

An enduring war: Fighting corruption in China

  • Manion, M. (2015). Taking China’s anticorruption campaign seriously. Working paper at Duke University.
  • Manion, M. (2004). Corruption by design: Building clean government in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [Chaps. 6, 7]
  • Wedeman, A. (2015, September).  Xi Jinping’s tiger hunt: Anti-corruption campaign or political purge? Paper presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Conference, San Francisco.
  • Wedeman, A. H. (2005). Anticorruption campaigns and the intensification of corruption in China. Journal of Contemporary China, 14 (42), 93-116.
  • Zhu, J.  (2012, Fall). Do severe penalties deter corruption? A game theoretic analysis of the Chinese case. China Review.

Seeing and Believing: The mass media’s role in controlling corruption

  • Andersen, T., Bentzen, J., Dalgaard, C.-J., & Selaya, P. (2011). Does the Internet reduce corruption? Evidence from U.S. States and across countries. World Bank Economic Observer, 24, 3.
  • Bai, R. (2014). Staging corruption: Chinese television and politics. UBC Press. [Pages to be assigned]
  • Brunetti, A. & Weder, B. (2003). A free press is bad news for corruption. Journal of Public Economics, 87(7-8), 1801-1824.
  • Roberts, A. (2006). Blacked out: Government secrecy in the information age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [pp. 107-123]

China in comparative perspective: Corruption and anticorruption in other Asian countries

  • Kang, D. (2002). Crony capitalism: Corruption and development in South Korea and the Philippines. Cambridge University Press. [Pages to be assigned]
  • Nyblade, B., & Reed, S. (2008). Who cheats? Who loots? Political competition and corruption in Japan, 1947-1933. American Journal of Political Science, 52(4).
  • Quah, J. S. T. (1999). Corruption in Asian countries: Can it be minimized? Public Administration Review, 59(6), 483-494.
  • Wedeman, A. H. (2012). Double paradox: Rapid growth and rising corruption in China. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [Chaps. 2, 3]

Recommended Websites


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr J. Zhu
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2278
Email: zhujn@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr J. Zhu
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2278
Email: zhujn@hku.hk