In this study, we investigated a psychological mechanism underlying the corruption of government officials, based on cultural factors in China. The proposed psychological kidnapping model describes how some bribers set up relations (guanxi, 关系) with bribees to conceal the intention of bribery and gradually lead them into corruption. Through text analysis, classification, and encoding of corruption cases, we defined the term psychological kidnapping, as well as its fundamental characteristics and the corresponding interaction process model (study 1). Using qualitative analysis, we confirmed the three stages of the process of corruption (attraction and acceptance, trust and integration, and collusion or fracture). In a further step, we unveiled three characteristics of psychological kidnapping, known as concealed resource delivery, imbalanced perceptions of corruption risk and cost for government officials, and soft menace from bribers. Then we explored the essential role of renqing (人情) in study 2 as a key enabler of psychological kidnapping. We hope that this work can provide a theoretical base for the prevention of corruption in the public service sector in China.