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5 - The Chinese Communist Party’s War against Corruption, 1921–1990

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2022

Christopher Carothers
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
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Summary

Chapter 5 gives an overview of the Chinese Communist Party’s many campaigns against corruption throughout its history up to 1990. As with Taiwan and South Korea in previous chapters, authoritarian anti-corruption success in China has depended on a strongly motivated leadership with discretionary power driving reforms and a capable party-state implementing them. This combination of factors allowed Chairman Mao’s Three Antis–Five Antis Campaign (1951–53) to curb corruption and help the new communist regime penetrate and reform China’s complex urban areas. However, the disastrous failure of the Great Leap Forward (1958–62) triggered a rise in bribe-taking and embezzlement, especially among rural cadres, and later campaigns under Mao aimed at controlling corruption ended in failure. After Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping prioritized liberalizing economic reforms and proved unwilling to jeopardize these reforms by cracking down on the corruption that had come with them. The party leadership conducted a large-scale purge of allegedly corrupt officials to assuage public discontent after the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square, but it ultimately had little effect.

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Corruption Control in Authoritarian Regimes
Lessons from East Asia
, pp. 131 - 171
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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