In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Corruption

  • Introduction
  • Secondary Sources
  • Defining Corruption
  • Measuring Corruption
  • Forms, Trends, and Patterns of Corruption
  • Corruption and Growth
  • Corruption and Business
  • Judicial Corruption
  • Corruption and Organized Crime

Chinese Studies Corruption
Ling Li
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 October 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0127


Corruption is a challenging subject to study, for three reasons. First, the conceptual contours of “corruption” are fuzzy, leaving ample room for disagreements on the perception and definition of corruption. Second, unlike many other types of crime, corruption is notoriously difficult to detect and measure because it leaves no crime scene or immediate victim, and it can reliably be measured only when it is detected. Third, even after detection, data on corruption cases are difficult to gather and often are not readily open to the public. These features have greatly affected the volume and types of available research sources, the choices of research methodologies, and the scope and focus of topics in this field of study. They also affect how this article is organized. This article starts with two sections on research sources: Primary Sources and Secondary Sources. However, the divide between them is not always clear-cut. The next three sections cover the topics of the definition, measurement, trends, and patterns of corruption, respectively, and provide a general impression of the “state of affairs” regarding corruption in China. The following section, on Corruption and Growth, is one of the most attractive topics to economists and political scientists. Corruption and Business includes references that most interest researchers on business management. In the section on Causes of Corruption, three subtopics are addressed: Corruption and Public Administration, Corruption and Reform, and Corruption and Guanxi. The second and third subtopics are correlated, though Corruption and Public Administration focuses more on inherent structural features of governance, while Corruption and Reform focuses more on the impact of policy changes. The third subtopic addresses guanxi, an important social phenomenon on its own, but with an entangled relationship with corruption. The next section deals with Judicial Corruption, a topic chosen because of its pervasiveness in China’s courts and its significant impact on corruption in other sectors as well. Corruption and Organized Crime is a relatively new but noteworthy area of research because of its destructive consequences. The last section is on Controlling Corruption. Researchers have paid as much, if not more, attention to the consequences of and solutions for the problem of corruption as to its causes and occurrences. This last section is divided into four subtopics, the choice of which should be self-explanatory because of their titles: Anticorruption Institutions, Anticorruption Campaigns, Anticorruption Investigation and Punishment, and Reduction of Corruption.

Primary Sources

More than in many other subject areas, researchers on corruption are challenged by the lack of access to sources because of the secretive nature both of corruption and anticorruption activities. Included in this section are sources of data that demonstrate detected and punished corrupt conduct. Sources on regulatory rules and policies against corruption are introduced in the section on Defining Corruption.

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