Anti-corruption Innovations in Local China: Patterns, Outcomes, and Institutional Constraints


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date8 Sep 2017


Having engaged in an intensified war against corruption for three decades, China is now at a turning point of its anti-corruption reform. Many believe that building government integrity has been a top-down process in China and the anti-corruption strategies taken by the current administration under Xi Jinping seem to have confirmed it. This study challenges the view by analyzing local anti-corruption innovations in recent years and argues for the importance of bottom-up efforts in controlling corruption. Since the early 2000s, local governments have become more proactive in China’s battle against corruption, as demonstrated by numerous local innovations and new initiatives they have implemented. Local anti-corruption innovation has become an important component and a trend of China’s endeavor to tackle corruption.
Understanding the dynamics, patterns, and constraints of local governments in making and implementing anti-corruption innovations helps address the puzzling question of how China can pursue anti-corruption reform more effectively. Specifically, this study attempts to analyze local anti-corruption innovations by examining what are the major patterns of local anti-corruption innovations, how they are initiated and implemented, and what factors have influenced their success or failure.
This study presents 437 local innovative anti-corruption cases from 2013 to 2016, which are divided into three types: implementation of central anti-corruption policies at local levels; application of new techniques in anti-corruption efforts; and locally initiated anti-corruption methods. While the first two types serve anti-corruption purposes as well, this study focuses on the third one, namely the innovative anti-corruption measures developed by local governments themselves. These locally initiated anti-corruption efforts have encountered various difficulties and, consequently, some failed while others managed to succeed. Drawing on an analytical framework of the institutional void, this study explores the explanations for success and failure by analyzing the dilemmas and institutional constraints facing local anti-corruption innovations. It conducts an in-depth investigation of four major cases of local innovation in Guangdong: the integrated Office of Integrity in Zhuhai Hengqin, Qianhai Anti-corruption Bureau, Integrity Pension Fund in Jiangmen, and the reform of government vehicle management in Shenzhen. The findings of this study indicate that although the administrative autonomy of local governments is growing, there is no guarantee they can succeed in their attempts to create and implement innovative policies without central blessing, bottom-up support, institutional collaboration and a legal foundation for proposed innovations.
This study enriches anti-corruption studies by challenging the conventional understanding that anti-corruption reform in China merely takes a top-down approach motivated by the central government. It contributes to the study of corruption and anti-corruption reform in China by providing solid and fresh evidence of anti-corruption innovation by local governments. The findings show that the survival and development of local anti-corruption innovations are institutionally constrained, depending on whether they can receive political, organizational, and social support.