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How Corruption Hurts China

Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Minxin Pei, left, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, said the Chinese government has grown softer on corruption since 2000.

About 2,500 communist party cadre are indicted for economic crimes every year, he said. But ‘[s]ince the Chinese bureaucracy has expanded considerably over the last decade, the data . . . actually indicate a relative decrease in the real rate of prosecution.’

For that reason and others, Professor Pei disputes the thesis of Andrew Wederman’s book, Double Paradox. Wederman argued that China has been able to ‘stalemate’ graft and even sustain rapid economic growth despite predatory corruption.

But the harm from corruption, Pei wrote, can be more subtle than simply measuring nominal growth rates.

‘In the Chinese case,’ Pei said, ‘corruption has made food unsafe, increased income inequality, worsened environmental degradation, reduced social services, and resulted in widespread abuse of individual rights. If we take the low quality of life in China into account, the pernicious impact of corruption is substantial.’

Minxin Pei’s article, ‘Explaining China’s Corruption Paradox,’ is here.

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