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China’s Crony Capitalism: The Dynamics of Regime Decay Hardcover – October 3, 2016
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Pei makes a powerful and convincing assertion that China’s party-state is both predatory and decaying as he analyzes the nature of destructive collusive behavior. An important book by one of our leading analysts of Chinese politics. (Joseph Fewsmith, author of China since Tiananmen)
While many debate about how capitalist and market-driven China is, Pei shows in this sobering book that the real issue is the quality of Chinese capitalism. No one has detailed the evolution of corruption in China as ably and as comprehensively. An excellent work, whose timing could not be better. (Yasheng Huang, author of Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics)
Pei’s penetrating account of what he terms the ‘rapacious crony capitalism’ spawned by China’s economic rise is lucid, provocative, and deeply disturbing. This is a distinctive contribution to debates about the staying power of China’s political system and the limits of its model of economic development. (Andrew G. Walder, author of China Under Mao)
Pei’s book is quietly devastating. In sober, restrained language, he exposes the full gravity of corruption in China. Presenting a wealth of evidence, he shows that this is not the unfortunate by-product of rapid economic growth but the result of strategic choices by the party. With clinical precision, Mr Pei explains how corruption operates at every level, perverting each branch of the party-state and subverting the political authority of the regime…This book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand China today, or engage with it at any level, in any field. (The Economist)
This is an unparalleled and meticulous analysis of the deeply embedded and widespread corruption engulfing the world’s second-biggest economy… Pei has pulled apart the spiderwebs of Chinese corruption by scrutinizing the published accounts of more than 250 of those penalized for bribery. The details, down to their single or multiple mistresses, orgies and the involvement of their families, make the narrative and conclusions vivid and convincing… In his path-breaking analysis, Pei reveals the vast scale in post-Tiananmen China of ‘collusive corruption’… [An] overwhelmingly convincing and dispiriting book. (Jonathan Mirsky Times Higher Education)
Xi Jinping claims to be eliminating corruption from China’s economic and political systems. Pei, one of the world’s most knowledgeable scholars, argues that this is impossible because corruption is the system. The liberalization of markets has combined with the absence of clear property rights to allow the well-connected to accumulate vast fortunes through looting state property. (Martin Wolf Financial Times)
As Minxin Pei notes in a brilliant book, China’s Crony Capitalism, it is all too easy for a would-be strongman to use the charge of corruption as a cudgel against rivals. Yet it is so effective precisely because it is plausible. Using evidence published by the Chinese authorities, Pei shows that collusive corruption is pervasive. It distorts the economy,
degrades administration and robs the party of its social legitimacy.
Minxin Pei vividly demonstrates how corruption in China is not merely a governance challenge: it is a fact of life. Corruption permeates business, politics, and even personal relationships to a startling degree…It is a damning portrait, in which China resembles the United States during the Gilded Age, complete with robber barons, crime bosses, and dirty politicians―and with all the excesses intensified by authoritarian one-party rule…Pei’s bleak view is sobering, especially because his conclusions are based on careful analysis of a rich data set. (Dali Yang Foreign Affairs)
About the Author
Minxin Pei is Tom and Margot Pritzker ’72 Professor of Government and Roberts Fellow, and Director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies, at Claremont McKenna College.
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The book starts out by observing that the proliferation of corruption occurred with the liberalization of the economy. The natural consequence of being able to buy and sell the means of production of the state was the ability to capitalize on it through corruption. The book covers a wide range of ways in which corruption occurs but focuses on maiguan-maiguan as the primary root of corruption. In particular maiguan-maiguan refers to the buying and selling of public offices and how its mechanism breeds corruption and how the mechanism extends the web of corruption. Most of the examples focused on involve vertical corruption, that is a hierarchy of actors all involved in corruption rather than equal rank collusion. This is often due to the fact that senior officials have sold the offices of their subordinates and so vertical collusion is an easy spillover when the bonds of trust were formed when the offices were sold. The cases often involve what seem like relatively small amounts of money, 10k RMB/20k RMB and the author details for those indicted mean and median aggregate theft which for high ranking officials seems to center around 6-9 million RMB with massive positive skew to get to the mean from the median which is much lower. The author gives the statistics of sentencing and corruption take home from the various offices which allow for corruption ranging from pure political office to SOE management and inclusive of law enforcement and judiciary. The author discusses the different payouts based on where one is in the hierarchy. There is relatively rich detail of amounts of pay, sentencing and the webs that support those payments. It is important to note that many of the cases are quite old and are from the late 90s to early part of 2000s. The author also discusses how mafia and law enforcement have evolved relationships and how these relationships can create mafia state like local conditions. The author also discusses that corruption is not only asset dependent, regulation and circumventing them as been a part of healthcare and environmental scandals.
Though China's Crony Capitalism gives a window into the means in which corruption takes place in China it is an underwhelming study. The abundance of resource extraction has taken place after the period in which primary evidence has been taken. In particular after China went on its massive infrastructure boom. Secondly the vast majority of cases come from screened sources in China, we wont ever get the details of the large scale corruption and resource extraction that has taken place as it will be censored. As a consequence most of the cases used show how corruption take place but the amounts of most of the bribes are so small that they are unconvincing as if one was to document all the times 1000 dollars changes hand in most non-developed countries the numbers would be similar. The message of the book should have been more on the dynamics that create corruption rather than the outrage at the sums involved, which are evidence of a mechanism more than anything else. The author spends as much time on the 10k RMB bribe as on the state asset that is supposedly worth 6 billion sold for 100 million. Those cases warrant totally different amounts of coverage but often one spends more time on the small corruption amounts. If the book was more honest about what it was trying to convey, that the system perpetuates corruption and that state officials being underpaid expand the web of corruption due to the enormous value of the underlying state assets they effectively help control and that the best examples of this will remain hidden due to censorship, I would have rated this more highly. Instead I feel like I got the message after one chapter and the conclusion and all of the cases that I read in between achieved little extra and increased my frustration in what was being framed as important and why.
In addition what he says provides a lot of food for thought regarding the economic and political future of a United States where collusive corruption is visibly (and not-so visibly) advancing by the day.