Institutional Anticorruption in China: Effectiveness on Bribery Incidence

Date01 July 2019
Published date01 July 2019
538 Public Administration Review July | A ugus t 201 9
Abstract: This article investigates the effectiveness of anticorruption practices against bribery incidence, highlighting
top-down and bottom-up approaches. A random survey of local residents is used in conjunction with institutional
anticorruption indicators. Findings suggest that the top-down approach works, but with substantial variation
across practices. More intense top-down anticorruption deters bribery incidence within citizens’ dense networks,
and more judicial convictions directly suppress citizens’ bribery experience and willingness. The bottom-up and
combined approaches yield both deterrence and signaling effects, contingent on institutional parameters. More public
whistle-blowing deters citizens’ bribery experience and willingness, yet, when coupled with more intense top-down
anticorruption, it signals severe government corruption and predicts more bribery incidence. On the contrary, more
grievance filings predict more bribery incidence via signaling effects, but, when bundled with more intense top-
down anticorruption, they deter citizens’ subsequent bribery experience and willingness. The article concludes with a
discussion of the research findings and theoretical and practical implications.
Evidence for Practice
Top-down anticorruption works, but its effectiveness varies substantially across practices.
More intense top-down anticorruption deters subsequent bribery incidence within citizens’ dense networks.
More judicial convictions suppress citizens’ ensuing bribery experience and willingness.
The bottom-up approach has both deterrence and signaling effects on citizens’ bribery experience and
The combined approach triggers conditional responses, contingent on institutional parameters.
Pervasive bribery incidence indicates a social
pathology that undermines economic
development and transgresses social norms
(Engel, Goerg, and Yu 2013, 2016; Randsley de
Moura and Abrams 2013; Wei and Kaufmann
1999). Combating bribery is a global crusade, yet
bribery incidence is largely context specific, subject
to cultural, economic, and institutional parameters
within state and even local confines (Treisman 2007).
Cross-national studies attest that bribery prevails
more in developing countries, particularly those with
weak institutional structures (Treisman 2007), and
that individual corruptibility may be well predicted in
lieu of their social norms and embedded institutional
settings (Barr and Serra 2010; Fisman and Miguel
2007). Therefore, localized institutional practices need
to be the focus of anticorruption reforms. Putting
more effort and resources into combating bribery
is often called for, yet, under the pressure of doing
more with less, it appears more critical to scrutinize
the dynamics of institutional endeavors and to assess
the extent to which different practices empower or
constrain the fight against bribery incidence. This
article is anchored in the context of China, where
bribery prevails and institutional anticorruption has
intensified (Wedeman 2004, 2005). It aims to present
a focused analysis of the effectiveness (or lack thereof)
of different institutional practices against bribery
The importance of institutional anticorruption
is rarely underestimated, yet practical guidance
on specific interventions remains in short supply.
The literature tends to highlight the use of the
top-down approach, contending that hierarchical
monitoring and severe sanctions can hold bureaucrats
accountable (Abbink, Irlenbusch, and Renner 2002;
Banuri and Eckel 2015; Huther and Shah 2000).
An alternative approach is to put citizens and public
service recipients at the center for monitoring, as
they are likely endowed with better information
and stronger incentives (Banerjee and Duflo 2006;
World Bank 2007). Not surprisingly, the combined
approach constitutes another option (Serra 2011).
Lab experiments (Abbink, Irlenbusch, and Renner
2002; Barr and Serra 2010; Drugov, Hamman, and
Xing Ni
Wuhan University
Xuhong Su (Su Su)
University of South Carolina
Institutional Anticorruption in China:
Effectiveness on Bribery Incidence
Research Article
Xuhong Su (Su Su) is associate
professor in the Department of Political
Science at the University of South Carolina,
Columbia. Her research interests have
focused on public administration, public
management, and science and technology
policy. Her current projects examine
corruption and anticorruption dynamics
across countries.
Xing Ni is professor in the School of
Political Science and Public Administration
at Wuhan University. He is also executive
director of the Center for Anticorruption
Studies at Sun Yat-sen University in China.
His research focuses on public organization
theories, human resource management,
performance management, and corruption
and anticorruption.
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 4, pp. 538–551. © 2018 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.13007.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT