Events & Activities

SOSC Seminar
Rescuing Autocracy from Itself: China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign (Tuesday 5 June 2017)


China’s unique system of hiring and promoting talented people within the state, under the supervision of the Communist Party, has been held up as an important institutional factor supporting its remarkably rapid and sustained economic growth. We explore this meritocracy argument in the context of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign. Some question the sincerity of the campaign, arguing that it is nothing but a cover for intra-elite struggle and a purge of Xi’s opponents. In this article, we use a dataset we have created to identify accused officials and map their connections. Our evidence supports the Party’s claim that the crackdown is primarily a sincere effort to cut down on the widespread corruption that was undermining its efforts to develop an effective meritocratic governing system. First, we visualize the “patron–client” network of all probed officials announced by the central government and identify the core targets of the anti-corruption campaign. Second, we use a recursive selection model to analyze who the campaign has targeted, providing evidence that even personal ties to top leaders have provided little protection. Finally, we show that, in the years leading up to the crackdown, the provinces later targeted had departed from the growth-oriented meritocratic selection procedures evident in other provinces.



Peter Lorentzen studies the political economy of development and authoritarian governance, with a focus on China.  He has written on authoritarian media control strategies, the role of entrenched economic interests in blocking environmental governance reforms, the management of popular protest, and the rise of rights consciousness in China, among other topics.


His research has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, the China Quarterly, Genetics in Medicine, the Journal of Economic Growth, the Journal of Politics, the Journal of Theoretical Politics, Modern China, the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, and World Development.


He received his PhD in Economic Analysis and Policy from Stanford University Graduate School of Business and is currently a member of the political science faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.

Prof. Peter Lorentzen
University of California, Berkeley
June 5, 2017 (Monday)
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Room 3301 (Lifts 17-18) Academic Building, HKUST