Elite Corruption in Modern China Explanations and a Comparison with Contemporary Russia
Elite corruption may well be the defining political and existential issue of the late 1990s and early 2000S. Elite corruption threatens national and personal survival and provokes us to ask, what is right and what is wrong? The corruption of the elite also advances practical dilemmas for everyday life along with theoretical questions for sociologists, criminologists, and others whose purpose is to understand social life. This essay brings together the relevant sociological literature, Chinese and Asian press sources, and fieldwork done over several years into a preliminary discussion on how to understand and explain the causes and effects of elite corruption. It concludes with a reflection on the meaning of elite corruption for marketization and reform politics in China and Russia.
Tanwu, tanwuzui, and the metaphorical fubai (literallymeaning "rottee" or "decay and putrefaction") are cases of malpractice in which state workers misappropriate public property by diverting funds, theft, or swindling. Shouhui are cases in which state workers use their official positions to extort or accept bribes.1 However, it is unclear how often corruption cases are subsumed or double-counted within the larger category of "economic crimes" (jingji fanzui) or "unhealthy tendencies" (buzheng zhi feng). Guandao is used to identify speculation by officials (also toujidaoba, "profiteering"). Tequan (privileges) is a term used in political speeches referring to privilege-seeking by officials.
Also, as Rocca points out, the simple division of crimes between tanwu and shouhui is complicated by overlapping jurisdictions and wide-ranging applications. The party's Discipline Inspection Commit