Hunting tigers and swatting flies : Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign
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Why has Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, launched one of the most aggressive anti-corruption campaigns in the history of the country? To answer this question, I constructed a database of over 100 high-level officials who have come under investigation during the campaign. I find that the campaign is disproportionately targeting officials from certain provinces. To understand why, I test a hypothesis that states: Xi is targeting corrupt officials from specific geographical regions for reasons unrelated to combating pervasive corruption, indicating factional politics are driving at least a part of the campaign. I find mixed support for the hypothesis. Out of the four provinces tested against the hypothesis, Sichuan is the only one that Xi appears to be targeting under the guise of anti-corruption. I put these findings in comparative perspective and find that the basic characteristics of Xi’s campaign are similar to Jiang Zemin’s 1995 anti-corruption campaign. This finding further supports the hypothesis that factional politics are driving at least a part of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. I conclude that Xi’s anti-corruption campaign—though exceptional in its intensity—is hardly a departure from China’s historical factional politics.