Cadre Transfer and the Territorial Logic of Building Corruption Networks in China

Yingyao Wang, University of Virginia

This article examines the potential consequences of official rotation, a century-old bureaucratic method of transferring officials across regions, on corruption in China. While official rotation is intended to reduce localism and corruption, this article suggests that transferring officials across regions may actually promote networked corruption. Corruption networks are organized enterprises to expand business and build patronage webs across localities in China’s otherwise fragmented political economy. The author's analysis of a database of investigated and prosecuted individuals during China's anti-corruption campaign suggests that transferred officials, particularly those transferred across provinces, are more likely to engage in corrupt activities that involve complicit individuals and to act as "bridges" in maintaining and expanding networks of corruption. Supported by case studies, the article illustrates how transferred officials can leverage their unique advantages in mobilizing and transmitting place-based resources to build broad patronage networks that facilitate their acquisition of higher-level power in the central government. The article argues that this phenomenon sheds light on the covert paths through which Chinese political elites form and their parasitic relationships with the development of territorial business in China in the reform era. The article's focus on corruption as a relational and territorial phenomenon highlights the importance of analyzing patterns of corruption to uncover a country's hidden political ecology and the operation of power in the interstitial spaces between formal authority and informal networks.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 142. Political Economy in China