Flies, tigers, and the Leviathan: anti-corruption campaigns and popular political support in China

Narisong Huhe, Jie Chen, Yongguo Chen

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Abstract

To bolster its legitimacy, China's authoritarian regime has launched numerous anticorruption campaigns. Many of these anticorruption campaigns seemed tainted by intra-elite competition and only effective at deterring low- and mid-level cadres (i.e., 'flies'). Yet, Xi's campaign differs notably from previous ones in his targeting of senior officials (i.e., 'tigers') and introduction of institutional changes. By integrating anti-corruption data with three waves of nationwide surveys conducted in 36 major cities in China (2011, 2012, and 2015), we explore and compare the impacts of anti-corruption campaigns on popular political support under Hu and Xi. Our analysis shows that the overall popular support has declined steadily overtime, despite the positive effects of Xi's anti-corruption campaign. Specifically, ordinary Chinese did react positively to Xi's anticorruption campaign. Xi's campaign, particularly his crackdown on 'tigers,' increased people's trust in the central government. However, the campaign fell short in restoring the decline of central and local government legitimacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-208
Number of pages16
JournalJapanese Journal of Political Science
Volume23
Issue number3
Early online date18 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2022

Keywords

  • corruption
  • public opinion
  • regime support
  • authoritarian politics

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