The politics of corruption in contemporary China: A structurationist analysis

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


John D. Nagle


China, Corruption, Chinese Communist Party, Anti-corruption campaigns

Subject Categories

Political Science


This dissertation questions the prevailing assumption that corruption is a moral, legal or administrative problem that transcends differences in time and space. It also challenges the reductionist and reificationist approaches to corruption in the extant literature. The structurationist perspective adopted by this dissertation synthesizes the methodological individualism and structuralism of established approaches by a scrutiny of their ontological and epistemological roots. The dissertation then examines how the three-phase social structuration process in China (transformation, consolidation, and modernization) from 1949 to 1990 has led the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to identify certain behavior as corrupt and, in its anti-corruption attempts, inadvertently (re)produce new systemic sources of corruption. This study conducts a cross-period comparison of the three most prominent anti-corruption campaigns in the history of the People's Republic--the Three and Five Anti's Campaign (1951-1952), the Socialist Education Movement (1962-1966), and the recent Rectification Campaign (since 1988). It finds that China's corruption reflects the unintended consequences of the CCP's social policies.


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