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  • Corruption by Design: Building Clean Government in Mainland China and Hong Kong
  • Julia Kwong (bio)
Melanie Manion . Corruption by Design: Building Clean Government in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. $49.95, ISBN 0-674-01486-3.

After replacing a planned economy with a market economy, perhaps the next most salient development of the People's Republic of China over the last two decades have been the various attempts to institutionalize the rule of law. Melanie Manion's book Corruption by Design: Building Clean Government in Mainland China and Hong Kong offers readers a systematic and thorough analysis of this important topic. It is not that sinologists and legal scholars have ignored the justice system in China. Chiu (1981) and Liu et al. (2001) have studied the criminal justice system, and the work of He and Waltz (1995), much quoted by Manion herself in this book, has compared China's criminal justice system with that in the United States. Corruption in China has attracted even more attention from scholars and journalists than the criminal justice system. Gong (1994), Kwong (1997), and Lu (2000), to mention just a few, have examined the genesis of corruption and its practice in the different sectors. But Manion is the first to bring the two [End Page 191] topics of corruption and control together in one volume. This book is a valuable reference for anyone interested in corruption and criminal justice in China.

In chapter 1, Manion lays out the theoretical considerations that influence her approach. Government measures, or "institutional designs," can foster or curb corruption. Drawing from game theory, which posits that players weigh costs and benefits in deciding their courses of action, she argues that government officials indulge in corrupt behavior if they perceive that corruption is prevalent and that law enforcement is weak because these conditions lower the cost of corruption. Consequently, she focuses on government attempts to fight corruption as factors contributing to corruption.

In classic social science tradition, she picks two contrasting cases—the "clean government" of Hong Kong and the "widespread corruption" of government in mainland China—to show how the two governments tip the balance of corrupt payoffs and perceptions in very different directions that either generate the momentum to curb corruption or increase its prevalence. Manion uses the case of Hong Kong as a counterfoil to mainland China to make her points. Chapter 2 describes the successful efforts of the Independent Commission Against Cooperation (ICAC) with its use of draconian measures and highly publicized prosecutions, community education, and reformulation of work procedures in government departments to curb corruption. Perhaps influenced by her source of information, Manion is so approving of the ICAC efforts that the chapter sometimes reads like a government report. A more critical approach to the policies and a more textured analysis that takes into consideration the strong organizational norms created by the century-long British rule and the colony's strong if not spectacular economic performance in the latter half of the twentieth century would have been useful.

The three chapters that follow turn to corruption in mainland China. Manion handles the analysis with the same care and thoroughness as in her other works on Chinese politics and administration (1993, 1996). Because the Chinese government is not forthcoming with crime statistics, data on corruption can vary, sometimes dramatically, depending on the sources and when they were released, and do not lend themselves to longitudinal analysis. Manion thoroughly and carefully vets, compares, and evaluates the available data for their validity and reliability, and concludes that corruption among Chinese officials may be more widespread than what some of the data have previously suggested.

Anyone interested in China's attempts to fight corruption must read chapters 4 and 5. Manion does not confine her analysis to the legal institutions, but includes mass mobilization campaigns. Institutionalized attempts to fight corruption are reined in by the overlap of responsibilities and competition in law enforcement between the Communist Party discipline inspection committees and the government procuratorates, and by the perpetual and insidious problem of Party interference and domination in government administration. Prompted by [End Page 192] organizational interests, local Party inspection committees often...


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