A Review of China’s Crony Capitalism

By Wendy Zhang
Graduate Student
Reviewed September

Wen (Wendy) Si Zhang is a second-year graduate student at NNU from Dalian, China. Wendy is studying business administration while also serving as a Chinese cultural instructor with the Confucius Institute at NNU, part of our Chinese studies and cultural exchange program. 


Is it appropriate to judge China’s political system via the traditional western view?


Minxin Pei, the author of the book on corruption in China called China’s crony capitalism: The dynamics of regime decay, suggest that corruption in China is not just an incidental problem but is at the very heart of the system in modern parlance. He emphasizes that it is a feature of Chinese communism that makes the corruption is impossible to eradicate in China. The author finds that the fundamental causes of corruption are rooted in the Chinese political economy by pervasive collusion who can subvert the authority hierarchy of the state and lead to regime decay. He uses "tigers" to describe the provincial or ministerial-level officials of the Chinese Communist Party who control lots of state property, which enables them to convert their political power into individual material gains and induce them to abuse the power of the buying and selling of office. That is so-called wo'an (horizontal collusion) and chuan'an (vertical collusion).
Minxin Pei currently is the director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College. As the Chinese-American expert, he seems to have the excellent conditions to study and express China’s political system to western countries. Even though he illustrates the process and reasons for President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign, there is the small piece of the jigsaw of the whole. In fact, the eyes of some western experts and the scholars are always on Chinese unique political system, who have the prejudice and misunderstanding of China’s Party system since it violates the philosophy that politics and economics have freedom embedded in the combination of liberal democracy and private capitalism. They seem to have ambivalence of fascination and anxiety to suspect whether China’s economic miracle will continue under the current one-party system; whether such rapid growth economic undermines this one-party state; and whether China, a communist country is a friend or foe to the liberal democracy.
It is inevitable that western countries have the discrepancy on China’s policies, cultures, or even freedom perspectives probably because there is the big dissonance of languages and characteristics among Chinese and western people. Even the first Chinese generation who migrated to U.S. in last century cannot guarantee that they have integrated American culture, let alone those who have just started to learn Chinese culture or those who have been persisting on the previous impression on China. Actually, the features of China's policies can be traced to thousand years ago. Apparently, it is not a simple project or territory to know about China in a short run.
I would not recommend those who are not familiar with China's modern history and political reform to read this book because it is involved in some controversial historical events and  exclusive bureaucratic terms. However, if the one who has the matured and peaceful mind of policies and is willing to acknowledge the differentiation between China and western countries, I would think it is suitable to read and learn lessons from it.


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