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Rank Has Its Privileges

How International Ratings Dumb Down Global Governance

Ivan Malkin / Flickr

When the Berlin-based group Transparency International released its annual ranking of international corruption levels in December 2014, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a blistering statement. Chinese authorities were upset that their country had sunk from 80th to 100th place on the watchdog’s influential Corruption Perceptions Index, even though Beijing was pursuing a high-profile anticorruption campaign. “As a fairly influential international organization,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “Transparency International should seriously examine the objectiveness and impartiality of its Corruption Perceptions Index.”

This wasn’t the first time Beijing had dismissed the results of an international ranking. A year earlier, it had called for the elimination of the World Bank’s annual Ease of Doing Business Index, in which China had similarly underperformed, citing what Chinese officials described as flawed methodologies and assumptions.

China’s anger reveals just how powerful such ratings have become. Today’s ratings, produced

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