In This Review
Corruption Control in Authoritarian Regimes: Lessons From East Asia

Corruption Control in Authoritarian Regimes: Lessons From East Asia

By Christopher Carothers

Cambridge University Press, 2022, 290 pp.

Carothers refutes the conventional wisdom that corruption is uncontrollable in authoritarian regimes because leaders have to divide the spoils to stay in power. He shows instead that autocrats can be effective corruption fighters, provided they are advancing a state-building or revolutionary project that requires cleaning out the bureaucracy, exercising unconstrained personal power, and relying on party or state institutions strong enough to carry out their will. He gives numerous examples but relies especially on detailed case studies of campaigns conducted in Taiwan by President Chiang Kai-shek in the early 1950s and his son and successor, Chiang Ching-kuo, in the early 1970s; the military strongman Park Chung-hee in South Korea in the 1970s; Mao Zedong in 1950s China; and Chinese President Xi Jinping today. The anticorruption campaigns of dictators can be brutally effective and produce lasting results. Authoritarian regimes sometimes become more stable not by diffusing power but by centralizing it even more.