Review Essay

Dirty Deeds

Will Corruption Doom China?

In This Review

China’s Crony Capitalism: The Dynamics of Regime Decay
China’s Crony Capitalism: The Dynamics of Regime Decay
By Minxin Pei
Harvard University Press, 2016, 376 pp. Purchase

It is hard to overstate the degree to which China has been transformed in recent decades. Between 1959 and 1961, tens of millions of Chinese starved to death in the Great Famine. Today, China boasts the world’s second-largest economy. The country has virtually eliminated severe poverty among its citizens, a burgeoning middle class thrives in ever-expanding cities, and hundreds of Chinese citizens have become billionaires. Human history offers no other socioeconomic shift of equivalent magnitude. 

Yet development has not come without costs. All boats have not risen at the same rate, and inequality has increased so much that China—which for decades was shaped by Mao’s enforced egalitarianism—now ranks alongside such long-lasting bastions of wealth disparity as Brazil and the United States. One factor driving this extreme inequality is the corruption that has seeped into every aspect of Chinese society. In his latest book, the political scientist Minxin Pei

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