Corruption in China

I suppose I'm just an optimist at hear, but reading about how the People's Republic of China is going to execute to former head of the PRC food and drug regulatory agency tends to confirm my belief that China's going to find it extremely difficult to continue on the path of prosperity and autocracy.

You reach for these kind of extremely harsh punishments when you recognize that you have a lot of people getting away with a brand of crime that you think it's very important to curb. China, in short, has a large corruption problem, and very little success at catching corrupt officials. Thus, executions. But this sort of law enforcement strategy rarely works. It's much better to catch a large proportion of violators and mete out a moderate punishment than to catch only a small proportion of violators and then clamp down super harshly. But the only even vaguely effective means of clamping down on public corruption is to allow for a free press and competitive politics; the things that create institutions with incentives to expose corruption.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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