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China's Gilded Age

The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption

Author(s): Yuen Yuen Ang

ISBN: 9781108478601
Publication Date: 28-05-2020
Regular price £31.99 GBP
Regular price Sale price £31.99 GBP

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Why has China grown so fast for so long despite vast corruption? In China's Gilded Age, Yuen Yuen Ang maintains that all corruption is harmful, but not all types of corruption hurt growth. Ang unbundles corruption into four varieties: petty theft, grand theft, speed money, and access money. While the first three types impede growth, access money - elite exchanges of power and profit - cuts both ways: it stimulates investment and growth but produces serious risks for the economy and political system. Since market opening, corruption in China has evolved toward access money. Using a range of data sources, the author explains the evolution of Chinese corruption, how it differs from the West and other developing countries, and how Xi's anti-corruption campaign could affect growth and governance. In this formidable yet accessible book, Ang challenges one-dimensional measures of corruption. By unbundling the problem and adopting a comparative-historical lens, she reveals that the rise of capitalism was not accompanied by the eradication of corruption, but rather by its evolution from thuggery and theft to access money. In doing so, she changes the way we think about corruption and capitalism, not only in China but around the world.


1. Introduction. China's gilded age; 2. Unbundling corruption across countries; 3. Unbundling corruption over time; 4. Profit-sharing, Chinese style; 5. Corrupt and competent; 6. All the king's men; 7. Rethinking nine big questions; Appendix; References; Index.

Review 1

'A thought-provoking new book... The book is not a defence of corruption. Like steroids, access money promotes unbalanced growth, it notes.' David Rennie, The Economist

Review 2

'This path-breaking study will change how we think about the link between corruption and growth … original and convincing.' Bruce Dickson, George Washington University

Review 3

'Yuen Yuen Ang has emerged as her generation's leading analyst and public interpreter of China's development experience, and the distinctive strategies underpinning it. Her latest offering is broadly important, intellectually solid, immensely interesting and uniquely accessible to scholars, lay readers and practitioners alike. It will be an academic blockbuster.' Michael Woolcock, World Bank and Harvard University

Review 4

'Skillfully unbundling forms of corruption and placing China's 'Gilded Age' firmly in comparative and historical perspective, Yuen Yuen Ang brings a fresh and penetrating new perspective to one of the central puzzles of the current era - and reminds Americans of the deep-seated corruption of their own early period of rapid industrialization.' Andrew G. Walder, Stanford University

Review 5

'Both Xi Jinping and critics of the Chinese government agree corruption is bad for development. Transgressing this simplistic notion, Ang shows that not all corruption is equally bad for growth. Her brilliant analysis explains China's hyper growth and warns of the troubles ahead.' Ho-fung Hung, John Hopkins University

Review 6

'This book will generate substantial debate. Ang stakes out a unique position in the debate over the role of corruption in China's economic development and the effect it will have on China's future. Ang makes a valuable contribution in unbundling corruption, methodically demonstrating the ways that both corruption and corrupt actors differ. After reading this book, no one should be able to maintain that corruption is a unitary phenomenon; it manifests itself in many ways.' Philip Nichols, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Review 7

'An important book not only for many who try to understand the roots of China's success but for a much more sober and less Western-centric view of corruption.' Branko Milanovic, Global Policy

Review 8

'She's incredibly thorough – digging into official stats, media reports, interviewing 400 people and building new databases from scratch to lift the veil on an elusive issue – how corruption works under autocracy.' Duncan Green, author of From Poverty to Power

Review 9

'… Yuen Yuen Ang has produced an extraordinary piece of scholarly work that will significantly impact the way anticorruption research is done in the future.' Joseph Pozsgai‐Alvarez, Governance

Review 10

'… Ang's book provides a very rich basis for economists as well as for scholars interested in governance and corruption to embark on this path.' Carolin Kautz, Journal of Chinese Political Science