Play It Safe and Appoint Outsiders: Authoritarian Anti-Corruption Campaigns and Bureaucratic Appointments


How do authoritarian anti-corruption campaigns affect the selection of bureaucrats? On the one hand, increased monitoring capacity after the campaign should ease politicians’ concerns about their appointees’ misbehavior when making appointment decisions. On the other hand, politicians could be frightened and thus make risk-averse decisions by prioritizing reducing corruption risks in appointments. Using an original dataset of China’s provincial agency leaders, I find that after Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, provincial leaders appointed fewer agency leaders with inside-agency work experience in high-profile agencies with high corruption risks. I interpret the results as provincial leaders' cautiousness to reduce higher corruption risks of agency insiders, thus avoiding being implicated by their appointees’ misbehavior. I further demonstrate that appointing outsiders cannot be explained by patron-client relationships or seeking candidates with higher abilities and political skills. My findings reveal the nuanced effects of using authoritarian approaches to improve the quality of government.

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Xiaonan Wang
Xiaonan Wang
Assistant Professor

I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York – Baruch College. During 2022-2023, I am also a Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia-Harvard China and the World Program. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland.