Corruption by design? A comparative study of Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China

Corruption Australia China Hong Kong Singapore

Corruption exists in every society, but the extent of corruption varies enormously among countries. Governments have taken up the challenge of reform to lessen the scope and severity of corruption. However, it is puzzling to see some countries are more successful than others, even if they have similar geographic, cultural and historical background. How the transformation from widespread corruption to clean government has been accomplished is thus an intriguing research question and practical policy problem.

Manion (2004) considers the problem of anticorruption reform, in comparative case study of anticorruption reform in mainland China and Hong Kong. This paper examines Manion’s theory with the anticorruption experience of another member of "Greater China" – Singapore. It finds that whereas Singapore’s experience supports Manion’s theory about the importance of independent, powerful and well-financed anticorruption agency, a comprehensive anticorruption strategy and the existence of rule of law, it does not prove that a political system allowing high degree of political freedom is necessary to successful anticorruption reform. This may imply that Manion’s conclusion that mainland China has passed a "point of no return", and that its anticorruption reform will not succeed unless it embraces a non-Leninist political system, is problematic. Singapore’s experience also suggests other factors that Manion (2004) does not consider, such as economic liberalisation, country size and degree of urbanisation.

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