Combating Corruption as a Political Strategy to Rebuild Trust and Legitimacy: Can China Learn from Hong Kong?

Anthony B. L. Cheung

Abstract


Despite an intensified anticorruption campaign, China's economic growth and social transition continue to breed loopholes and opportunities for big corruption, leading to a money-oriented mentality and the collapse of ethical standards, and exposing the communist regime to greater risk of losing moral credibility and political trust. In Hong Kong, the setting up of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 1974 marked the advent of a new comprehensive strategy to eradicate corruption and to rebuild trust in government. ICAC was not just an anti-corruption enforcement agency per se, but an institution spearheading and representing integrity and governance transformation. This article considers how mainland China can learn from Hong Kong's experience and use the fight against corruption as a major political strategy to win the hearts and minds of the population and reform governance in the absence of more fundamental constitutional reforms, in a situation similar to Hong Kong's colonial administration of the 1970s-80s deploying administrative means to minimize a political crisis.


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