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Extra-Legal Protection in China: How Guanxi Distorts China's Legal System and Facilitates the Rise of Unlawful Protectors

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 54 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2014 Pages: 809-830
Peng Wang
Date Published
September 2014
22 pages
Using published materials and fieldwork data collected from two Chinese cities (Chongqing and Qufu), this study examines how "guanxi" (Chinese version of personal connections) facilitates the buying and selling of public offices and the formation of corrupt networks between locally based criminals and government officials.
The Chongqing case illustrates that relational power, rather than the rule of law, has always been the key to getting things done. Relational power spawns illegal job markets (the buying and selling of government appointments) and builds a political-criminal nexus. When the state is weak, private individuals and entrepreneurs tend to use extra-legal protectors to ensure rights, facilitate transactions, and deal with government extortion. Moreover, in order to obtain cost-effective services, the extra-legal protection depends on existing Guanxi networks with illegal protectors. Corrupt government officials, particularly police officers, have become key protectors in the criminal underworld, acting to ensure advantages and protections for illicit businesses. The data collection in Qufu involved 22 in-depth semi-structured interviews with police officers, local government officials, entrepreneurs, private (illegal) bankers, lawyers, and judges, as well as eight focus group discussion. During the fieldwork in Chongqing, political factor emerged as a major obstacle to gaining access to interviewees. Comments from professors provided insights into Chongqing's corrupt networks. The study also benefited from open-source data from China and foreign countries. 2 tables, 1 figure, and 76 references