White-Collar and Corporate Crime in China: Domestic, Regional, and Global Issues

Henry N. Pontell, Principal Investigator

China’s meteoric rise as an economic superpower is unprecedented, yet there remain numerous challenges to the nation’s continued growth and success.  Weighing heavily on such prospects are political ties to dictatorial regimes, unresolved domestic human rights issues, the growing wealth of those in cities versus the increasing impoverishment of those in the countryside, and major pollution and infrastructure issues brought on by rapid development.  Moreover, its proximity and direct economic linkages to Pacific Rim nations, makes China’s continued success and development crucial to political stability and prosperity in the region.

One major issue looming on the horizon has not yet been adequately addressed by past research. This concerns the problem of what American scholars typically call “white-collar and corporate crime,” and what others sometimes refer to as “economic crime.” Whatever the label chosen, official corruption, business offenses, and frauds against citizens and consumers take a large toll in both developing and more established nations. The impacts of such acts are considered by almost all criminological experts to be much greater – fiscally and physically – than ordinary street crimes (Rosoff, Pontell & Tillman 2010).

The study of white-collar and corporate crime is only beginning to transcend local boundaries. In part, the effort is challenged by the often complex and arcane nature of the subject, differing laws, and, almost invariably, cultural attitudes and power politics— matters much less significant in regard to so-called street or common crimes such as murder, rape, and burglary. China’s current historic growth spurt is commonly cited as a prime factor in the country’s burgeoning rate of white-collar and corporate offenses that have already overwhelmed the capacity of government enforcement mechanisms, and continue to threaten not only China’s economy, but those of other nations in the region. As one recent study notes: “White-collar crime and official corruption in particular have been a serious concern in China and have attracted wide attention during the course of the nation’s economic reform” (Zhang et al. 2008:127).

The proposed study will assemble data regarding white-collar and corporate crime in China and the existing and potential effects on the surrounding region and entails three main activities:

  • First, we will conduct an extensive literature review on all relevant comparative work, as well as research that directly addresses economic crime and corruption in China.
  • Second, we will collect qualitative information through interviews with scholars and officials who can provide important insights into white-collar and corporate offenses in China, potential quantitative data sources, and the effects of such law breaking beyond the country’s borders.
  • Third, we will assemble detailed case studies of major forms of offending to help inform further research and theorizing. We anticipate a number of publications including a book on the topic from this preliminary study.

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