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Political Corruption in Asia (Michigan State University)

The course addresses both theoretical and empirical aspects of political corruption, and focuses the discussion on the context of East Asian countries. The importance of systematically understanding corruption in Asia is nearly self-evident as the post-war histories of most Asian countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, have been marked by numerous corruption scandals. The recent coup in Thailand and the mass demonstration in Taiwan have provided striking examples of the extent to which deep-seated corruption can pervade and shake a young democratic regime.

The course begins by exploring the concepts and the measurement of corruption. In this part of the course, we consider various conceptualizations of corruption and also discuss different quantitative ways to tap into corruption, ranging from subjective or perception indices to objective measurements. These background discussions equip us to evaluate the causes and the consequences of corruption. In the third part of the course, we will evaluate the patterns and practices of corruption in Asia, paying special attention to the contextual uniqueness in Asian countries and examining whether the complexity of corruption plays out differently in these countries. We then move on to examine the various levels of corruption in several Asian countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Finally, the course concludes with a discussion of how to control corruption with special emphasis on the successful experiences observed in Hong Kong and Singapore. This course is interdisciplinary in nature and is designed to combine insights from political science, economics, sociology, and management. While the main geographical focus is on Asia, most of the issues apply seamlessly to other regions of the world as well. Background knowledge on Asian politics is useful but not critical for this class.

Prof. Eric C.C. Chang is an associate professor of Political Science at Michigan State University and studies comparative political economy, political institutions, political corruption, and democratization. Prof. Chang focuses on the economic consequences of electoral competition within different institutional contexts. Other research topics extending from this core theoretical framework include government spending, income inequality, and democratic consolidation. Prof. Chang takes an integrative approach to balance properly developed theoretical models and rigorously executed empirical designs. He received his B.A. from National Taiwan University and Ph.D. from UCLA, and now teaches graduate courses on political methodology, political economy of parties and elections, comparative political institutions, and undergraduate courses on Asian politics.

A selected bibliography for the course can also be found below.

Heidenheimer, Arnold and M. Johnston eds. Political Corruption: Concepts and Contexts. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2002

Friedrich, Carl. ‘Corruption Concepts in Historical Perspective.

Johnston, Michael. 1991. “Historical Conflict and the Rise of Standards. Journal of Democracy 2 (4): 48-60.

Warren, Mark. 2004. “What Does Corruption Mean in a Democracy??American Journal of Political Science 48 (2): 328-343.

Galtung, Fredrik. 2006. ‘Measuring the Immeasurable: Boundaries and Functions of (Macro) Corruption Indices? in Charles Sampford, Fredrik Galtung, Arthur Shacklock and Carmel Connors (eds). Measuring Corruption. Ashgate.

Lancaster, Thomas, and Gabriella Montinola. 2001. “Comparative Political Corruption: Issues of Operationalization and Measurement.?Studies in Comparative International Development 36 (3): 3-28.

Olken, Benjamin. 2009. “Corruption Perceptions vs. Corruption Reality.?Journal of Public Economics 93(7-8): 950-964.

Treisman, Daniel. 2007. “What Have We Learned About the Causes of Corruption from Ten Years of Crossnational Empirical Research??Annual Review of Political Science 10: 211-244.


The entire course syllabus is available online here.

14 Nov 2013

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