Corruption in China
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Xi Jinping started the campaign against corruption after taking office in 2012. Photo: AP

Xi’s crackdown on corruption ‘will help boost China’s economy’

Study finds anti-graft measures have made it easier for small businesses to compete

China’s drive to clamp down on corruption might be bad for profits at upscale restaurants and casinos, but ultimately it is going to help the nation’s economy, a recent study has concluded.

President Xi Jinping’s signature campaign since taking office in 2012 stands to improve allocation of resources and help small companies – the backbone of the entrepreneurial economy – obtain easier access to finance, according to the research led by Mariassunta Giannetti, finance professor at Stockholm School of Economics.

Xi made the topic an important part of his address to the Communist Party congress in October, at which he consolidated his position as the most powerful Chinese leader in decades.

The crackdown, launched only days after he came into power in late 2012, has snared more than 1.5 million officials including Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party boss who was seen as a possible future leader.

The research found that the amount large companies spent on meals and gifts to attract the favour of government officials – commonly detailed in an accounting line known as “entertainment expenses” in China – dropped as a ratio of their sales in the two years after the campaign began.

In turn, that has helped smaller companies without deep slush funds to compete on a more even basis, according to the research.

“Small firms are more profitable and productive when their large peers spend less on entertainment expenses in proportion to their sales, because they are able to increase their sales, invest more, and have cheaper funding,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

“This anti-corruption drive has been considered more far-reaching and lasting than any previous attempts.”

The evidence does not give Xi’s campaign a 100 per cent report card in tackling corruption though. As smaller firms were more able to compete with their bigger counterparts, they may have taken up some of their old habits.

While large enterprises curbed their entertainment spending after 2012, small companies did the opposite.