Even as Xi Pushes Antigraft Campaign, China Falls in Annual Corruption Ranking

China's President Xi Jinping Photograph by Feng Li/Getty Images

Given all the emphasis Chinese President Xi Jinping has put on fighting corruption over the past two years, you might think China was getting a lot cleaner. More than 80,000 officials have already been punished for breaking party rules, the graft-fighting Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced earlier this week.

But in reality, corruption may be getting worse, according to a survey by Transparency International released today. In its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, the Berlin-based watchdog found that China dropped four points, to 36, on a scale from zero, or highly corrupt, to 100, or very clean, over last year.

That put it alongside Turkey, Rwanda, Malawi, and Angola as the countries where conditions deteriorated most. Meanwhile, China fell from 80th least-clean country to the 100th worst place amongst the 175 countries rated, the report shows. Cleanest was Denmark, while North Korea and Somalia were tied for worst.

“We have heard a lot about government efforts to prosecute corruption and corruption scandals in China. Its commitment to catch ‘tigers and flies’—public officials big and small—indicates the government is serious,” wrote Transparency’s Srirak Plipat in a blog post on the organization’s website today.

Still, the worsening situation poses “a hugely challenging question: how effective is a top-down approach when you don’t have transparency, accountable government and free media and civil society?” Plipat wrote.

The larger picture across Asia was hardly more encouraging. All told, 18 of the 28 Asian countries ranked fell below 40 on the index. The “scores of countries from Asia Pacific, the world’s fastest growing region, are a resounding message to leaders that, despite many public declarations and commitments, not enough is being done to fight corruption,” Plipat wrote.

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