PublicationsThe U4 Blog

U4 Issue

China and global integrity-building: Challenges and prospects for engagement

Due to its economic weight and an increasingly active outreach towards developing countries under the framework of ‘South-South Cooperation’, the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) global footprint has become such that it can no longer be ignored by international development actors. While some Western political leaders denounce China for undermining governance standards and thus facilitating corruption, this paper takes a practically oriented and constructive approach: its aim is to map Chinese actors’ motivations, involvement in and impact on transnational integrity-building efforts with a view to identifying possible entry points for engagement for Western development partners.

6 June 2019
Download PDFRead short version
China and global integrity-building: Challenges and prospects for engagement

Main points

  • Contrary to some stereotypes, China’s impact on corruption and integrity-building on a global scale is multifaceted, creating new risks as well as opportunities for multilateral engagement.
  • China formally complies with important international anti-corruption norms but still fails to enact anti-bribery provisions abroad. Since 2014, Beijing’s interest in international cooperation against corruption has strongly increased, targeting extradition and asset recovery.
  • Growing resistance against Chinese investments and lending in key target countries of its ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) could increase Chinese actors’ sensitivity to governance issues. Several Chinese development actors are improving their risk management provisions to include corruption risks in target countries.
  • Domestically, Xi Jinping’s sweeping ‘anti-corruption campaign’ is about far more than bribery and embezzlement. It has a strong moralistic and political component, and combines deterrence against bribe-taking and ‘extravagance’ with measures to reinforce party discipline and top-down control.
  • Though it is too early to make any conclusions on its likely future direction, China’s new development agency (CIDCA) could lead to increased transparency in Chinese aid, improve intra-bureaucratic coordination and implementation, and facilitate better engagement with multilateral aid agencies as well as with bilateral development partners.
  • China’s on-the-ground impact on corruption and integrity-building in developing countries remains ambiguous. Constructive engagement on governance issues appears more likely on ‘softer’ aid issues less influenced by geostrategic interests and economic competition.
  • International organisations engaged in anti-corruption efforts at global and regional level represent the most obvious opportunities for constructive exchanges. Another option for development partners is to engage China via ‘triangular cooperation’ projects in third countries.
  • Challenges to international integrity-building efforts and potential entry points for Sino-Western engagement are listed in an overview of key issues and actors below (Table 1).

Cite this publication

Lang, B.; (2019) China and global integrity-building: Challenges and prospects for engagement. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2019:7)

Download PDFRead short version

About the author

Bertram Lang

Bertram Lang is a political scientist and academic coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Centre for East Asian Studies (IZO) at Goethe University Frankfurt. His expertise is in China’s foreign policy and its impact on international norms, with a focus on anti-corruption efforts, the non-profit sector, and EU-China relations. Building on his prior experience at the Mercator Institute for China Studies, Bertram has been working as a China strategy advisor for European policymakers, NGOs, and risk consultancies. Bertram has published both academic articles and policy analyses on China’s global anti-corruption and law enforcement agenda.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Saad Salim