China’s comparative level of corruption significantly worsened this year despite an anti-corruption campaign highly touted by its leaders, according to cross-country rankings included in a new report.
China fell to a ranking of 100 out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, a drop of 20 spots from last year. The group compiles the index by surveying experts and businesspeople from the various countries.
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Beijing’s slide comes despite a widely publicized anti-corruption campaign by President Xi Jinping that has targeted both high and low-level officials. Transparency International noted in a post on its site that China still issues opaque legal rulings with a high level of political interference. Ongoing suppression of media and civil society also enables public officials to avoid oversight.
"A crackdown alone will not paper over a public sector lacking transparency and accountability in public bodies," wrote Rukshana Nanayakkara.
Additionally, China has been the world’s largest exporter of illegal wealth in recent years as officials conceal their illicit earnings overseas. Illegal outflows from China exceeded $1 trillion between 2002 and 2011, according to the group Global Financial Integrity.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying reacted harshly to the report on Wednesday and said it was in "total contradiction" with China’s "remarkable progress" on tackling corruption.
"The Chinese people would have a fair opinion on the visible achievements from China's anti-corruption campaign, and the Corruption Perceptions Index 2014 issued by Transparency International can not serve as a standard in this regard," she said. "As a fairly influential international organization, Transparency International should seriously examine the objectiveness and impartiality of its Corruption Perceptions Index."
Human rights activists say Jinping’s campaign is hypocritical because authorities have jailed more than a dozen activists who have also called for eliminating corruption. Dissidents have pressed for measures such as requiring state officials to disclose more of their wealth.
Other U.S. adversaries fared worse in the corruption rankings. Iran, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela were all ranked 136 or higher. North Korea was tied for last.
Global corruption levels appeared to remain high in 2014. More than two-thirds of countries received a corruption score below 50, with 100 being the least corrupt.