Visualizing China’s Corruption Crackdown

Thousands of Chinese officials have been accused of corruption since 2012.

Visualizing China’s Corruption Crackdown

Corruption is a serious issue for any government, but in the last few years, China has swept tens of thousands of “corrupt” government officials out of office. Whether or not these officials are actually corrupt is open to debate: Although corruption is a long-standing problem for China’s Community Party, critics inside and outside the country argue that “corruption” is simply the bugbear Chinese president Xi Jinping is using to justify the consolidation of his power.

Whatever the case, the Chinese anti-corruption purges that have happened over the past few years have ended the careers of a huge number of both senior and minor officials–“tigers and flies,” in Jinping’s own memorable words. That’s also the name of Schema and ChinaFile‘s latest visualization, an interactive tool which aims to help illustrate the extent of China’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign.

It’s a tool with some fascinating takeaways. Using data plucked from Chinese media and the CCDI, the organization overseeing Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, Catching Tigers and Flies currently covers the fall from grace of 1,500 Chinese officials in just the last four years. Most of the targets in the database are “flies,” or relatively low-level officials on the local or provincial level. Only 231 of these officials have been sentenced so far, but between them, they are accused of embezzling, stealing, or taking illicit gifts of more than 6 billion yuan–or close to a billion U.S. dollars.

The tool can also sort between both tigers and flies, and you can see what each government official is accused of doing and how much money they took, and even discover lurid details: For example, Quan Xiaohui, a municipal official in Henan, who kept three mistresses on the side. You can also see how Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has built up momentum over the years, with almost twice as many officials being accused of corruption in 2015 than in 2014.

Check out the interactive visualization here.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at



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