Welcome to “Catching Tigers and Flies,” ChinaFile’s interactive tool for tracking and, we hope, better understanding the massive campaign against corruption that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, launched shortly after he came to power in late 2012. We first published the database in January 2016 and today, August 8, 2018, we are re-launching with data now up-to-date through July 31, 2018 and with new features to help you use it.

A little less than six years into Xi Jinping’s tenure as China’s leader—a tenure that may now extend well past the 10-year term of his predecessor—Xi’s campaign to rid the ranks of Chinese officialdom of the corruption that has both hampered and defined it for decades has receded from the headlines. But the work of the Party’s corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), has continued, according to its own most recent figures, sweeping up some 2 million officials of both high rank and low—or as Xi put it in a memorable phrase, both “tigers and flies.” And the pace of the investigations, according to officially released numbers, has been steadily climbing: 172,000 in 2013, 330,000 in 2015, 527,000 in 2017, and 302,000 in just the first half of this year.

The campaign continues to topple major figures in Chinese politics. In late July, for example, China’s once prominent Internet czar, Lu Wei, who was investigated for corruption in November and expelled from the Party in February, was indicted on charges of taking bribes and abusing power during his long career as a propaganda official and Internet regulator.

Whether the fortunes of officials like Lu have suffered primarily because of their corrupt acts or rather, as many both inside and outside of China argue, as a result of Xi’s consolidation of power, or simply because they made the wrong enemies, remains an open question.

Our database includes information on 2,447 officials, whose cases have been announced by name by the CCDI and its official media partners. Given the total number of investigations, this is a tiny sample. But it can give users a tantalizing glimpse into the scope and character of the anti-corruption campaign, the malfeasance of those targeted, and the connections among them. Because of the confines we have placed on our data collection, the tool does not include some highly probable targets of the campaign whose cases have been widely reported on by media outlets unaffiliated with the CCDI. The group of 254 “tigers” that appears in our database does not include those high-ranking military officials whose corruption cases were not announced by the CCDI and its official media affiliates.

Instructions on how to use the tool, as well as a video demonstration, appear in the margin of this page. Over the past two years, many of you have asked for our raw data. The tool itself now includes a feature that allows you to download a CSV file of the spreadsheet we use to populate the graphic. If you have questions about our methodology, we have answers; please feel free to email them to us at editors@chinafile.com.

A few notes on our data as it stood on July 31, 2018.

  • The cases we have tracked span the period from January 1, 2010 through July 2018. A couple dozen individuals in the database were under investigation for corruption before 2012, but the vast majority have fallen as a result of Xi’s campaign.
  • Like Chinese officialdom itself, our database skews heavily male, with only 129 females in total. Just five of them are Tigers (those whose rank is above or equivalent to that of Deputy Provincial or Deputy Ministerial level officials).
  • One mind-boggling task our tool accomplishes is to tally up the alleged total ill-gotten gains of people in the database convicted of corruption. We pull these figures from sentencing documents—which, in most cases, are easily accessible on the websites of Chinese courts and in the official Chinese media. As of July 31, 2018 the 597 sentenced individuals in our database were responsible for having embezzled, stolen, taken as gifts, or otherwise misused more than 13 billion yuan, nearly two billion U.S. dollars.
  • Sentencing documents often include lurid details. Yang Yueguo, a relatively minor Yunnan official, purchased 200,000 renminbi worth of jade jewelry using public funds. Quan Xiaohui, a municipal official in Henan, kept three mistresses. And Yan Yongxi, who once presided over Beijing’s rural Mentougou district, tried to hide his embezzled millions in his mistress’ gardening company.

“Catching Tigers and Flies” was built for ChinaFile by Schema, a Seattle-based design firm, and conceived by its Creative Director, Christian Marc Schmidt, and ChinaFile’s former Visuals Editor, David Barreda. It is built off of a database compiled by a tireless group of ChinaFile interns and updated under the direction of Michael Laha. As ever, we hope if you find it useful to your research you’ll keep us abreast of your findings.

—The Editors

Feedback and Corrections:

Our data is not comprehensive. Please help us keep it up to date. We encourage users to send us feedback. If you spot an error or omission in our data, please submit the following form, or send us an email.