Anti-corruption and Judicial Discretion in Bribery Penalties: Evidence from Sentencing Documents on China Judgments Online

Dr. Yanfeng GU
Dr. Bingdao Zheng

It is well-known that corruption hinders growth and governance. Based upon 6427 court judgments in 2010-2014, which we obtain from the official website of the Supreme People’s Court, this paper attempts to examine the inequalities in terms of the judicial discretionary power, and its changes after the recent anticorruption campaign. Our empirical analysis yields three compelling findings. First, not surprisingly, the amount of bribes is the most important determinant of the sentenced penalty. Second, judicial discretion plays an important role in sentencing corrupt officials, but unfortunately, to diminish their corruption costs: (i) The sentenced lengthen of imprisonment is averagely less than the statutory minimum, by approximately 12 months; (ii) leniently assigned circumstances largely decrease penalty; (iii) Offenders’ administrative authority in their work units has a braking effect on sentencing, the higher the administrative power, the larger the effect. Third, our difference-in-differences approach evidently shows that anticorruption campaign does push judicial discretion stricter on bribe takers.