HSE University Anti-Corruption Portal
Anti-Corruption as a Means for Weight Loss

Chinese researchers have discovered a correlation between the implementation of anti-corruption measures and weight loss of public officials.

The study “A “Leaner” Government? The Effect of China's Anti-Corruption Campaign on the Body Weight and Health of Public Sector Employees” by Xun Li, Wensi Pan and Gang Xu explores the link between Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign launched in 2012 and the body mass index (BMI) of the public sector employees.

Based on the 2009 White Paper on the Health of Chinese Public Officials, the researches stress that at that time over 40% of public sector employees were overweight.

The authors of the study believe that the main reasons for that were the following:

  • The state-sponsored banquets, “jiuxi”, featuring expensive dishes (such as abalone, shark fin, and sea cucumbers) and the traditional Chinese high-end liquor baijiu. It was actually believed that the lavisher the banquet, the higher the respect of its organizers to the invitees, and the more alcohol the hosts consumed, the stronger the trust and friendship between those who gathered;
  • The practice of social exchanges of services between the representatives of the private sector and the civil servants called guanxi. To establish personal relations, entrepreneurs made expensive gifts to civil servants and paid for their entertainment, including lavish dinners with baijiu served there as well due to its high price substituting “monetary” bribery.

Xun Li, Wensi Pan and Gang Xu suggested in their study that the situation could have changed after the adoption of the regulations restricting the use of such practices.

In order to support their assumption, the researchers analysed the findings of the China Family Panel Study (CFPS) for the years 2010 to 2018 covering 16,000 households in 25 provinces. Based on these data, including information on the height and weight of respondents, the authors of the study calculated their BMI and used the difference-in-differences method, which determines the impact of an independent variable (the adopted anti-corruption measures in this case) on the dependent variable (BMI) in time by comparing the average change of the dependent variable for the sample “treatment” group to the average change of the dependent variable for the general “control” group. The analysis showed that the restrictions on the use of essentially corrupt practices of jiuxi and guanxi imposed by the state resulted in the reduction of the BMI of public sector employees.

The most considerable changes concerned such categories of civil servants as:

  • employees of state ministries;
  • older officials;
  • employees who had not changed their place of residence;
  • servants who lived in towns.

Further analysis also showcased that the restrictions on the abovementioned practices resulted in officials’ consuming alcohol and eating out less, as well as practicing more sport in their spare time free from banquets, which also led to the reduction of their BMI.

Additionally, the authors generalized the data regarding other health indicators, in particular, the results of self-assessment of mental and physical health, depression experience, sleep quality, cases of inpatient treatment in hospitals, expenses on treatment and chronic diseases diagnosed in the six months preceding the survey, and assessed the link between the reduction of the BMI of civil servants and indicators of effectiveness of their performance. Based on the findings of the analysis, the authors made the following conclusions:

  • The anti-corruption campaign had a positive effect on the mental and physical health of civil servants, and on their sleep quality;
  • The reduction of the BMI of civil servants turned out to be statistically significant to the improvement of the speed of their work and fairness of their decisions.


Corruption measurement

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