China is a communist authoritarian nation. Now that they are becoming more urbanized and growing economically, they are considering the implications of crime. Let's consider the growth of crime in China, especially regarding the authoritarian rule, migration patterns, and economic globalization.
China President Xi Jinping has confirmed the importance of developing think tanks in China as the country emerges as a global superpower and embraces economic globalization. McCaffree suggests that think tanks are necessary to assess the growth of crime in China due to the “well-documented relationship between rapid urbanization, social displacement, and crime” (2018).
Interested in more? Find out more about justice systems and crimes against humanity.
Experts in the field may draw on historical records and present criminological theories when making assessments.
Most people strive to achieve goals that are prioritized by society. When an individual experiences difficulties accessing these goals, they may resort to deviant behavior (Robert Merton).
Subcultures develop to cope with particular circumstances and to resist the dominant values of society. Crime occurs due to cultural conflict between norms, particularly as the subculture's norms conflict with the laws of the larger society (Albert Cohen).
The perception of being deprived of resources necessary to maintain the quality of life that is considered typical within a socioeconomic group (Samuel Stouffer).
Social Bonds Theory
Criminal and deviant behavior results from social bonds breaking down or weakening between law-abiding people and institutions (Travis Hirschi).
Criminal behavior is amplified within the transitional zone surrounding an urban center. Here, there is a struggle for scarce urban resources as conditions of poverty, depersonalization, and social disorganization exist (Burgess and Park).
Growth of Crime in China
However, any criminology theory should be considered in alignment with the communist and authoritarian nature of China’s politics. The political climate and dictates of the Party leadership govern the law, specifying criminal behavior (Mazur, 2017). The authoritarian rule also establishes the dominant cultural norm, which is something to consider in relation to Cohen’s theory on subcultures responding to the dominant culture (Umarhathab, 2017).
In addition, the growth of crime in China should be compared to China’s history for an accurate indication of growing (or declining) crime rates rather than comparing it to records of democratic countries, such as the United States. Unfortunately, data is often manipulated in authoritarian states, which shows a skewed representation of past crime rates (McCaffree, 2018).
Political structure aside, urbanization and market expansion contribute to migration and geographical displacement as cities present themselves as “dense pockets of job opportunities.” (McCaffree, 2018).
From a sociological point of view, urbanization introduces relative deprivation, leading to higher rates of property and violent crime (McCaffree, 2018).
In Chinese culture, social bonds are described as guanxi, danwei, and shehui tuanti, and are linked to law-abiding behavior in Chinese populations (McCaffree, 2018). During mass urbanization, customary social bonds are often broken, which according to Travis Hirschi, contributes to criminal activity (McCaffree, 2018).
Economic Expansion in China
During economic expansion, there is also the development of individualism — a foreign concept in a communist society. When combined with geographic instability and income inequality, which are fundamentally driven by urbanization and expanding markets, these factors present a risk for the growth of crime in China (McCaffree, 2018).
It’s also worth noting Burgess and Park’s social-ecological theory, which suggests that criminal behavior is amplified in conditions of poverty, depersonalization, and social disorganization. In particular, the transitional zone associated with migration impacts the growth of crime (Umarhathab, 2017).
As China experiences urbanization and becomes a leader in economic globalization, criminology theories should be considered and applied. However, theories focusing on sociological factors contributing to crime should also consider how authoritarian rule controls the culture and society.
- Mazur, J., and Ursu, A.-E. (2017) China's Disinterested Government and the Rule of Law. Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, 4:376– 382. doi: 10.1002/app5.176.
- McCaffree, K. (2018). The growth of Chinese think tanks and the question of crime. East Asia, 35(1), 43-58.
- Umarhathab, S. (2017). Theoretical Criminology. Manonmaniam Sundaranar University Tirunelveli