Greasing the wheels of commerce? Corruption and foreign investment

Boliang Zhu, Weiyi Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


There are considerable scholarly debates regarding the real consequences of corruption. Recent studies have argued that predictable corruption, in which bribers are guaranteed the delivery of government services, is less distortional and more efficiency-enhancing than arbitrary corruption in which officials engage in simple plunder. Yet the empirical evidence is mixed. By leveraging a vignette experiment embedded in an original firm survey in China, we find that overseas investors always consider corruption detrimental. There is some evidence that high-productivity and fixed-asset intensive investors might view predictable corruption more favorably than arbitrary corruption. Additionally, we find that compared to arbitrary corruption, predictable corruption is not associated with a significantly higher probability of market entry, but it increases the likelihood of majority ownership. Overall, the results provide little evidence that corruption “greases the wheels of commerce” even in a most likely case and suggest that the perceived benefits of predictable corruption are limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1311-1327
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Greasing the wheels of commerce? Corruption and foreign investment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this