Dissertation Defense - Local Ideologies And Punishment For White-Collar Crime: A Comparison Between The U.S. And China

Wed, 05/03/2017



  Date:  May 3, 2017

  Time:  3:00pm - 5:00pm

  Location:  Social Ecology II, Room 2329

  Featuring:  Puma Shen, Candidate for Ph.D. in Criminology, Law & Society


Title:  Local Ideologies And Punishment For White-Collar Crime: A Comparison Between The U.S. And China

Committee: Henry Pontell & Elliott Currie (Co-Chair), Keramet Reiter, Benjamin van Rooji


This dissertation is inspired by Garland’s Culture of Control, which provides an ideological lens through which to understand responses to street crime. Utilizing this lens, the present study aims to contribute white-collar crime analysis to current discussion in developing a grounded theory. Classical punishment theories and the literature of neoliberalism are fused to establish a basic theme that can explain different penal policies regarding white-collar crime for two economic giants: the United States and China. Both countries are deeply influenced by the ideology of neoliberalism but use different penal policies in responding to white-collar crime. As such, comparing the way ideologies like neoliberalism operate in these nations is crucial in understanding their formulation of penal policy, so the kind of comparative research this study undertakes can elicit a better understanding of local governance in the context of increasing globalization.

The prosecution rate for white-collar crime has reached a 20-year low in both the United States and China., Although these trading partners possess different ideologies, their white-collar punishment trajectories look surprisingly similar. To identify specific ideologies within both the Chinese and American media—the main institutions responsible for promoting them—this dissertation applies discourse analysis to media reports, comparing 612 American media reports and 404 Chinese media reports from the 90s to the 2000s.  This enables exploration of the ideologies underlying punishment for two types of financial crime: fraud and those categorized by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

While both China and the United States are influenced by neoliberalism, the Big Government ideology in China and the Small Government ideology in the United States certainly moderate neoliberalism in different ways, so it is feasible to believe they have different forms of impact on white-collar punishment. However, coding reveals that identical de-criminalization of financial crime is accomplished using different local processes. While the American media justifies non-punishment using the idea of privatized justice, a Hamiltonian approach, and socialized victimization, Chinese media reports marginalize fraud by way of over-emphasizing State-Confucianism and normalizing GuanXi. In sum, as the world is turning its back on globalization, the trivialization of financial crime is accomplished in both countries using different local mechanisms.