Under Putin and Xi, the post-communist authoritarian regimes in Russia and China had both initiated anti-corruption programs that exhibited some parallels but were also profoundly different. Through a contextualized comparison, and drawing on Russian and Chinese sources, this article puts forth an institutionalist argument that these campaigns were being driven by divergent strategic objectives shaped by different formal and informal institutional settings. Whereas Putin’s more limited anti-corruption program was essentially a defensive move, embedded in factionalism, primarily aimed at protecting his political power under “competitive” authoritarianism, Xi’s broader and deeper campaign could be seen as an offensive initiative, targeting factionalism with a long-term goal to strengthen the CCP party-state, in addition to the obvious short-term objective of his own power consolidation.

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