Trends in Organized Crime

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 49–73 | Cite as

The rise of the Red Mafia in China: a case study of organised crime and corruption in Chongqing

  • Peng WangEmail author


‘Red Mafia’ is the collective term for corrupt public officials in mainland China, mainly from the criminal justice system, who attempt to monopolise the protection business in the criminal underworld by abusing power. In contemporary mainland China, the Red Mafia has developed into an alternative system of governance that can control organised crime groups, enable them to flourish, and protect them where strong government and effective self-protection associations are absent. The author examines organised crime and corruption by analysing the Wen Qiang case, one of the most famous and widely publicised cases in Chongqing’s latest crime crackdown campaign. Drawing on interview data and extensive published materials, this paper offers a tentative definition of ‘Red Mafia’, develops a typology of organised crime, describes the emergence of the Red Mafia in China, explores how gangsters developed relationships with public officials, suggests why organised crime groups chose the Red Mafia as their preferred protection and enforcement mechanism, examines patterns of services provided, and explores the differences between the Red Mafia and other Mafia groups.


Red Mafia Protective umbrella Organised crime Corruption Extra-legal governance The Chinese political-criminal nexus 



The author is grateful to Benjamin Bowling, Qiu Geping, Maurice Punch, Xia Ming, Mary Vogel, Fabian Zhilla, Hilary Wright, Stephan Blancke, Wang Jingyi, the two anonymous referees and the editor for their valuable comments and suggestions. The author is also grateful to Li Ren and Xu Pengxiang for their generous help in organising his fieldwork in Chongqing. This fieldwork was supported by a Great Britain-China Education Grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Somerset House East Wing, School of LawKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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