Russian oligarchs ran off with state property during the 1990s transition from communism. In China, last month's bullet-train crash sparked corruption concerns among the middle class.
"It makes them angry that [officials] build a high-speed rail line and it is flawed, [or they] buy a condo and find that it's poorly built," says Andrew Wedeman, a China expert at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "They think when incomes go up, quality of life should go up."
China emerged from the Cultural Revolution with a defunct judiciary. In a decade, courts were hearing cases of complex financial corruption, says Dr. Wedeman, author of the forthcoming book "Double Paradox: Rapid Growth and Intensifying Corruption in China."
"They are putting it together on the fly. Essentially, corruption kind of swamped the anticorruption [measures]," he says.
China's ruling party has fought back. Some 10,000 officials are sent to prison each year and some are executed. Wedeman says the efforts have helped contain corruption.
India hit boom times with a broken court system, but the democratic process here has responded slowly. New agencies have been created, but the government has curtailed them, partly to preserve a balance of powers. More than 20 percent of the jobs at the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's corruption watchdog, lie vacant. CBI cases languish in courts, with 23 percent pending for more than a decade.
Demonstrators demand a new agency that would have sweeping authority. Critics worry the movement represents a departure from democracy, with its efforts to override elected lawmakers.