In the NYT business section, Joseph Kahn reports on the swift execution of the former head of China's Food and Drug Administration what had confessed to taking bribes to authorize certain bogus drugs, apparently leading to some deaths. According to observers, the death sentence was considered harsh given the high rank of the official and the fact that he had confessed. According to Kahn:
...Mr. Zheng’s case appears to have served a political purpose, allowing senior leaders to show that they have begun confronting the country’s poor product-safety record. Shoddy or dangerous goods, including drugs, pet food and car tires, have damaged its reputation abroad, especially in the United States.
While this may work domestically, one wonders whether the Chinese government hasn't simply reinforced the global perception that they respect human life less than their own political and economic fortunes.
Both examples suggest quite different logics of punishment then capital punishment in the US. In each case, capital punishment is serving a non-crime model of the state. In Iran it is the state's religious authority that is being reinforced with capital punishment. In China, it is the state's Confucian position as the father of the nation. In the US, in contrast, capital punishment allows the state to perform a kind of service to individual victims.