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Cadre and personnel management in the CPC.

For a Western scholar, studying the cadre and personnel management system (ganbu yu renshi guanli zhidu) in the Communist Party of China (CPC) is an endeavour fraught with difficulties. First and most basically, there is no clear definition of the concept of cadre (ganbu) available--making it extremely difficult to determine and delimitate the field of study. Second, statistics and hard empirical data are not easy to access--as information on cadre management often is classified neibu (internal) or jimi (secret)--and therefore, in principle, unavailable to foreign researchers. Third, the documents and regulations concerning cadre management use many concepts which are almost impossible to translate into Western languages and discourse. Nevertheless, as a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the Chinese political system requires a basic understanding of cadre management, the subject has attracted growing interest in the West.

Most studies on the Chinese cadre system fail to draw on the theoretical insights provided by the existing body of literature on elites in general, (1) and in relation to China in particular. (2) This seems to be related to a number of factors. First, elite studies as such are currently a neglected discipline in political science research. (3) Instead, there is a focus on electoral systems and electoral behaviour, constitutional choice and rational choice theory. Second, the implosion of communist/socialist systems in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe destroyed much of the empirical basis for theory generation and development in the field of comparative communist studies. Third, since the 1960s, a number of often conflicting approaches to the study of Chinese politics have emerged. Most of them have dealt with conflict and change and the factors that seemingly make the system dysfunctional. Only in recent years have some scholars argued that the political system is, in fact, holding together rather well. (4) What makes the Party hold together is organisation and power--as embodied in the political elite. (5) Fourth, and finally, to the extent elite concepts are applied in the Chinese case, they tend to relate to studies of the composition and working of top government and Party organs such as the State Council, Politburo or Central Committee and their membership. (6) Rarely are they used to discuss the wider group of cadres from which future leaders are recruited. This has unfortunately severely limited the usefulness of the elite concept in analysing how the Chinese political system works.


Cadre (from Latin: quadrus = square) is originally a military concept. Its current use denotes three main significances: (1) basic structure or framework; (2) a nucleus of trained personnel around which a larger organisation can be built and trained; (3) a small, unified group organised to instruct or lead a larger group. In France, the term is often used to denote the officials and upper-level and middle-level managers educated at the grandes ecoles. They are supposed to exhibit leadership qualities, predisposing them to take up duties for the nation. (7) In communist one-Party systems, the concept refers back to the Russian Revolution. In this sense, the cadres are the leaders of the revolution and the masses the followers. In his famous organisational manual, What is to Be Done?, Lenin describes how such a vanguard of the revolutionary class should be created and trained to lead the revolution. (8) This vanguard was supposed to act as the central nucleus of the Party and was expected to "devote to the revolution not their free evenings--but their whole life". (9) These revolutionaries were regarded as the "lions" of the communist movement. (10)

After the 1949 revolution in China, cadres usually referred to people with responsible or leading positions (fuzeren/lingdaoren) within an organisation, or people who assumed responsibility for specific political tasks. Accordingly, a person's status as a cadre did not necessarily involve membership of the CPC, although in practice this was often the case, especially for leading cadres (i.e., cadres above the county-level).

During the 1950s, there was a regularisation of the cadre corps. A complex wage system was established and a more detailed ranking system was introduced. According to a Party handbook published in 1958, cadres included the following personnel: (1) employees from clerical personnel and above; (2) industrial technicians; (3) agro-technicians; (4) maritime technicians; (5) public health technicians of middle level and above; (6) scientific technicians; (8) news and publishing personnel; (8) teaching personnel; (9) personnel in culture and the arts; (10) and translators. (11) In short, cadres were defined by simple bureaucratic distinctions according to their education and whether or not they were employed by the state.

Since then, there has been no fundamental change in this categorisation. However, all along an undercurrent of doubt has existed as to whether such a purely bureaucratic distinction would suffice and therefore regular ideological campaigns have been conducted to ensure the continuous political and ideological education and training of cadres and to prevent the revolutionary "lions" from turning into bureaucratic "foxes". Also internal distinctions have been introduced to distinguish different categories of cadres. The most important is the distinction between ordinary cadres and leading cadres. (12) Leading cadres (lingdao ganbu) are cadres ranked at division (county) level and above. They form the power elite in Anthony Gidden's definition of the concept. (13)


As it is difficult to define the concept of cadre, it is concomitantly not easy to find reliable information on the number of cadres in China. In 2000, the CPC Party History Publishing House published a 19-volume publication on the organisational history of the CPC, which contains statistics on the evolution and composition of Chinese cadres from 1949 to 1998. (14) According to this source, there are 40.5 million cadres in China. "Leading cadres" number 508,025, accounting for only eight per cent of the total cadre corps. Fully 92 per cent (466,355) of these people work at the provincial level and below, such as local city and county Party secretaries and mayors; the rest work in the central organs in Beijing.

The most important leading cadres are those at the ministerial (provincial) level and above. Since central ministers, provincial governors and first Party secretaries are at the same administrative rank, this level includes present as well as former cabinet ministers and provincial governors and Party secretaries. There are only 2,562 of these "high level cadres" (gaoji ganbu), of which 888 work at the Centre (Zhongyang) in Beijing. (15) They all belong to the Central Committee's nomenklatura.

Of the total number of cadres, 47.5 per cent or 19.2 million work in the so-called shiye danwei (public service units or non-profit organisations), 35.2 per cent or 14.3 million in production enterprises and 17.2 per cent or 7.0 million in government and Party organs. (16) Cadres in government and Party organs and agencies are the backbone of the political system. They are also called "civil servants" (gongwuyuan) and are regulated by the civil service administrative system in addition to being managed by the CPC's cadre regulations. According to some sources, the number of civil servants has risen to about 10 million. (17)

It is often assumed that most cadres are members of the CPC. However, the 2000 statistics showed that only 15.4 million (38.2 per cent) of the 40.5 million-strong cadre corps are Party members. However, among leading cadres, 95.3 per cent are Party members. (18) The power elite are recruited from the 15.4 million cadres that carry a Party membership. Therefore, cadres with an ambition to make it to the power elite normally apply for membership of the Party. This means that in order to qualify for entrance into the power elite, a given individual should combine cadre status with Party membership. It follows logically that Party membership alone is not enough to qualify for elite status.

In short, the power hierarchy is structured in the following way: there are 60 million Party members (1998). Of these, 15.4 million (25 per cent) are cadres. The remaining 45 million do not have cadre status, i.e., they do not hold positions that involve real authority. The leading cadres constitute 508,025 people (3.3 per cent) of the 15.4 million cadres. Furthermore, the power elite consist of those among the leading cadres that hold Party membership. Since 95.3 per cent of the leading cadres are Party members, the power elite consists of 484,148 cadres. The very top stratum--the 2,562 gaoji ganbu--are all Party members. Of these individuals, 888 work at the centre of power in Beijing. This is the "elite within the elite"--those who really run China. One way to conceptualise this power structure can be depicted in Figure 1.

Recruitment to the top levels of the pyramid takes place at the bottom level, where non-CPC cadres with an ambition to make it to the power elite will apply for Party membership. To qualify for entrance into the power elite requires both cadre status and Party membership. For the very few leading cadres that have not yet become Party members, this is their last chance. If they do not succeed, they will not move further up the power hierarchy since bureau-level cadres are almost entirely recruited from leading cadres that carry a Party membership. Only in rare instances is it possible for non-CPC cadres to enter the ministerial-level of the power hierarchy. But it does occur on occasion. Recent examples include the appointment of Wan Gang as Minister of Science and Technology and the appointment of Chen Zhu as Minister of Health. Their appointments were part of a mid-term move under Hu Jintao to empower the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) and give credence to the theory of "multi-party cooperation" (duo dang hezuo). However, since these men are not Party members, they cannot occupy the important Party secretary job in their respective ministries, and this severely restricts their actual powers.


Clearly, the power elite are dependent on the 40.5 million cadres for governing the country and in recruiting future leaders. Active support is also needed from the 45 million Party members that are not part of the state administrative bureaucracy. They may not be in positions of real authority, but they are considered to form the social and ideological basis of the power system. Moreover, when a Party member enters the cadre corps, his chances for promotion to the power elite are comparatively high. In general, as long as these two groups act in concert, the power system can be maintained.


In managing the leading cadres, the CPC has a number of instruments at its disposal. In terms of leadership selection and appointment, the most important is the so-called nomenklatura system. The term is originally Russian and developed during the Soviet Union. It can be defined as "a list containing those leading officials directly appointed by the Party, as well as those officials about whom recommendations for appointment, release or transfer may be made by other bodies, but which require the Party's approval". (19) This means that the nomenklatura list actually consists of two lists: one which is solely handled by the Organisation Department of the Party, and another which involves management by other state and Party organs. The Party mainly has its focus on the former list, but does have the possibility of exercising veto power over the latter list. Moreover, the nomenklatura system includes lists of personnel recommended for future appointment. Through this elaborate system, the Party controls the selection and appointment of leaders to the most important positions in Chinese society. At the central level, the Organisational Department of the Central Committee manages a list of top positions in government and Party organs at the central and provincial level, as well as the heads of the most prestigious institutes of higher learning and the 53 largest companies. As the nomenklatura system is a system for leadership selection and appointment, non-Party cadres in leading positions are also managed by the nomenklatura. (20)

The concept of bianzhi is closely related to nomenklatura. In fact, some scholars of Chinese politics have perceived bianzhi to be the Chinese way of denoting the nomenklatura system. (21) This is not correct. Bianzhi usually refers to the authorised number of personnel in a unit, office, or organisation and associated budget outlays in the form of salary and allowances. (22) The term is often translated as "establishment".

There are three main forms of bianzhi: administrative bianzhi (xingzheng bianzhi), enterprise bianzhi (qiye bianzhi), and the bianzhi which applies to public service units (shiye danwei bianzhi). The administrative bianzhi is crucial for the layout of the political system. It stipulates the number of organs (jigou bianzhi) and the number of personnel (renyuan bianzhi) in these organs. The difference between bianzhi and nomenklatura is that a bianzhi list specifies and ranks the various organs and positions in an administrative setup, including detailing the administrative functions of these organs, whereas the nomenklatura list specifies which leadership positions in the bianzhi configuration the Party controls. The bianzhi system is managed by the Central Commission for Institutional Bianzhi (Zhongyang jigou bianzhi weiyuanhui) which is placed directly under the Party's Central Committee and is thus managed and controlled by the Party. (23) At the provincial and local levels, there are also committees dealing with bianzhi work. As is the case for local nomenklatura work, they are directed by local Party committees.

In sum, by regulating and managing the bianzhi as well as the nomenklatura, the Party exercises control over the entire administrative apparatus and its cadre corps from central to local level. Personnel policy is the heart of power in a Leninist system.


One instrument of control associated with the nomenklatura system is the so-called cadre transfer system. (24) For leading cadres below ministerial and vice-ministerial level, the rules are that they have to be transferred after their second term, i.e., after a maximum period of 10 years. (25) They will either be transferred to a new higher-ranked job or stay at the same level, but without leadership responsibility. Recently, a new form of rotation has been introduced according to which central officials are rotated to local levels in order to take up local top positions (di yi bashou) as mayor or county head. (26) In the same way, local leaders are transferred to central positions. It is reported that local officials' enthusiasm to take positions at the central level is quite high, but the same enthusiasm is not reached among officials at the central level. The problem seems to be that if a person is not transferred temporarily while maintaining employment (bianzhi) in his/her original work unit (guazhi), but is actually assuming a leadership position at the local level (renzhi), he/she is not guaranteed a return to the central level.


An interesting form of rotation takes place between big business and the political world. Thus, government officials can be transferred to take up leading positions in the state-owned companies and vice versa. This kind of rotation has certain parallels to the French system of appointing members of the civil service elite to one of the country's top business positions after having spent a decade or so working for the state, often in a ministerial private office--a practice known as pantouflage (literally "shuffling across"). (27) These civil servants are all educated at French prestigious grande ecoles which give access to the grands corps; from there, they are "parachuted" into top business. So attendance at a leading grande ecole followed by membership of the grands corps provides one of the most secure routes to the top of the French business hierarchy. In Japan, the term amakudari denotes the widespread practice of senior officials taking up positions upon retiring from government. (28) In the United States, the "revolving door" between the bureaucracy and the business world is commonplace, whereas in the Nordic countries, this practice is rarely seen.

In the Chinese case, examples of pantouflage include Li Lihui's transfer in 2004 from vice-governor of Hainan province to the position of president of the Bank of China, or when Zhang Qingwei in 2008 was moved from serving as Minister of the Commission of Technology, Science and Industry for Defence to the corporate world to become chairman of the newly formed Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. (29) A third example is Zhou Yongkang who was appointed Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Petroleum in 1985. When this ministry was abolished in 1988, Zhou Yongkang was appointed deputy general manager of the newly formed China National Petroleum Corporation and he advanced to become general manager of the corporation in 1996. Two years later, he was appointed Minister of Land and Resources and returned to central government work. Subsequently, Zhou was promoted to the Political Bureau and put in charge of the politics and law system (zheng-fa xitong), particularly public security.

In China, there are even more examples of the reverse process, i.e., top business leaders moving into state and Party leading positions. Examples include Xiao Yaqing who worked as President of the Aluminium Corporation of China (CHINALCO) before he was transferred in February 2009 to Deputy General Secretary of the State Council. In 2003, Wei Liucheng was transferred serving as General Manager of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to become Governor of Hainan Province. Chen Chuanping was transferred from being Chairman of Taiyuan Steel Company to serve as the Vice-Governor of Shanxi. And recently, Sinopec CEO Su Shulin became the Governor of Fujian. There are many more similar examples. In fact, a closer look at the biographies of China's governors and vice-governors reveals that as many as 52 of them have a business background. In government, 25 ministers and vice-ministers worked in business before joining the Party. (30) This shows that Party and state organs increasingly use the large business groups as a recruitment base for filling important state and Party positions and it is a clear example of the Party's continued authority in rotating its talents among different sectors of society and economy.

CEOs who move to a government position acquire a bureaucratic ranking which is highly coveted in China and compensates for the fact that they experience a substantial drop in salary. They keep their rank when they move back to business. However, the effect of this is mitigated by the fact that informally bureaucratic ranking still takes place among Chinese SOEs and their CEOs and board chairmen, even though the system was announced to be abolished already in 2001. (31) An indication of the continued impact of administrative ranking is that leaders of the nomenklatura companies can be moved to positions of vice-ministerial or ministerial level, (32) but bureaucrats at ministerial level can normally not be rotated to a business position. The career paths of Zhang Qingwei and Zhou Yongkang show that it is possible to move from a government position to a position in business and back again, or from business to government and back again--further illustrating the "revolving door" between Party, government and big business in China. (33) In France, pantouflage occurs among graduates of the elite grande ecoles. In China, the precondition for pantouflage is membership of the CPC. Thus all CEOs of the central corporations under control of the State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) are senior Party members.

Their Party positions are the reason why they can be moved to take up positions which do not make much sense from a business point of view. A case in point is the 2004 reshuffle of the top executives of the three Chinese telecommunication companies, which took place almost overnight and without prior notice to the public shareholders. (34) The incident was a clear demonstration of the Party's authority over leadership appointment in the nomenklatura companies. Similar display of ultimate Party power over the business world occurred in December 2008 when China Eastern Airlines CEO, Li Fenghua, was replaced by the Chairman of China Southern Airlines, Liu Shaoyong, and the Deputy General Manager of Air China swapped positions with the Deputy Party Secretary of China Eastern, Gao Jianxiong. The most recent example occurred in April 2011 when Fu Chengyu, Chairman and Party Secretary of CNOOC, was suddenly appointed Chairman and Party Secretary of rival oil company Sinopec. At the same time, it was announced that the new chairman and Party Secretary of CNOOC would be Wang Yilin, the former Deputy General Manager at China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the third major oil company. It is hard to imagine such reshuffles taking place without strong political considerations.

The "revolving door" function in practice, however, is shrouded in mystery. The examples mentioned above all comprise officials and business leaders at ministerial or vice-ministerial level. Thus they will all be on the central nomenklatura managed by the Central Organisation Department (Zhongyang Zuzhi Bu). But how this Department makes its decisions to rotate leaders between the political world and the business world is unknown to outside observers. As scholars have no way of knowing the reasons and background for these rotations and transfers, many resort to prosopographical studies of Chinese political and business elites, constructing career and networks databases of individual top leaders. The result is the proliferation of factional studies of a highly speculative nature.


In 1993, in order to "separate Party and government" (dang-zheng fenkai), China introduced a civil service system. In 2005, preliminary civil service regulations were turned into a Civil Service Law. (35) By now, a series of laws and regulations exists pertaining to the functioning and authority of the civil servants. (36) It seems clear that all civil servants are considered cadres and are therefore also regulated by cadre regulations. In fact, the new Civil Service Law of December 2005 stipulates that when other regulations concerning the appointment, dismissal and supervision of leading civil servants exist, then these regulations apply. By this formulation, it is indicated that the Party's regulations for leading cadres take priority over the Civil Service Law.

Civil servants form the backbone of the Chinese bureaucracy. They are the primary instrument by which the Party governs and controls the country. However, similar to the number of cadres, an exact estimation of the number of civil servants is difficult to estimate with any precision. Even the Chinese authorities do not appear to know. If we use the category of "employees in organs of the Communist Party of China, government agencies, People's Political Consultative Conference, democratic parties, non-governmental organisations, and religious organisations" and deduct the number of logistical personnel, one arrives at 10.1 million civil servants serving nationally. (37) It is noteworthy that the concept of the civil servant covers all state employees from a section (ke) member to the Prime Minister and President of the People's Republic of China. Thus, the President is remunerated according to general civil service wage stipulations.

This leadership system is completely different from that of the West. In China a prospective leader starts as a section member in a Party or State organ and works his way up the hierarchy as section leader, division leader, department leader, minister and finally may become Prime Minister or President. In short, leadership selection and promotion occur as a vertical process within the bureaucratic apparatus--whereas in Western countries, leaders enter the top of the power pyramid horizontally as a result of elections.

The result is a leadership selection and promotion system where top leaders are not "helicoptered" into top position, but work their way up through the system observing certain rules and norms concerning age, educational qualifications, as well as gender and nationality distribution. It is a leadership system characterised by regular evaluation by colleagues and superiors and continuous training in Party schools and various training centres for civil servants. (38) Top civil servants and business leaders are even sent abroad on month-long intensive training courses where they learn about alternative political, economic and social models and international management practices. The University of Cambridge, Harvard University and the Copenhagen Business School all run such programmes. It is a system where state and Party cadres are not promoted according to popular support and appeal, but according to inner-Party norms of behaviour and political orientation.


On paper, this system looks extremely impressive. It portrays a meritocratic leadership system where chance, luck and sudden political fashion and impulses play a lesser role than in the West. The main drawback is the lack of accountability and transparency in the decision-making process. How are decisions made and by whom according to which fields of decision-making? An example: in the West, business leaders are not only evaluated by the board of their companies, they are ultimately evaluated by the reaction by the market to the decisions they make. Politicians are not only evaluated by their constituencies, but also by the media and public opinion. In China, in the absence of such public mechanisms of evaluation, the Party and state personnel systems make these determinations. Bo Xilai, Chongqing's recently suspended Politbureau member, attempted to go beyond these norms and instead tried to establish his own political platform based on popular support. If he had succeeded in obtaining a seat on the standing committee of the Politbureau, it would have seriously undermined the promotion and appointment system within the Party. The Bo Xilai debacle also highlights the danger of corruption. This is a phenomenon which threatens Party legitimacy and its capacity to govern. Sensing the potential problem, in October 2004, Vice President Zeng Qinghong warned in an important article published in the People's Daily that maintaining and actually strengthening the capacity to rule was a "life-and-death" matter for the CPC and its cadres. (39)

It is also not clear whether Chinese officials are to be classified as civil servants or cadres. In 2008, a semi-independent State Bureau of Civil Servants was established within the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security indicating that civil servants should be managed by the state's personnel departments. However, regulations pertaining to civil servants are often issued in the name of the State Council as well as in the name of the CPC Central Organisation Department. This reinforces the view that civil servants are still primarily regarded as cadres and therefore primarily managed by cadre regulations and ultimately the Party and not the State. A recent trend among Party officials is in fact to restrict the concept of cadres to cover only civil servants, i.e., the core bureaucracy.

For Westerners studying civil servants, cadres and cadre management in China, a major obstacle is to understand the precise meaning of Chinese administrative concepts. Examples include concepts such as bianzhi, kou and xitong. Distinctions between, for example, xuanren and weiren, pinren and pinyong, and guazhi and renzhi, as well as between the various methods of evaluation and appraisal, are also not easily understood. These difficulties point to the necessity of conducting more indigenous research, i.e., understanding Chinese administrative terms and practices from within before attempting a translation into Western terms. Too many Western researchers do not take Chinese administrative concepts seriously, claiming that the key to an understanding of how China works is not official concepts, but informal practices and networks.


The recent promulgation of a plan for managing cadres over the coming decade underlines the regime's concern about cadre management. (40) The plan stipulates that "the key lies in building a high-quality cadre contingent that include Party and government cadres, cadres in management functions in enterprises and cadres in the area of science and technology". Thus the cadre management system will continue to function in both Party and government as well as in enterprises and in the research and educational area. The system is not only a control system, but also a method to develop and train talent. This is a key aspect of current cadre management in China. Whether the system develops in the direction of resilient authoritarianism or competitive authoritarianism, the quality of public officials is of outmost importance. In this respect, China has learned from the Singapore model, a good example of how competitive authoritarianism can develop into a long-term solution. (41)


Cadres in China have become better educated and are younger than the case in Mao's time. About 80 per cent of leading cadres (defined as cadres at county level and above) have some kind of college education, and as for ju-level cadres, the proportion is 88 per cent. Clearly age and education play a key role in selecting new leaders at the various levels of the system and there is a new meritocratic political elite emerging which is different in outlook and background from the revolutionary "lions" of the past. New guidelines and regulations have been adopted with stipulations concerning open appointment and selection of cadres and filling of official positions and examination. These include a "public notification system" for filling positions below ting-level and experiments with multi-candidate elections for leading government and Party posts; regular job rotation from section level and above; strengthening the supervision of cadres by introducing clear measures for performance evaluation combined with public feedback on the quality of work done. There will also be flexible remuneration and pecuniary rewards to high performers. Finally, open recruitment notices for CEO recruitment to a number of SASAC companies have recently been introduced.

However, the nomenklatura system is still in place--and, in recent years, the Party has actually strengthened its role in managing the cadre force. This is especially the case for the leading cadres, which form the political elite that rule China. The Party instinctively knows that if it loses control of its cadres, it risks losing control of the country. Moreover, in recent years, the Party's Organisation Department has been involved in drawing up and circulating all major guidelines for cadre management at central as well as at local levels. The Party is clearly not about to loosen its grip on how China's future elite is selected and trained.

The majority of the rank and file cadre corps does not hold Party membership. Thus, there is no direct correlation between the number of cadres and the number of Party members. However, more than 95 per cent of the leading cadres are Party members, and from ju-level and above, Party membership is a sine qua non for career advancement. This fact, combined with the nomenklatura system and widespread use of pantouflage, make it possible for the Party to control elite recruitment and circulation in China.


I am grateful to David Shambaugh for his suggestions and comments and for inviting me to participate in the conference "Party Building and Reforming the Communist Party of China" held in Beijing in June 2011. I am also most grateful to the conference participants for comments on a previous draft of this article.

(1) See for example, Harold Lasswell and Daniel Lerner, World Revolutionary Elites (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965); Peter Bachrach, The Theory of Democratic Elitism: A Critique (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1967); Anthony Giddens, The Class Structure of The Advanced Societies (New York: Harper & Row, 1975); Robert D. Putnam, The Comparative Study of Political Elites (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1973); and Eva Etzioni-Halevy, The Elite Connection (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993). On Soviet Elites, see Seweryn Bialer, Stalin's Successor's: Leadership, Stability, and Change in the Soviet Union (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980); Jerry Hough, Soviet Leadership in Transition (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1980); and Steven L. Solcnik, Stealing the State: Control and Collapse in Soviet Institutions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998). On post-communist elites, see also Gil Eyal, Ivan Szelenyi, and Eleanor Townsley, Making Capitalism Without Capitalists: The New Ruling Elites in Eastern Europe (London: Verso Press, 1998).

(2) In the 1960s and 1970s, a number of pioneering studies on the Chinese elite system were published. See, for example, the contributions to Robert A. Scalapino, Elites in the People's Republic of China (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1972). See also A. Doak Barnett (with a contribution by Ezra Vogel), Cadres, Bureaucracy, and Political Power in Communist China (New York: Columbia Press, 1967); Michel C. Oksenberg, "Local Leaders in Rural China, 1962-1965: Individual Attributes, Bureaucratic Positions, and Political Recruitment", in Chinese Communist Politics in Action, ed. A. Doak Barnett (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1969), pp. 155-215; and Ying-Mao Kau, "The Urban Bureaucratic Elite in Communist China: A Case Study of Wuhan, 1949-1965", in Chinese Communist Politics in Action, ed. Barnett, pp. 216-70.

(3) This discussion draws on Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard, "From Lions to Foxes: Party and Cadres in China in the Post-Deng Era", unpublished manuscript, 2006.

(4) During the 1960s, this was actually one of the basic arguments underpinning Franz Schurmann's pioneering work on China, Ideology and Organization in Communist China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), p. 1. More recently, this argument was made by Andrew Nathan, David Shambaugh, Elizabeth Perry and Sebastian Heilmann, among others. See Andrew Nathan, "China's Resilient Authoritarianism", Journal of Democracy 14, no. 1 (Jan. 2003): 6-17; Sebastian Heilmann and Elizabeth J. Perry, eds., Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011); and David Shambaugh, China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation (Berkeley and Washington, DC: University of California Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2008).

(5) It should be noted that, in this article, we are not concerned with new economic and social elite formations such as the private entrepreneurs and managers in foreign-funded enterprises. These are important new social strata which the current leadership is trying to co-opt by recruiting them to become Party members. This attempt to bring new social strata into the elite underlines that we are dealing with a relatively open pattern of elite recruitment in the Chinese case. Classical elite theorists emphasised that only by being able and willing to absorb new elements and layers would a given power elite (e.g., Pareto's "governing elite" and Mosca's "ruling class/political class") be able to prevent regime change and thereby its own demise. See Pareto, The Mind and Society, vol. 3: Sentiment in Thinking (London: Jonathan Cape, 1935); and Gaetano Mosca, The Ruling Class (New York and London: McGraw-Hill, 1939).

(6) See, for example, David M. Lampton's study of six individuals who held top government and Party positions in the immediate post-Mao era, in his Paths to Power: Elite Mobility in Contemporary China (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 1986); Cheng Li and David Bachman's study of the social background and career pattern of 247 Chinese mayors in "Localism, Elitism, and Immobilism: Elite Formation and Social Change in Post-Mao China", World Politics 42, no. 1 (Oct. 1989): 64-94; and Cheng Li's and Lynn White's analysis of the composition of the 15th Central Committee in Cheng Li and Lynn White, "The Fifteenth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party: Full-Fledged Technocratic Leadership with Partial Control by Jiang Zemin", Asian Survey 38, no. 3 (Mar. 1998): 231-64. Other studies of the CPC Central Committee include Xiaowei Zang, "The Fourteenth Central Committee of the CPC: Technocracy or Political Technocracy", Asian Survey 33 (Aug. 1993): 787-803 and David Shambaugh, "The CPC's 15th Party Congress: Technocrats in Command", Issues and Studies 34, no. 1 (1998): pp. 1-37. See also Alice Miller's and Cheng Li's article in China Leadership Monitor, e.g. Alice Miller, "The 18th Central Committee Politbureau: A Quixotic, Foolhardy, Rashly Speculative, but Nonetheless Ruthlessly Reasoned Projection", China Leadership Monitor 33 (June 2010), and Cheng Li, "China's Midterm Jockeying: Gearing Up for 2012: Cabinet Ministers", China Leadership Monitor 32 (May 2010).

(7) See Pierre Bourdieu, The State Nobility (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996).

(8) See Lenin, What is to be Done?: Burning Questions of Our Movement (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1973, originally published 1902).

(9) Ibid., p. 225.

(10) Pareto's famous distinction between "lions" and "foxes" in elite terms appears in [section]2178 in Volume Four of The Mind and Society entitled General Form of Society.

(11) See Ezra F. Vogel, "From Revolutionary to Semi-Bureaucrat: The 'Regularisation' of Cadres", The China Quarterly 29 (Mar. 1967): 36-60.

(12) Actually, classical elite theorists such as Wilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca also seem to indicate a differentiation between two strata in the elite. Pareto argues: "So we get two strata in the population: (1) A lower stratum, the non-elite, with whose possible influence on government we are not just here concerned: then (2) a higher stratum, the elite, which is divided into two: (a) a governing elite: (b) a non-governing elite". In this Paretian sense, the leading cadres would form the governing elite. See Wilfredo Pareto, The Mind and Society, vol. 3, [section]2034. For a discussion on Mosca's theory in relation to a possible "second stratum", see Tom Bottomore, Elites and Society (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1966), p. 11.

(13) Giddens distinguishes between open and closed elites with high or low integration. As the Chinese power elite have a relatively open pattern of recruitment and a high level of integration, it is a "solidary elite" in Gidden's definition of the concept. Moreover, as the power of the Chinese elite seems to be concentrated and as the issue-strength of its power must be characterised as broad, it is an elite which holds autocratic power. See Anthony Giddens, The Class Structure of the Advanced Societies (New York: Harper & Row, 1975). One might add that as new social groups and strata such as private entrepreneurs and non-CPC cadres make it to the elite, it will increasingly turn into an oligarchic mode of power-holding (limited issue-strength).

(14) See Zhonggong zhongyang zuzhibu, Zhonggong dangshi yanjiushi, and Zhongyang dang'an guan (Central Organization Department of the CPC, Research Office of CPC Party History, and Bureau of Central Archives), Zhongguo gongchandang zuzhishi ziliao, 1921-1997, fujuan 1 (Material on the Organisational History of China's Communist Party, 1921-1997, Appendix, vol. 1) (Beijing: Zhonggong dangshi chubanshe, 2000), pp. 1325-432. For a discussion of this material, see Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard, "From Lions to Foxes: Party and Cadres in China in the Post-Deng Era".

(15) Zhonggong zhongyang zuzhibu, Zhongguo Gongchandang zuzhishi ziliao, 1921-1997, fujuan 1, p. 1357.

(16) The Chinese state comprises three main institutional components: administrative organs (xingzheng jiguan), public institutions or public service units (shiye danwei) and economic enterprises (qiye). Shiye danwei include primary schools, secondary schools and universities, hospitals, healthcare organisations, research organisations, and organisations in culture, art and mass media. They are different from administrative organs in the sense that they do not have administrative power over other administrative bodies, and they are different from economic enterprises in the sense that they are not profit-oriented. Therefore, the translation of shiye danwei is sometimes rendered as non-profit organisations. See Lam Tao-Chiu and James L. Perry, "Service Organizations in China: Reform and Its Limits," in Remaking China's Public Management, ed. Peter Nan-Shong Lee and Carlos Wing-Hung Lo (Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 2001), pp. 19-40. See also Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard and Chen Gang, "Public Sector Reform in China: Who is Losing Out?" (forthcoming).

(17) See Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard and Chen Gang, "China's Civil Service Reform: An Update", EAI Background Brief No. 493, 16 Dec. 2009.

(18) Zhonggong zhongyang zuzhibu, Zhongguo Gongchandang zuzhishi ziliao, 1921-1997, fujuan 1, p. 1358.

(19) See Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard, Hainan--State, Society, and Business in a Chinese Province (London: Routledge, 2009), p. 80.

(20) The Chinese concept for nomenklatura is zhiwu mingcheng biao (job title list). However, on occasion, the expression yaozhi xulie (order of key posts) is used to express the same phenomenon.

(21) The widespread confusing of bianzhi and nomenklatura appears to originate in Franz Schurmann's seminal work, Ideology and Organization in Communist China, op cit.

(22) For further elaboration of the bianzhi system, see Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard, "Institutional Reform and the Bianzhi System in China", The China Quarterly 170 (June 2005): 361-86.

(23) See Bradsgaard, Hainan--State Society and Business in a Chinese Province, p. 80.

(24) See the "Danzheng lingdao ganbu xuanba renyong gongzuo tiaoli" (Regulations on Selection and Appointment of Party and Government Leading Cadres), in Renshi gongzuo wenjian xuanbian (Selected Documents on Personnel Work) (Beijing: Renshibu zhengce fagui si, 2003), pp. 8-27.

(25) "Dangzheng lingdao ganbu zhiwu renqi zanxing guiding" (Preliminary Regulations on the Job Tenure of Party and State Leading Cadres), 4 July 2006.

(26) "Xin yi lun zheng siji zhongyang he defang guanyuan jiaoliu renzhi qidong" (A New Round of Rotation Between Central and Local Officials Starts), at <> [21 May 2011].

(27) See Mairi MacLean, Charles Harvey and Jon Press, "Elites, Ownership and the Internalisation of French Business", Modern and Contemporary France 9, no. 3 (2001): 313-25.

(28) See Ulrike Schaede, "The 'Old Boy' Network and Government-Business Relationships in Japan", Journal of Japanese Studies 21, no. 2 (Summer 1995): 293-317.

(29) Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard, "Politics and Business Group Formation in China: The Party in Control?", The China Quarterly (forthcoming, 2012).

(30) Author's database.

(31) "2001-20210 nian shenhua ganbu renshi zhidu gaige guihua gangyao" (Plan for Deepening the Cadre Management System During the 2001-2010 Period), at < ggtz/090802-2.html>.

(32) Examples include the move of Li Peng's son Li Xiaopeng from Huaneng to become Vice-Governor in Shaanxi province.

(33) Recently Zhang Qingwei was moved from COMAC to become Governor of Hebei province.

(34) See Randall Morck, Bernard Yeung, and Minyuan Zhao, "Perspectives on China's Outward Foreign Direct Investment", Journal of International Business Studies 39 (2008): 337-50.

(35) "Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo gongwuyuan fa" (The Civil Service Law of the People's Republic of China), in Renshi gongzuo wenjian xuanbian (Selected Documents on Personnel Work) (Beijing: Renshibu zhengce faguisi, 2006), vol. 28, pp. 56-77.

(36) See, for example, "Gongwuyuan zhiwu renmian yu zhiwu shengjiang guiding (shixing)" (Regulation on the Appointment, Dismissal, Promotion, and Demotion of Civil Servants [Trial]), issued by the CPC Central Organization Department and the Ministry of Personnel, 29 Feb. 2008.

(37) See Bradsgaard and Chen Gang, "China's Civil Service Reform".

(38) See Frank Pieke, The Good Communist: Elite Training and State Building in Today's China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009); David Shambaugh, "Training China's Political Elite: The Party School System", The China Quarterly (Dec. 2008); Gregory Chin, "Innovation and Preservation: Remaking China's National Leadership Training System", The China Quarterly (Mar. 2011); Charlotte Lee, "Party Adaptation, Elite Training, and Political Selection in Reform-Era China", PhD diss., Department of Political Science, Stanford University, 2010.

(39) Peoples Daily, 8 Oct. 2004.

(40) "2010-2020 nian shenhua ganbu renshi zhidu gaige guihua gangyao" (Plan for Deepening the Cadre Management System During the 2010-2020 Period) (21 Dec. 2009), at < art_23449_474973.html>.

(41) On the concept of "competitive authoritarianism", see Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard ( is Professor and Director at the Asia Research Centre, the Copenhagen Business School. He received his PhD in Modern China Studies from the University of Copenhagen. His current research interests include public management in China, the civil service system and administrative reform, cadre and personnel management, Party reform and Party-state-business relations.
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Title Annotation:PART ONE: Special Issue on the 18th Party Congress and Future of the Communist Party of China
Author:Brodsgaard, Kjeld Erik
Publication:China: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2012
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