How to Get Ahead in China’s Communist Party

Last week, the National Congress of the Communist Party of China  (CCP) removed an important provincial party secretary from office, stirring unrest in China and even suggestions that a coup is in the works.  Dan Drezner analyzes the issue, referencing the American Political Science Review article by John Freeman and Dennis Quinn I blogged about earlier this week. Yet, there is another article (ungated, pdf) in the moST recent American Political Science Review by Victor Shih, Chris Adolph, and Minxing Liu that is even more directly relevant. The authors gather data on promotion and dismissal decisions from past party congresses to examine the correlates of career advancement within the CCP. Their main finding:

[W]e find no evidence that strong growth performance was rewarded with higher party ranks at any of the postreform party congresses. Instead, factional ties with various top leaders, educational qualifications, and provincial revenue collection played substantial roles in elite ranking, suggesting that promotion systems served the immediate needs of the regime and its leaders, rather than encompassing goals such as economic growth.

I know too little about the general issue of cadre promotion or the details of the Bo Xilai case (although it appears to have been about factions from the reporting I have seen) to comment any further, yet this strikes me as important research.

One Response to How to Get Ahead in China’s Communist Party

  1. Karl Ho March 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    I found that article very interesting also but the Bo case is raising more questions that answers, particularly on how generational replacement and transition in the leadership that lead to shocks to the system. Xi is the first leader beyond Deng Xiao-ping’s succession plan. There are signs already the transition may lead to more repercussions that most anticipated.

    Another election that warrants attention is the upcoming Chief executive election in Hong Kong (3/25). Without universal suffrage, the CE is elected through a 1,200 member election committee composed of legislators and functional constituency representatives. Why this election is substantively interesting to those who study elections in China:

    1. Decision making process is much indicative of factional balance within the CCP
    2. Voting decisions were heavily influenced by blessings from Beijing, through covert lobbying.
    3. Candidate popularity matters but is also endogenous to endorsement by CCP leaders.
    4. CCP leaders reportedly switched positions, leading to substantial swing votes from one candidate to the other.
    5. Resemblance of new factional balance, with Tuanpai or Communist Youth League faction apparently having upper hand (in Hong Kong case, at least). However, the networks are so inter-twinned that power distribution is too complex to be pigeon-holed under labels of Princelings and Tuanpai.

    One feature of CCP governance is equilibrium between the factions. Unlike elections in democracies, swing cycle out of reequilibrating could be much shorter, that in some cases with more violent transitions. Some observers explain China’s slower growth projection is primarily due to the leadership preparing for a “rocky” transition. Yet, that will feed data for follow-up research to the Shih, Adolph and Liu studny.