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1 Introduction
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1
Introduction

This is a study of the structure, personnel, and historical formation of the cadre system in China with an emphasis on the period from the Cultural Revolution (CR) to the post-Mao reforms. More specifically, through a careful analysis of China's cadre recruitment policy, its effect on the operation of the political system at subsequent stages, and its role as a key issue in conflicts among the elite—particularly during the CR—this book traces the transformation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders from revolutionary cadres to bureaucratic technocrats.[1]

Unlike the Eastern European socialist countries, where former revolutionaries started to co-opt technical experts into the ruling elite immediately after seizure of political power, the elite transformation in China took place over a period of almost three decades after the foundation of the new regime. Moreover, the prolonged and tortuous transition was frequently marked by inner elite conflicts, purges, and rehabilitations. Therefore, this study of the evolving cadre system in China hopes to make sense of complex CCP politics by illuminating four basic issues: (1) the reason for the sustained revolutionary momentum during Mao's era, (2) the intensity of elite conflicts over cadre issues during the CR, (3) the impetus of sweeping reforms after Mao's death, and (4) characteristics of the political system emerging as a result of the reforms.

These four issues can be explained briefly as follows. Recruited from the poorly educated peasant class, the original revolutionaries brought a rural orientation to nation building after 1949: the former revolutionaries continued to recruit cadres after 1949 from lower rungs of the social hierarchy for their political reliability, and they created a structure of the party-state whose effective opera-


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tion largely depended on cadres. Consequently, the cadres owed their ascendency to official positions in the party-state and willingly carried out radical policies according to their leaders' orders; at the same time, they enjoyed enormous power to make decisions directly affecting ordinary Chinese people's daily lives. Their revolutionary eagerness, the Chinese people's resentment of their privileges, and Mao's own ideological vision resulted in the CR, which produced four new groups: initiators, beneficiaries, survivors, and the purged. Each elite group had a different power base, which defined the group's political interests and determined its policies on the issues of purging and recruiting cadres.

Eventually, after many power struggles, almost all the CR victims—the purged—returned to power. Because of their bitterness over their experiences during the CR as victims of the system they had helped to create, the rehabilitated cadres became born-again reformers once they regained power. The shift of the regime's main task from revolutionary change to economic development resulted in a change in the composition and recruitment of the cadres. With the replacement of senior political leaders and a large number of revolutionary cadres by bureaucratic technocrats, China's new political leaders were, and still are, trying to restructure the sociopolitical and economic systems so that they will be able to balance both the political needs of the Leninist party and the structural prerequisites of economic development. However, the market, although essential to economic development, is incompatible with the existence of the Leninist Party and its version of socialism. Continuing tensions erupted into the student democratic movement in the spring of 1989, which the regime ruthlessly suppressed. In the long run, however, the tensions will probably produce an authoritarian regime with a more market-oriented economic system.

Analytical Framework: Cadres and Structure

The analytical framework of this book blends the concept of political choice with a structural approach, thereby rejecting the extreme view of structural determinism on the one hand and the total autonomy of political action on the other. The structure, broadly defined to refer to everything that lies outside a political actor, sets


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limits to what is politically possible at any particular time.[2] In turn, political actors respond to and attempt to modify or change the structure through "dynamic manipulations."[3]

The cadres serve as a direct link between political choice and structure. A given cadre recruitment policy is chosen within the limits of environmental constraints and as a means of carrying out a specific core task at a given moment. A series of policy decisions on cadres at a given moment produces a cadre system, which in turn decisively influences the structure, orientation, and capability of the political system (which includes the decision-making process, the conflict structure, and the way the party-state interacts with society). Although a political system at any given moment enjoys a certain amount of autonomy in selecting its main task and its subsequent cadre policy, its choices are also constrained by the interests, perceptions, and preferences of the existing cadre corps. The choices made in recruiting cadres thus produce a structure that constrains the policy choices at the next stage. In this sense, the cadres are creators as well as agents of the state structure; the cadres create political, economic, and social structures that largely reflect their ideological vision. Once this basic structure is established, however, it operates as a constraint on the cadres' behavior.

This conceptualization of the cadres is particularly appropriate for the CCP, which has tried to modify its environment first through political revolution, then through social revolution, and now through economic development. This perspective also enables us to visualize the dynamics of Chinese politics fully by focusing on the process of evolving structure.

Cadres: Political Elites and Bureaucrats

Originally developed in the context of the Russian revolution, and then translated into Chinese, the term "cadre" (ganbu ) referred to the backbone of the revolutionary movement—people whose high


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level of political consciousness qualified them to assume responsibility for specific political tasks. In this original sense, cadres are the leaders, in contrast to the masses, who are the followers in a revolution. However, after the CCP became the ruling party, the meaning of cadre expanded to include all those who were paid from the state budget but not engaged in productive manual labor.[4] Thus, the current Chinese concept of cadre includes two analytically distinct categories: the political elite and the functionaries staffing the huge party-state apparatus.

However, the conventional definition of the elite as a small group of leaders at the top of the political system or as a small social stratum in the class structure is not useful in the case of China. First, no social elite (or, using Suzanne Keller's term, "strategic elite") exists independent of the party-state.[5] A series of campaigns eliminated any source of power in society, whether in the form of class, social institution, or political group; and the party-state imposed its bureaucratic structure on every functional field of society for the sake of the socialist revolution. Consequently, in China, possession of political power because of an official position in the bureaucratic system is what defines elite status. The sole channel of upward mobility for ambitious individuals has been through the bureaucracy—a channel that the party-state has easily controlled through its prerogative over the personnel management of cadres.

Second, to distinguish political leaders from bureaucrats both functionally and structurally within the Chinese bureaucracy is extremely difficult. The idea that politicians make policy and bureaucrats implement it turns out to be invalid even in Western democratic countries, where the two groups have different institutional bases (the first in state agencies and the second in parliaments), career track systems (the first as representatives of the people's will through election and the second as instruments for the state), and social origins (the first from the lower class and the second from the upper class).[6] No such formal distinction has existed in China up to now. On the contrary, both the Leninist princi-


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ple of "democratic centralism" and the notion of the "mass line"—which, at least in theory, obliges the party to pay attention to the actual needs and opinions of ordinary people—regard policy-making and its implementation as a continuous process, and when no strong leader such as Stalin or Mao exists, the interests and preferences of low-level cadres frequently influence the policy-making.

Structurally speaking, the political elite in the Chinese bureaucracy includes not only top-level political leaders, but also the "leading cadres" (or "responsible persons") of the various functional units such as economic enterprises and business units (shiye danwei ). Moreover, the leading cadres are stratified according to their rank and position and the administrative status of the units they lead. In other words, an elite group at each level is subject to tight control by its superiors, who have the authority of appointment and removal over it. In addition, leading cadres are usually promoted from among ordinary cadres within a unit, as was the case in traditional China where the path to high political position was through the bureaucracy.

For these reasons elite politics, political conflict, and the bureaucratic system are inextricably interrelated in China. Toplevel politics are shaped by and reflect the power base that each elite group controls within the bureaucratic system. Indeed, the political conflicts frequently center on how to shape the bureaucratic systems.[7]

Existing studies tend to focus exclusively on one of these dimensions, particularly on the changing profile of the top political leaders as largely defined by the membership of the party's Central Committee, whereas cadre recruitment, conflict over issues, and the resultant impact on the bureaucratic system have been largely neglected.[8] For instance, Doak Barnett and Harry Harding deal exclusively with the formal structure of the Chinese bureaucratic system, while leaving the issue of the cadres within the bureaucratic machine untouched.[9] The existing literature on the CR and other


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elite conflicts tends to stress power struggles organized along factional lines, while overlooking the crucial importance of cadre policy as one of the focal points of the dissension. As a result, most existing studies tend to be static, atheoretical, or theoretically excessive; they fail to offer a dynamic macro-view of the CCP's political process.

I have purposely employed the three different modes of analysis associated with elite study, political conflict, and bureaucratic systems, using each mode of analysis as needed. For instance, I analyze elite profiles in order to substantiate the long-term trend of bureaucratic technocrats replacing old revolutionaries; relate the CR elite conflicts to cadre issues and discuss the cadre structure in order to highlight the changing practice of cadre management. My chapters, however, are not explicitly organized around these three topics; rather, the topics are discussed in each chapter in light of relevant theoretical insights drawn from existing studies.

Importance of Cadres in CCP Politics

It has been widely accepted since Mosca and Pareto that a political elite exerts enormous influence in shaping a political system.[10] This point is particularly true of traditional China where a well-defined elite of scholar-bureaucrat-landlords dominated not only political but economic and cultural life. China's embrace of socialism reinforced historical tradition. A socialist system, with ultimate faith in the rationality of the human mind, substitutes allegedly chaotic market control with decisions consciously made by the political elite located in a hierarchically constructed organizational setting. Because of the centrality of the political elite in the socialist system, many social scientists attribute regime transformation to the rise of a new type of elite, "the new technocratic elite," "the managerial modernizers," or "the technically trained bureaucrats."[11]


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Even contemporary debates on the "relative autonomy of the state" focus mainly on the issue of political elites. For instance, some Marxists point to the alleged homogeneity of political and social elites in capitalist countries as key evidence for the lack of state autonomy.[12] Even the proponents of state autonomy cannot avoid the issue of the political elite. "[The state] refers to all those individuals who occupy offices that authorize them and them alone to make and apply decisions that are binding upon all segments of the society."[13]

The impact of the personal and idiosyncratic features of a political elite on the nature of structure varies inversely with the degree of institutionalization of the "offices"; the less institutionalization, the greater the likelihood that officials will exhibit personal idiosyncrasies in performing their official duties.[14] The Chinese political process has never been highly institutionalized for several obvious reasons. First, the idea that rule by man supersedes rule by law has long been a part of the Confucian political tradition. Second, because Communist ideology has never clearly defined the relationship between ideology and organization, the institutionalization of the state has been uncertain.[15] Third, Mao's belief that all human and social problems are political in nature and therefore should be analyzed from the class perspective denies an autonomous role to rules of procedure, which include administrative laws. Moreover, the question of how far the state should be regulated and institutionalized was the focus of ideological controversy between Mao and his political adversaries.

The political structure set up by the old revolutionaries since 1949 reinforced the crucial importance of cadres in the Chinese political process. What the Chinese call "unit ownership," along


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with the practice of organizing each unit to be self-sufficient in meeting most of its members' social needs—the principle known as "big and complete, small and complete" (da er quan, xiao er quan )—has allowed the leading cadres of each unit to make decisions not only on matters pertaining to the unit's tasks, but also on issues relating to the private lives of the unit members "from birth to death."[16] Official guidelines on any policy have always been broad and ambiguous, giving a great deal of leeway to the leading cadres at each level. Furthermore, allocation of most necessary resources, services, and finances through administrative decisions rather than through the market has minimized the need for communication and interaction among units and among individuals belonging to different units. The little coordination that was necessary was conducted only through a superior authority. The practice of keeping one cadre for a long time in a unit—known as "the life-tenure system"—made it easy for leaders to "privatize" their formal authority. Although local cadres were held accountable to the upper echelon, the mechanisms needed for ordinary members of the unit to supervise their leading cadres have been nonexistent or extremely weak. Mass participation in political campaigns, leadership participation in labor, and criticism and self-criticism have become formalized rituals and empty rhetoric without much impact on the operation of the overall system.

Organization

This study is based on recently available materials published in China as well as information obtained through interviews in Hong Kong and elsewhere. These sources are supplemented by biographical information about top-level leaders that I have been collecting for the past several years. I completed the manuscript before the Chinese student demonstrations of 1989. Except for minor changes, I have attempted no major revisions in light of these tragic events. Organized largely chronologically and partially topically, the book consists of four parts.

Part I describes the background of the party-state by first examining how the CCP developed the strategy of recruiting poorly


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educated poor peasants after trying several other methods during the revolutionary period (chapter 2), then by analyzing the cadre policies the former revolutionaries pursued as the political leaders of the bureaucratized party-state in the 1950s and the early 1960s (chapter 3).

Part II analyzes the manipulation of cadre issues by the various elite groups during the CR. The four chapters in this section are organized chronologically. After reviewing the structures of the elite conflicts, chapter 4 promotes the concept of the "situational group" as the most useful tool for understanding the elite conflicts during the ten years of the CR. Lin Biao's power base and his strategy to succeed Mao are discussed in chapter 5. Chapter 6 analyzes the conflict between the Gang of Four and the Zhou Enlai group in terms of their divergent cadre policies. Hua Guofeng's cadre policy is contrasted with that of Deng Xiaoping in chapter 7.

The chapters in Part III, dealing with the current bureaucratic reforms, are arranged in part thematically and in part chronologically. Chapter 8 argues that the personal experiences of having been purged during the CR prompted the old cadres to initiate sweeping reforms when they were rehabilitated after Mao's death. Chapter 9 discusses the basic structural problems of the cadre corps, focusing on its size, age structure, and level of education. Chapter 10 discusses Deng Xiaoping's preparation for the change in leadership by stressing the development of new criteria for cadre recruitment, the development of a special retirement system for veteran cadres (lixiu ), and the purge of the CR rebels from leadership positions. Chapter 11 analyzes the composition of the new leadership in terms of age, education, and possible ideological orientation. Chapter 12 focuses on the CCP's effort to readjust itself to the new task of economic development.

Part IV contains two chapters. The first one analyzes the personnel dossier system, which constitutes the basis for the personnel management system. Chapter 14 discusses the changing role of the party in managing cadre affairs in the context of the current endeavor to separate the party from the government and other functional authorities and the shifting locus of decision-making authority on personnel matters within the party-state bureaucracy. In chapter 15 I summarize my basic arguments and speculate on the characteristics of the political system now in the making.


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