Civil-Military Change in China: Elites, Institutes, and Ideas after the 16th Party Congress

By Andrew Scobell; Larry Wortzel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

CHINA'S RULING ELITE:
THE POLITBURO AND CENTRAL COMMITTEE

Joseph Fewsmith

The 16th National Party Congress met in Beijing on November 8-14, 2002, to select a Central Committee consisting of 198 full members and 158 alternate members (very close in size to the 193 full members and 151 alternate members named to the 15th Central Committee in 1997). When the first Plenary Session of the new Central Committee met on November 15, it named 24 people to be full members of the Politburo and one person to be an alternate member of the Politburo. It also named seven people to the party's Secretariat, the body that assists the Politburo in its day-to-day work by overseeing propaganda and the general flow of documents that implement policy decisions; and it appointed eight people to the Central Military Commission (CMC), which oversees the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The Politburo, in turn, named nine people to the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC), which makes up the heart of China's political system. Collectively, these people can be considered China's ruling elite. 1 Who are they, and what does their composition tell us about contemporary Chinese politics?

The focus of this chapter is on the 198 full members of the Central Committee; it is doubtful that alternate members of the Central Committee can be considered a part of the ruling elite, or even the ruling elite in waiting. Of the 151 alternate members of the 15th Central Committee, only 30 (19.9 percent) were elevated to full membership in the 16th Central Committee. Interestingly, the one place in which being named an alternate member of the Central Committee is suggestive of future advancement is among the provincial cadres—22 of the 30 alternate members of the 15th Central Committee who were promoted to full membership were provincial cadres. That is just over one-third the number of provincial cadres named to full membership in the 16th Central Committee (65). In contrast, only 3 (12.5 percent) of the 24 military personnel who were

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