Academic journal article China: An International Journal

Cadre and Personnel Management in the CPC

Academic journal article China: An International Journal

Cadre and Personnel Management in the CPC

Article excerpt

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.

THE CONCEPT OF CADRE

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. …

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