Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Administrative Transformation in the People's Republic of China: A Symposium

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Administrative Transformation in the People's Republic of China: A Symposium

Article excerpt


Before October 1993, China had not instituted a civil service. Nonetheless, Chinese leaders, particularly Deng Xiaoping, started to give serious thought to reforming the personnel management system as early as August 1980. These "head-searching" thoughts eventually became the blueprint of China's civil service.' Deng argued that China had gone too far to emphasize "centralism and unification of the Party" which finally led to a low degree of institutionalism the political Process and a highly personal and idiosyncratic personnel management system (Deng, 1984:310-314). Party organs at various levels had taken charge of many matters that they should not and could not handle or had handled inefficiently. As far as efficient personnel management is concerned, China's old cadre personnel management system dif not effectively guard the entry- and exist-points and failed to institute administrative rules and regulations.

The key explanation given by Deng in addressing the peculiar problem facing the Chinese bureaucracy is over-- concentration of power in party committees from the top to the lowest level down the hierarchy in the name of strengthening the party leadership. The power of the party committees is often centered in the hands of a few secretaries who direct and decide on everything. This "centralized party leadership" often turns itself into leadership by individuals (for example, the first and second secretaries). Over-concentration of power in the hands of a few people means that most functionaries have no decision-- making power at all while the few are overloaded (Deng, 1984:311).

Deng set out some tasks for the reformers to achieve in his speech given to an enlarged meeting of the Central Politburo on August 11, 1980 which eventually became the guiding principles of the later political structure reform in the 1980s. In order to deal with of problems, for example, departmentalism, ducking responsibility, jockeying for power and wrangling with others, thinking only of interests of their own units. Deng hinted on the needs for a fundamental overhaul in respect to cadre personnel management and evaluating, punishing cadres, etc. in particular. Regulations must be worked out so as to govern the scope of power attached to particular posts and the seniority and material benefits of cadres at all levels (hence, also a need for a separate set of system and regulations governing wage reform) (Deng, 1984:316).

It has taken Chinese reformers seven years to iron out the problem definition and propose a solution to make good the personnel management system. Put it differently, it has taken Chinese reformers seven years to reach a consensus of the extent to which the scope of a cadre personnel management system can be reformed and to legitimise the decision to implement a state civil service. As hegemonic leaders as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping thought, the only way to establish legitimacy remains the transfer of their personal preference into a collective decision.

A major collective approval is the formulation of a document. The process of formulating a document, such as in the case of the "Provisional Regulations of State Civil Servants," drafted since 1985, becomes a process of politically legitimizing personal preferences.4 The idea of "documentary politics" suggests literally that the central documents convey information, working like the nervous system that links all political bodies together. The documents also provide the necessary ideological, legitimacy, linking abstract ideology to daily politics. As Wu Guoguang elaborates, the formulation of a document seeks to combine the process of consensus and legitimacy (Wu, 1995:26-27).

On September 13, 1986, when Deng attended the work reporting session of the Central Finance and Economic Leading Group, he agreed to assign Zhao Ziang the new task of organizing the research work and the subsequent design of the political reform for consideration and approval at the 13th national Party Congress scheduled for late 1987. …

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