Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

Factional Pull: Measuring the "Tuanpai Effect" on Elite Formation from 1992 to 2012

Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

Factional Pull: Measuring the "Tuanpai Effect" on Elite Formation from 1992 to 2012

Article excerpt

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1. Introduction

Factionalism is perhaps the most iconic element defining Chinese Elite studies since its debut back in the early to mid-1970s (Nathan, 1973; Tsou, 1976). Countless studies have since tried to assess the role of factions in Chinese politics using both qualitative and quantitative methods (Bo, 2007b; 2010; Choi, 2012; Fewsmith, 2013; Huang, 2010; Huang, 2000; Kou, 2010; Lam, 2007; 2010; 2015; Li, 2013; Miller, 2011; 2013; Shih et al., 2012; Wang, 2006), be it from a "winner-takes-all" (Tsou, 1976) or a "balancing" approach (Nathan, 1973; Bo, 2007a; 2009).1 Criticisms have also been raised regarding this notion and its usage as an independent variable to analyze Elite formation (Breslin, 2008; Zeng, 2013). More studies have since started to emphasis leadership institutionalisation (Kou, 2010; Zeng, 2013; 2014). However, some like Fewsmith (2013) and Shirk (2002) question this assumption. Even if we can observe an on-going standardization, factions will remain of importance for the foreseeable future in Chinese communist Elite formation.

Our inquiry focuses on one of the main forces currently active on the Chinese political landscape: the Chinese Communist Youth League [CCYL] (Zhongguo Gongchanzhuyi qingniantuan, ...).2 Structured around a Party mass organisation totalling around 90 million members back in 2014 (People's Daily, 2014), the tuanpai (??) "recruitment channel" or faction has produced 38 of the 399 new Central Committee members since 1992,3 out of which seven have then become Politburo members. Considering its non-negligible importance in terms of top Elite formation during the last two decades, the objective of the article is to attentively measure how the tuanpai variable operates (e.g. how does it influence career and promotion patterns? Where does it lead?, etc.).

I posit that the Gongqingtuan - insofar as it is a promotion channel - is an intermediate variable that is likely to be associated with some other core determinants pivotal for Politburo membership, which includes for example holding provincial chief positions (Bo, 2007; 2009; Li, 2005). The latter is also likely to allow for continuously faster promotion thus making its member more "promotable" than non-tuanpai individuals. However, this accelerated career track, all things being equal, does not exonerate one from having to go through a certain "path" in order to be promoted.

In turn, we expect these individuals to be better positioned and promoted faster than their non-tuanpai counterparts and to exhibit a certain ability to "sprint", even just a bit faster than other Cadres, thus impacting their career path and role in the Party-State apparatus.

Therefore, one of the main objectives of this article is to measure the influence - through statistical analysis - of the tuanpai variable on promotion patterns and to see how and when the latter becomes relevant for top promotions (i.e. where and how far can each selected indicator can take an individual to?). This research attempts to do so by comparing career patterns of tuanpai and non-tuanpai individuals in order to see how and when, by examining samples from 1992 to 2012, each of the defined tuanpai variables take "traction" (i.e. when during a Cadres' career the selected position plays a role).

As such, the main contribution of this article lie in its reassessment of the tuanpai variable's influence on Elite formation. It is important to note, this article proceeds from a top-down approach and focuses on trends and shared characteristics instead of focusing on each individual's account. This work, which remains exploratory in nature, encompasses a limited number of variables commonly found in the Chinese Elite literature while leaving some (e.g. impact of economic performance [Landry, 2003; Li and Zhou, 2005] and education [Li and Whyte, 1990] on promotion) aside for the time being.

2. Faction or Structure: a Brief Look Back at the Chinese Communist Youth League

Founded in 1925, the Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL) focused on student recruitment and on expending teachings of Marxism-Leninism to workers, peasants and students in order, at first, to mobilize them for the revolutionary effort. …

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