Party adaptation, elite training, and political selection in reform-era China
- How and why have seemingly outdated political organizations of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) persisted through China's past three decades of economic liberalization and social transition? In answering this question, I focus on the CCP's nationwide system of political training academies, or party schools, to piece together the story of these schools' role within the party apparatus and subsequent adaptation to changed incentives and circumstances. By investigating the logic of party organization and examining sub-party actors, this dissertation seeks to address broader questions regarding how ruling parties in authoritarian regimes are able to generate incentives for both institutional continuity and adaptation. During market reforms, CCP leadership has invested in reviving and updating party organizations of bureaucratic management. In the case of the party school system, party authorities have sought to adapt these core political organizations to a market context not by insulating them from market forces, but by linking organizational survival to market savvy. Central party authorities have induced adaptation by opening party schools to local and national market forces. This study thus uncovers a market-based path by which organizations within a Leninist party persist through -- and even thrive on -- economic transformation. I draw on organizational theories of competition and redundancy to explain the logic of these developments -- and resultant "party entrepreneurialism". Two sets of findings emerge from my research. First, the party school system in China continues to be an important site of political control over individual bureaucrats. My analysis of survey and career history data reveals that party school enrollment increases the likelihood of attaining a higher administrative rank and more rapid promotion up the career ladder. In the principal-agent relationships which suffuse China's hierarchically organized political system, the party must solve the problem of how to select bureaucratic agents at all levels of the system. This selection problem comes prior to the monitoring of agents and is particularly salient in the highly competitive bureaucracy of the Chinese party-state. By employing a matching method on large-N survey data and analyzing an original dataset of the career histories of central-level officials, I find that party school training constitutes a pipeline to high office. Second, party schools have fulfilled this selection function while responding to the demands of multiple markets. These include the local and national markets for goods and services opened under the reforms of the past thirty years and a training market created by central party authorities. Party authorities have harnessed market forces in order to generate incentives for traditionally closed party schools to turn outward for income, innovative training content, and new partners. Content analysis of an original dataset of Central Party School training syllabi from 1985 to 2007 reveals the extent of change in party school training content. Findings from field visits to the party schools of two provinces, one Special Economic Zone, and the Central Party School in Beijing uncovers the means by which these organizational actors have leveraged the limited local autonomy granted to them and become highly entrepreneurial. One result has been an expansion in the diversity of educational and profit-making activities on party school campuses, developments that both complement and conflict with the core function of these schools as elite training grounds. These findings illustrate the balance that China's ruling party has sought to strike between encouraging organizational reform while maintaining preexisting institutional arrangements for managing political elites. The "party entrepreneurialism" that has developed in the party school system has implications for central-local relations in China as well as strategies of organizational adaptation within the CCP. Market opportunities embed party schools more deeply in local economies, and this has the potential to strengthen the ties between schools and local constituents -- at the risk of compromising school responsiveness to central dictates. At the same time, the marketization of cadre training has generated strong incentives for party schools to search actively for innovative solutions to challenges from party and non-party competitors. Over the past three decades of reform, party schools have proven to be nimble political and economic actors: school leaders have developed an entrepreneurial spirit, in the process retaining the relevance of their organizations within the party and profiting from the market-based turn that internal party reforms have taken.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Lee, Charlotte Ping
|Stanford University, Department of Political Science.
|Oi, Jean C. (Jean Chun)
|Oi, Jean C. (Jean Chun)
|Statement of responsibility
|Charlotte P. Lee.
|Submitted to the Department of Political Science.
|Ph. D. Stanford University 2010
- © 2010 by Charlotte Ping Lee
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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