Tag Archives: ccp

The Educated Elite and the Communist Party’s Future

“I have no faith in the Party,” Ms. Liu ((This name, and all the other names in this piece, have been changed. Although some of the people I spoke with were willing to speak on the record, I saw no reason to put their names on the internet for a piece that’s ultimately just anecdotal anyway.)) told me. “I don’t believe in anything in the history textbooks. It’s all lies.”

This would hardly be remarkable, except that Ms. Liu is herself a Party member, and has been for several years. She is, in point of fact, the Party’s future: young, extremely bright, well-educated (Ms. Liu attended one of China’s top three universities and is now pursuing graduate study there), and politically-inclined (she has studied international relations extensively). But while she had good things to say about Marx and Engels — “good ideas,” she put it — she expressed little love for the Party, at least as it currently exists. Nor does she have any nostalgia for the CCP’s past. When our discussion moved to history, the first thing she mentioned was that she was disgusted by how Mao and other CCP leaders had allowed themselves extra rations in Yan’an because they were leaders.

Why even bother joining the Party, then? “Most people [today] join the Party because it will give you an edge in your future career,” Liu told me. “Few” believe in the Party ideals; Liu said that among young people in elite circles, the few who spouted dogma were often mocked and ostracized. Liu herself was forced to join by her mother, who felt it would be good for her career. “My mother wrote the whole application for me,” she said.

When I spoke with other young Party members at top ten universities, I heard similar stories. Ms. Zhang ((again, not her real name)), also a graduate student at an elite Chinese university and a Party member for two years, was nonplussed when I asked her if she believed in the Party ideology. “Actually, I’ve never thought about that before,” she said.

Ms. Zhang has more faith in the Party than Ms. Liu, but perhaps only because she is more optimistic. She does have faith, she said, “because the Party will be full of younger members like us, well-educated and more open-minded…if they join the Party, I believe the Party will get better, and more democratic.”

Ms. Zhang said that her social circle was very similar to Ms. Liu’s. “Almost everyone in my classes [is a Party member],” she said, but “actually we don’t have any kind of special feeling towards the Party. We’re not like the old generation who had passion about it. For us, [joining the Party] is more like a tradition. It doesn’t really change who we are.”

Why are young people joining the Party? To build connections and help get jobs: everyone I spoke with agreed on this. “Or to flow with the tide,” Ms. Zhang added. What is the future of a political party whose members aren’t interested in its politics? What is the future of a country controlled by such a party?

Ms. Zhang, for one, was optimistic about the future. In forty years when her generation is controlling the Party, she said, “It will be much better. More democratic, for sure.” And while she doesn’t see national elections or anything that drastic happening too soon, she did tell me that “more and more people I know are joining other parties. [The people I know joining other parties are] around 30 to 40 years old […] I think this happens because [some] people are more concerned with their political rights,” she said, “or because their own choice matters a lot.”

Of course, if you want to work within the government in any real capacity, you still need to be a Party member. Liu and Zhang both expressed the hopes that their membership would help them find positions in government if they chose that route (neither has decided on a career as of yet).

“Why we joined the Party is not important,” Zhang told me. “What matters is what we do after this. And that “what” is not something we learned from the Party, it comes from the whole educational system and our social influences.”

Note: In addition to changing the names of the people I quoted, I have also in some instances altered their words slightly to correct for grammar mistakes (as parts of both interviews were conducted in English).

New on ChinaGeeks

  • ChinaGeeks Chinese has a new post called “中国性别选择流产是否该得到遏制?” which is a translation of some of the discussion that occurred here and on CHINAYOUREN about sex-selective abortions in China.
  • Our Twitter access seems to be fluctuating at the moment; as a result, we haven’t been able to announce all of our recent posts in a timely fashion. Apologies! We think we have auto-posting set up now, so going forward it shouldn’t be an issue (we hope!).

How Officials are Transferred and Promoted (Part I)

The following is the first part of our translation of Southern Weekend‘s very in-depth look into the way that government officials are moved around and what causes one official to be promoted over another one. It is not, perhaps, as “edgy” as some of the things we post here, but it’s an interesting behind-the-scenes look for those who are wondering how some of the current leaders got where they are.

As the original piece is quite long and our time rather limited, we’ll have to break the piece up into several parts. Below is the first:

How Officials are Transferred and Promoted: A Beijing Case Study

How does an official go from a local government worker to a provincial cadre? What are the crucial reasons for this elevation? What aspects are most important? What kind of officials can most easily be groomed for elevation? What are the strengths and weaknesses of “experienced” officials vs. “specialist” officials? What are the similarities and differences in the paths of elevation for officials who work within government offices vs. members of a local government?

Southern Weekend will attempt to outline the pattern of advancement for Beijing-region officials, and then, using this as a representative sample for local officials in other cities as well, show what this reflects about the standards for the promotion and transfer of officials nationwide.

Beijing is presently engaged in the most large-scale election of departmental and local officials in its history. Over two hundred posts are at stake. What’s especially notable is that three hundred people are competing for one of them: the deputy director of the development and reform committee.

In the last four months, Beijing has appointed and dismissed nearly four hundred officials, the largest restructuring of Beijing government personnel in the last two years. In less than half a year, nearly a thousand officials in Beijing’s political circles have heard the good or bad news [that they’re being removed or transferred/promoted].

“The personnel adjustment and large-scale elections reflect the actual demands the capital has for the development and transformation of government officialdom,” said Beijing MPC School professor Zhang Qin, who has been training and connecting with Beijing officials for more than thirty years. Behind the dazzle of the movement of officials lies a longstanding doubt: what rules are there that govern the transfer and promotion of Chinese officials?

[…] ((This paragraph has been omitted because it is nearly identical to the first paragraph of the introduction, italicized at the beginning of this translation.))

A Southern Weekend reporter has investigated and analyzed the credentials of nearly 400 Beijing officials, interviewed longtime officials [for information on] quality and ability, and paid close attention to MPC School experts on the rules that govern advancement. Southern Weekend will attempt to outline the pattern of advancement for Beijing-region officials, and then, using this as a representative sample for local officials in other cities as well, show what this reflects about the standards for the promotion and transfer of officials nationwide.

First: What kind of officials are considered best?

Beijing MPC School professor Shan Aihong has been paying attention to this issue for a long time. In her opinion, the advancement of officials is mostly controlled by organizational factors (organization department cadres’ training mechanisms and cadre policies), social contexts (for example, the demands placed on officials were different during the Cultural Revolution vs. during the Reforms and Opening Up period), and three more personal factors: morality, ability, and age. “In all elections before this, the deputy director position was restricted to those 45 [or younger], but this year the requirement has been relaxed to 48. Regardless, though, [age] is an important condition.”

Zhang Qin said: “From the C.V.s of officials we can see that a Beijing official in at the department level [both in the municipal government or the county-level Party administration ((Not being an expert in the way Chinese internal politics work, it is difficult to translate these positions accurately. Any help with more precise translations would be appreciated.)) ] is around 45 years old, and the average time it takes to reach this level from the position of a common government employee is a little over 25 years.”

In truth, within this twenty-five year period, most outstanding department officials are able to accomplish the necessary leaps at each stage of the process — for example, they strive to move from a vice-director [of an office] position to a director position in a reduced period of time.

According to the rules for the appointment of cadres, moving from a general government employee to a vice-director [of an office] position should take around 12 years. Mr. Shan said that after this there was a divide — whether or not one could go from a vice-director position to a director position in a shortened period of time is extremely crucial, because this often suggests whether or not an official is capable of ensuring that their age isn’t beyond the cutoff for future advancement. In general, if an official can go from vice-director to director of an office within 3-4 years, then they have more time to be advanced to a vice- or director position at the departmental level. If advancement to director at the office level takes too long, then officials may encounter an “age bottleneck” when trying to advance to the next level.

Obviously, within the current system of “gradual promotion”, “running in short steps” is the only way to advance to high-level positions. From public data, Southern Weekend has learned that the current CPC Secretary in Jilin province, new political star Sun Zhengcai, came to the forefront by “running in short steps” in Beijing. It took him only fifteen years to go from a vice-department head at the Beijing Agricultural Academy of Science to vice-[government] Department head (a member and secretary-general of the Beijing CPC standing committee), moving up seven levels in rank.

Obviously, most Beijing officials will need a bit more patience for their political careers.

But the above-mentioned experts’ research has shown that whether an official’s career will progress smoothly or not can be judged by looking at a few initial standards. For example, starting work early and entering the Party early can be advantageous conditions for future ascension in the ranks. Among the C.V.s of officials that we researched, most of those whose official careers progressed smoothly had already held jobs by the age of twenty, and the time they had been in the Party was comparatively long. And in the early stages, the earlier officials were able to advance to high positions at a young age, the more they were able to separate themselves from others in their positions in the future, using their ages to their advantage and creating positive momentum propelling them into the “running in short steps” fast lane.

Additionally, sufficient education is also necessary. Shan Aihong said, “Compared to ten years ago, the level of intellect and academic records among Beijing officials have risen substantially. Whether they had it already or earned it after becoming an official, officials with Masters degrees or higher hold one half of Beijing municipal department and office-level posts, and among them there is a corresponding group that holds doctorate degrees.

Part II of our translation of this article coming soon!

In Defense of the Western Media in Tibet

At the risk of boring everyone and getting this website swept under the Great Firewall, we’ll add a few short thoughts about Tibet.

As the CCP keeps a lockdown on Tibet, information is scarce and hard to come by, even more than usual. There’s a certain sore spot on China’s part against the Western media for its coverage of Tibet. A China Daily article shortly after the riots last year quotes a Chinese netizen railing against Western media outlets, saying “To tarnish China’s image, the West is doing whatever they can, no mater how mean and vicious.”

On the other hand, the Chinese people aren’t the only ones that can have hurt feelings. That netizen’s words reflect the utter contempt that the Chinese government has for the Western media’s “ignorance and prejudice.”

If the Chinese government’s goal is to offend the Western media, they’ve accomplished their mission. Even ostensibly professional organizations like Time are letting their feelings show. A recent article offers a glimpse into their wounded sense of journalistic self. The overall tone of the article is that of someone both angry and frustrated at the government, on a personal and professional level.

And who can blame them? A journalists’ job is to report things, and the CCP doesn’t make friends with them by not letting them do their job. This is not meant to excuse biased reporting (which certainly exists) but to point out that in some ways the media has no choice. They can either pack up their backs and go home or take their facts from the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala. From a personal standpoint it’s easy to see what they’ll choose.

This leads to another problem: the tendency to only include the official Chinese government statements on Tibet and the official Tibetan government-in-exile statements. There’s no room for middle ground because the middle ground is often difficult for reporters to get to.

Take the following NYT excerpt that quotes Xinhua and Dharamsala in the same breath:

“Last March.…At least 19 people were killed in ethnic rioting in Lhasa, most of them Han civilians, according to Xinhua….In the ensuing crackdown, 220 Tibetans were killed….according to the Tibetan government in exile, which is based in Dharamsala, India.”

The situation now almost forces Western media to get the facts wrong, by forcing them to choose between one set of propaganda and the other. It just so happens that Dharamsala has a better PR campaign and so their propaganda wins out.

The Time article ends with a certain stab at the Chinese government. Written during the pre-Olympic media blackout in Tibet, the article says that only when the government opens Tibet up for reporting will Western media “be able to say — without bias — just what has been going on behind closed doors.”

Next time the Chinese government whines about the unfairness of the Western press, resist the temptation to feel a bit sorry for them and remember who started this mess. No one should blame the Western media for being outraged at the CCP expecting them to play along with their propaganda games.

Lessons on How to Love China

Gao Zhisheng is a Chinese firebrand lawyer-turned human rights activist. He’s taken up the cross for cases ranging from underground Christian sects to democracy activists, displaced homeowners and more. Gao’s opponent in and out of court has traditionally been one face or another of the CCP, and he’s been a thorn in the Party’s side for years. Himself an ex-member of the Party and former PLA soldier, Gao says the day he tore up his Party membership card was the proudest day of his life.

A cursory look at some of Gao’s statements gives an insight into just exactly what he is all about. In an open letter to the U.S. Congress in 2007, Gao declared:

“The only law that the communist regime treat with any seriousness is ‘the constitutional law ensures the permanent reign of the Chinese Communist Party in China.’”

Gao is no stranger to run-ins with the law. He was imprisoned and tortured for several months, and was finally coerced into admitting to “inciting subversion” by appealing to top leaders on behalf of a certain banned religious organization. Now he’s facing the same plight: Gao went missing from his Shaaxi home in early February 2009 and it is assumed that he’s been taken into custody by Chinese authorities.

Now it’s not just Gao Zhisheng that’s gone, but his wife and children as well. His family had been under house arrest and Gao’s 15 year-old daughter unable to attend school, spurring them to pay human traffickers a small fortune to carry them overland to Bangkok in January of this year. From there they flew to the United States, where they are currently seeking asylum.

Gao Zhisheng is neither the first nor last lawyer of his breed in China, but he is perhaps one of the bolder and, some might say, reckless human rights activists on the mainland today. Himself a victim of torture and imprisonment in the past, Gao understood well the consequences of his actions, once stating that “you cannot be a rights lawyer in this country without becoming a rights case yourself.”

Western observers of China should always be careful not to commit the sin of allowing our own prejudices and preconceptions to color our view of events that are entirely domestically Chinese. It’s instinctual for us to paint Gao Zhisheng as a flawless knight in shining armor.

A debate could be had over whether his particular brand of rights activism is preferable to more subtle approach. Zhang Sizhi, another lawyer known for advocating the rule of law in China, has argued that “If you go too far, you will only hurt the chances of legal reform, as well as the interests of your client.” Gao clearly understood the likely consequences of his actions for him and his family: he once ominously noted that he is “not sure how much time [he has] left” to carry out his activism.

Regardless of whether Gao’s career exhibited courageous daring or dangerously unsound judgment (which are certainly not mutually exclusive qualities), Gao Zhisheng’s experience is a lesson for any patriotic Chinese with an idealistic streak: you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Progressive reform has consequences for individuals. Period.

Anyone that studies, reads, and writes about China can’t help but have an emotional reaction to Gao’s story in general and his family’s tragedy in particular. Foreign China observers, in general, are rooting for China: the rule of law and human rights are what we want to see. People that aren’t interested in those things tend to not stick around very long.

The jingoistic climate of 2008 is settling down: Carrefour protests are over and the Olympics weren’t thwarted by a certain wolf in sheep’s clothing after all. 2009 has had a few rough patches so far but it’s not unsalvageable. With any luck, people like Gao Zhisheng can teach other Chinese what it means to love China.

UPDATE: On another, related note, articles like this bug me. The heading mentions that Gao’s wife “defected” to America, which has very specific implications. Nothing in the body seems to suggest that it was anything resembling a change in political allegience, which leads me to believe that someone thought that word looked a bit more sexy so decided to throw it in without thinking about what it meant.