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Public Nomination and Direct Election: A Mechanism for Recruitment of Party Elites to Adapt the Party-State System

 


Abstract


 


This research takes the case of ‘Public Nomination and Direct Election’ (PNDE) (公推直选), currently being rolled out in the People's Republic of China (PRC), to explain the function of elections in China. We believe that the function of elections in China is not to elect the leaders with the most public support through sufficient competition and participation, but instead merely to provide a form of information accumulation which can be presented to the upper Party leadership for consideration when recruiting cadres. The aim of the implementation of this election system is to increase the governing ability of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), thus sustaining the survival of the party-state system.


Keywords: Public Nomination and Direct Election, two-round election system, CCP Central Committee member, Party supervision of cadres, adaptation


Introduction


In recent years, numerous new regulations have emerged in the CCP’s political operations. Many scholars believe that this demonstrates the institutionalisation of the CCP’s political system.[1] A notable example of such regulations is the mechanisms for recruiting the political elite. For instance, many new mechanisms were put in place during the process of selection of CCP Central Committee members (中央委员) at the Seventeenth National Congress of the CCP. Essentially, the PRC used a method of election to carry out the selection of the Party political elite. But what role does such an election system play in the CCP’s political system as a whole? Furthermore, what differences are there between the CCP’s method and concepts of election in Western countries? This research will seek to address these questions.


The significance that elections can play in terms of regime change is huge. Related literature focuses on levels of participation and competition to determine whether an election is truly functional.[2] In non-democratic countries, though elections may occur, they are often regarded as ‘limited elections’, in which the ruling party employs certain methods to restrict competition or participation to ensure continued power.[3] There are even some single-candidate elections, the purpose of which is simply an attempt to establish legitimacy of rule.[4] Related literature agrees on the same fundamental assumption: that the purpose of elections should be to facilitate regime change. Non-democratic elections are, by this definition, meaningless.


        However, this research posits that the CCP’s definition of elections is intrinsically different from that of the West. From the perspective of Chinese culture, the term ‘xuanju’ (translated as ‘elections’) has historically referred more closely to ‘selection’ than ‘election’,[5] and this is now reflected in the CCP’s system reform. The CCP hopes that the masses will convey their opinion,[6] including which cadre is the most suitable for a post. However, the use of these public opinions will be limited to providing a form of reference for the government when cadres are recruited.


        He Baogang (何包钢) and Stig Thøgersen use the term ‘consultative authoritarianism’ to refer to this manner of using public opinions to help the ruling system. They believe that soliciting public opinions can be helpful to the CCP regime without weakening the party rule.[7] To avoid selection of poor quality cadres, the upper echelons of the Party can better comprehend the abilities, integrity and reputation of each candidate by consulting the results of election by the masses before making selection decisions. That is to say, in the CCP system, elections are simply a form of accumulating information, which can be presented to the upper levels of the Party for consideration when recruiting and replacing cadres.


        This research will discuss this point in more depth by referring to the example of the CCP’s mechanism of Public Nomination and Direct Election (PNDE) to explain the function of elections within the CCP’s political system. PNDE is perhaps the CCP’s most important election system to date. Current literature tends to discuss the regional level of the PNDE operations, with particular reference to the selection of many township party secretaries.[8]However, this research will instead discuss the use of PNDE at the central level. Though PNDE may be referred to differently at a central or regional level, [9] the operational logic of the system remains the same.


        We consider PNDE to be a two-round election system designed to choose candidates. Public Nomination is the first round, and Direct Election the second. Both the regional and central levels employ this two-round system. The Party authorities first generates a name list of potential candidates, which is reduced through the two rounds of elections by ‘the masses’. Those candidates still remaining after the two rounds tend to be cadres of a higher ability or greater integrity. Finally, the party will make the final selection from this list. Aside from enabling the maintenance of the principle of Party supervision of cadres, this system allows the CCP to appoint the most outstanding cadres to important posts, thus strengthening the regime’s rule.The purpose behind the creation of the PNDE method is to sustain the perpetuity of the CCP’s governing system: it is an adaptive mechanism designed to safeguard the CCP regime.


        As the CCP’s political terminology is characteristically vague and ambiguous, this research will firstly provide a clear conceptual definition of PNDE for purposes of clarification. Secondly, through examination of the election process at the Seventeenth National Congress of the CCP, the procedural implementation of the PNDE mechanism will be discussed. [10] Finally, this research will debate the advantages and disadvantages of PNDE, and the significance of the mechanism for the CCP regime.               


History and Concept                                               


The CCP’s system for appointing cadres has undergone evolution: nowadays, PNDE and selection by the Party have become the two major elements of the recruitment system. This study will look back over the historical development of the CCP recruitment system and clarify important related concepts.

 


                        A Historical Perspective of CCP’s Recruitment System


        At different points in time, the CCP has treated the appointment of cadres in different ways. Before the establishment of government, it was necessary to strengthen the efficiency and ability of the Party organisation. As a result, the Party would often nominate one candidate for each post, and allow the masses to symbolically vote in agreement. The first trace of competition between elites for the most important positions came around 1953. At this time, Gao Gang (高岗) attempted to lobby Party elites in the hope of contesting Liu Shaoqi (少奇) and Zhou Enlai (周恩来)’s spots as Party Vice President and Prime Minister. But Mao Zedong did not approve of Gao Gang’s methods, and once Gao had his position stripped, nobody dared attempt any kind of competition again.[11]


        Following the stabilisation of the political regime, the first attempt to use competitive elections to select Central Committee candidates appeared at the CCP’s Eighth National Congress in 1956.  Under the direction of Chen Yun (陈云) and Deng Xiaoping (邓小平), the CCP designed a form of ‘pre-selection’ (预选), which can be considered the predecessor of PNDE. This involved each region’s delegation members (the masses) generating the name list of candidates and submitting it to the Politburo, which then decidedupon the formal name list of 170cadres for selection.[12]This mechanism of pre-selection much resembles today’s Public Nomination. However, at the Eight National Congress, there was nothing equivalent to Direct Election: the masses were limited to casting votes of approval on the 170 chosen candidates.  


Unfortunately, this pre-selection system had no opportunity to develop further, coming to an end with the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution. After 1956, the CCP had begun to move towards a consolidation of absolute power, and all competitive election mechanisms were halted. The push for new election reforms only began after the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution. According to one scholar at the Party School, Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦) implemented competitive elections to decide the Party committee members of the Central Party School in 1977. This involved the Party first putting forward a name list of potential candidates, followed by elections by all the School’s Party members.[13]


Electoral system reforms were subsequently extended to a higher level. During the election of Central Committee members at the Thirteenth National Congress, aside from imitating the system of the Eight National Congress – akin to Public Nomination – the CCP also introduced a form of Direct Election, in which the masses were allowed to carry out an election based on the formal candidate list. The mechanism used at the Thirteenth National Congress became the prototype for CCP cadre recruitment today.


 

Interpretation of ‘PNDE’: a two-round candidate election system


         From the historical development of election reform, it can be seen that, on the one hand, the CCP aims to maintain full control over cadre recruitment, but on the other hand, it is hoped that the best cadres can be appointed. This intertwining logic has led to the creation of a new method of recruitment in the CCP. He Baogang believes that the CCP recruitment system intends to mix the two procedures of electionand selection;[14] the former to bestow the right of free election of candidates on the masses, the latter to guarantee the Party’s power over the appointment of cadres.


PNDE embodies just such a system, and can be referred to as a ‘two-round candidate election system’. In practice, under Public Nomination, the masses make nominations based on a list of candidates drafted by the Party.[15] Those candidates receiving the highest number of nominations are put forward to the next stage of competitive election. As this effectively involves counting votes, it can be considered a form of election. Direct Election, in which the masses implement elections based on the candidate name list, is of course a form of election too. The CCP gradually reduces the candidate name list based on the results of two rounds of voting by the masses. Finally, the Party makes the ultimate selection choices – this power is vested in the Party alone, and the so-called masses are no longer involved.[16]The CCP is therefore implementing cadre recruitment reforms whilst retaining the notion of selection. PNDE – a two-round election by the masses – is merely a complementary initiative to allow the Party to select the most high-quality candidates. The process of CCP recruitment can be divided into six stages, as seen in Figure 1 below.(因版面格式問題,所以無法刊登圖表類,在此部落格編輯部致上歉意)


There are two key aspects of the PNDE process which must be clarified. Firstly, which posts are open to election? Western discussions of public election invariably refer to the direct election of government officials by citizens. However, a key distinction to Western elections is that the mechanism of PNDE only features at the stage of electing candidates.  


The second issue,perhaps even more important, is concerned with who carries out the election. This touches on the exact definition of ‘the masses’. In the actual execution of this process, although it appears that the CCP has drastically enhanced standards of political participation, it is in fact only cadres who make up the so-called ‘masses’ and are able to put forward names and vote. According to the 12th article of the ‘Regulations for Selection and Appointment of Party Cadre Leadership’ (党政领导干部选拔任用工作条例), those who may participate in this democratic nomination are limited to the same or lower level serving Party cadres.[1]


 A journalist posed the following important question to Jiang Xianji (蒋先继), the deputy director of the Organisation Department of the Sichuan Provincial Party Committee (四川省委组织部): “The right to nomination is given to the masses, but who exactly are the masses? How do the ordinary people gain and exercise the right to nominate?” Jiang responded:


The term ‘the masses’ refers to the direct participants in the process of democratic nomination as outlined in the ‘Regulations for Selection and Appointment of Party Cadre Leadership’ (干部选拔任用条例). In carrying out this procedure, we are making the next step in development and expansion.[2]


In actual fact, this election system is simply a mechanism of cadres choosing cadres. The use of the term ‘masses’  to refer to the participants of the democratic nominations presumably stems from the historically established vocabulary of the CCP, in which the concept of ‘Mass Line’(群众路线) has special connotations. But the ambiguity of this term also causes misunderstanding for outsiders. It must be emphasised that if the term ‘the masses’ is taken to mean the ordinary people, this is a grave misconception.


In this circumstance, only the cadres (or Party members) can gain the status of the masses. Taking this into consideration, it is clear that this revolutionary election system in the PRC does not constitute deference to pluralised public opinion, but instead increases the support of the so-called masses for the Party, thus enhancing legitimacy of rule.[3] The actual scope of the masses must be strictly managed and controlled. When compared with the Western political system of granting extensive rights of election to all citizens, which creates a mechanism of pluralised public determination, the PRC election system is seen to be fundamentally different.


PNDE by the masses and selection by the Party make up the two core parts of the recruitment system. This kind of system, by way of nomination by the masses, allows the Party to possess sufficient information when making a decision on cadre selection, thereby ensuring that the candidates with the best integrity and ability come to the forefront. The revolutionary aspect of the method is merely that it grants the ‘right of suggestion’. However, it does not offer the ‘right of appointment’ to decide cadre recruitment. The following section will draw on the example of the Seventeenth National Congress of the CCP to explain the procedure and the advantages and disadvantages of the PNDE mechanism.


 


The first round of elections: Public Nomination


A few key points can be deduced from analysis of the Public Nomination for CCP Central Committee membership. Firstly, the operation of Public Nomination is the responsibility of Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) and the Politburo. Secondly, it is the Politburo who determines the initial name list upon which the Public Nomination is based. Thirdly, in order to better understand the perceived integrity and ability of the potential cadres on the initial name list, the Central Committee assigns investigative teams to interview the masses, [4] who additionally fill in a ‘Cadre Leadership Public Opinion Questionnaire’, which assigns points of approval to the potential candidates. Fourthly, the investigative teams convey the results of which of the cadres accumulated the most points of approval to the Politburo, who refer to this information when settling on the official preliminary candidate name list. Finally, as the ‘Cadre Leadership Public Opinion Questionnaire’ involves accumulating points, and also takes into consideration the collective opinion of the masses, it can be characterised as a round of elections.


The Public Nomination of Central Committee membership is co-ordinated by Hu Jintao and the leaders of the Politburo. Since Deng Xiaoping’s era, selection has been carried out only by the highest leadership. At the Thirteenth National Congress of the CCP, selection was planned by Bo Yibo (薄一波), but he reported to the Politburo Standing Committee to gain Deng’s authorisation.[5] Command over the process of selection at the Seventeenth National Congress was firmly in Hu Jintao’s hands. Whilst convening a Politburo meeting in June 2006, Hu began the implementation of the selection process.[6] The first task was to determine the initial name list to be contested in the round of Public Nomination.


After the initial name list has been decided, the investigative teams carry out a further investigation into those on the name list via information supplied by the masses.[7] As reported, “The Central Committee first assigned close to 100 ministerial and provincial cadres to the role of investigative team director, then transferred roughly 1000 cadres to work in the investigative teams.”[8] However, the provincial cadres assigned to team director roles retain other extensive working responsibilities and may not be able to devote much time to investigative work. Analyses of the selection process during the Thirteenth National Congress reveal that team directors assigned specific investigative tasks to their secretaries.[9] From this evidence, it could therefore be conjectured that the investigative teams of the Seventeenth National Congress would also be directed by provincial and ministerial-level cadres and their respective secretaries. Secretaries would be charged with specific investigative tasks, but the results of the investigations would be reported by the team directors themselves.


The specific procedure of the investigation involves the teams distributing approval questionnaires to be filled in by the masses, adding up the accumulated points of approval a candidate receives, and finally, according to these scores, formulating an ordered list of approval. The investigative teams would distribute the ‘Cadre Leadership Public Opinion Questionnaire’ to the masses, in order to work out the candidates’ rank of approval. In this sense, it can be confirmed that the procedure of Public Nomination by the masses can indeed be seen as the ‘first round of elections’. The investigative teams carry out surveys via a questionnaire method, allowing the masses to put forward their appraisal of the name list, and the accumulated scores provided by the masses are used to calculate the top-ranked cadres. That is to say, as the outcome of Public Nomination is dictated by the accumulated opinion of the voters, it constitutes a round of elections.


The investigative teams present the results of their examination into the initial name list to the Politburo, which then formulates the formal name list of preliminary candidates for Central Committee membership.The next stage in the procedure is Direct Election, which will decide the finalised list of candidates. Direct Election is an even more sensitive system, because it is a more formal procedure. As it involves a form of multi-candidate election,[10] it may result in the candidates originally favoured by the Central Committee failing to be elected. This would cause difficulties in high-level personnel arrangements and may affect political stability. To avoid such a predicament, the CCP employs certain methods during the process of Direct Election to ensure that the Central Committee’s favoured candidates are elected. These methods are discussed in further detail in the following section.

 

The second round of elections: Direct Election


After the process of Public Nomination is complete, the formal candidates are selected through ‘Direct Election’ by the masses. From a certain perspective, it can be seen as the second stage in a process of selection by elimination, or ‘the second round of elections’ by the masses. In this second round of voting, the number of voters is drastically reduced. At the Seventeenth National Congress, the first round of elections, Public Nomination, involved masses numbering roughly 35,000 people, but in the second round, Direct Election, the masses were made up of only 2200 people. In the second round of elections of 18th October 2007, 2200 Party representatives carried out Direct Election of the candidates for Central Committee membership.[11] Direct Election is implemented through a method of multi-candidate election.


However, the election may have an impact on the stability of the CCP’s personnel structure. At the Thirteenth National Congress, the percentage of failed candidates was roughly 5%. At the Sixteenth National Congress, the percentage was maintained at 5.1%, but at the Seventeenth National Congress, the percentage was more than 8%.[12] The increased extent of this margin may have caused difficulty for the CCP’s selection of Party elites. At the Thirteenth National Congress, when the CCPcarried out multi-candidate elections for Central Committee membership, some Party elites failed to be elected.


The former director of the Propaganda Departmentof the Central Committee (中央宣传部), Deng Liqun (邓力群), on the waiting list for Central Politburo Committee membership, was not selected to be a Central Committee member. Chongqing Party Secretary Xiao Yang (肖秧), originally expected to be amongst the Central Politburo’s next committee members at the Fourteenth National Congress, was also eliminated during the round of competitive elections. As important cadres are generally expected to also serve in the Central Committee, if a candidate fails to be selected for membership, arrangements must be made for a new cadre to take over their post. In order that multi-candidate elections do not disturb the personnel structure, the CCP employs three different approaches to solve the issue.


The first approach is to release certain information before the multi-candidate elections are carried out. A common manner of doing this is to issue new appointments of officials for other posts. Party representatives would be aware that, according to custom, these newly appointed officials should also be members of the Central Committee, and would thus vote for them during the elections. Before the Seventeenth National Congress, five department chiefs were newly appointed: the Minister of Supervision Ma Wen (马馼); the Minister of State Security Geng Huichang (耿惠昌); the Minister of Personnel Yin Weimin (尹蔚民); the Minister of Finance Xie Xuren (谢旭人); and Zhang Qingwei (张庆伟), the Chairman of the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.


 The purpose behind such timely appointments is to ensure that when voting, Party representatives will effectively carry out the personnel appointments planned in advance by the central government.[13] It is assumed that under the understanding of ‘political correctness’ (政治正确), the Party representatives would not overlook the information released by the Central Committee, and would indeed vote the newly appointed cadres into the Central Committee, to avoid creating problems for the Party.


The second method consists of the Central Committee leadership lobbying the masses to be sure of their vote for a specific candidate. Two days before the Direct Election for Central Committee membership, Party representatives are tasked with ‘circling the candidates’ (圈选), which allows the National Congress Presidium to know in advance which candidates the representatives will choose. If the results reveal that the Party representatives will elect different candidates to those the central Party supports, the Presidium may begin lobbying the representatives, to prevent supported candidates from losing the election.[14] In addition, the Central Committee leadership may also lobby the Party representatives to discourage them from voting for certain candidates. Deng Liqun’s autobiography disclosed that before the Thirteenth National Congress, Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) sent lobbyists to Hubei, Liaoning, Shanghai, Guizhou and other places to discourage Party representatives from voting for Deng Liqun. Ultimately, he was not elected to Central Committee membership.[15]


The third method is the most crucial. The ratio of candidates to places is not released before the election, and after the election, the ratio is only released publicly after the figures have been adjusted. Though the Party Central Committee had decided before the Seventeenth National Congress to carry out a multi-candidate election, on the night before the Seventeenth National Congress, the ratio of candidatesto places was still not known. In response to a question posed by a L’Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporter at the Seventeenth National Congress press conference, Vice Director of the Organisation DepartmentOuyang Song (欧阳淞), publicly admitted that even he did not know the ratio. He stated:


With regard to the new election method for Central Committee membership, the Seventeenth National Congress is still deliberating on the matter. As the election method still has not completely taken shape, naturally there is no definite answer to questions regarding the candidates in the election, or the margin of failure. […] the current and future members of the Central Committee will implement a form of multi-candidate election; the margin of failure will be decided by the format of the election. The election format has not yet been adopted, so I don’t know the answer.[16]


This speech divulged an issue that the public had overlooked. Ouyang Song’s press conference was held on the 17th October 2007; at that point, then, even the Central Committee Organisation Department was unexpectedly still not sure of the exact margin of candidates that would fail. But on the 18th, the election would be carried out, and on the 20th the finalised list of candidates would be made public.


It is highly doubtful that the 8% margin of failed candidates could ever have been published before the elections. This figure was the result of discussions made during ‘closed negotiations’. The day before the vote, the Organisation Department was not clear on the margin of failed candidates, but the Party representatives carried out the vote the following day, and two days later, the margin of failure was published. It can be conjectured that the CCP decided on the margin of failure in accordance with necessity only after the Party representatives had posted their ballots.


  The purpose behind this method is to lower any risk to the personnel structure. For example, if the Party Central Committee released too high an expected margin of failure before the election took place, favoured candidates may fail to be elected, and a situation similar to those of Deng Liqun and Xiao Yang may occur again. However, according to procedure in democratic countries, by law, the quotas for election must be published before the election takes place, and the margin of failure will be decided based on this logic. The CCP’s election method of not releasing the candidate ratio before the voting takes place is vastly different to multi-candidate elections in democratic countries, and forfeits any real attribute of competitiveness.


The principle of ‘Party supervision of cadres’:


 the right of the upper Party authorities to appoint personnel


After the masses have completed the process of ‘Public Nomination’ and ‘Direct Election’, the finalised list of candidates is decided upon. Following this, the list is presented to the Presidium of the National Congress so that they may decide the margin of failure. This number is entirely decided in ‘closed negotiations’. At the Seventeenth National Congress, as the margin was not decided before this point, the final power of decision rested in the hands of the attendees of the meeting of the Presidium on the 20th October. The ‘final standing’ of the cadres is decided in this meeting and then published; the final margin will depend on how many of the candidates must be eliminated. This is a very sensitive task, particularly as a decisive cut (一刀切) must be made between failed and successful candidates. It may be that retired senior officials exercise their influence during this duty.


The Presidium of the Seventeenth National Congress contained a large number of retired ‘Old Comrades’ (老同志). The members of the Presidium Standing Committee, aside from serving and alternate members of the Sixteenth National Congress Politburo Standing Committee, also included retired members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Sixteenth National Congress and earlier national congresses. Jiang Zemin (江泽民), Zeng Qinghong (曾庆红), Li Peng (李鹏), Zhu Rongji (朱镕基), Wan Li (万里), Qiao Shi (乔石), and Song Ping (宋平) were all members of the Presidium Standing Committee.[17]


During negotiations over candidates, these ‘Old Comrades’ may hope to guarantee selection of their preferred trusted cadres. The Seventeenth National Congress Central Committee alternate member who received the lowest amount of votes was Jiang Zemin’s preferred cadre Jia Ting’an (贾廷安), the chief of the Central Military Commission Office.[18] They have a close and long-standing relationship;[19] during Jiang Zemin’s time in office in the 1980s, Jia Ting’an simultaneously served as the Director of the Ministry of Information Industry and personal secretary to Jiang Zemin. A similar situation occurred at the Sixteenth National Congress. The alternate member who gained the lowest number of votes was Central Security Bureau chief You Xigui (由喜贵). You Xigui was also in Jiang Zemin’s faction, and had for a long time taken charge of Jiang Zemin’s personal security protection.[20]   


 In situations such as that of Jia Ting’an and You Xigui, where preferred cadres rankings in the final stage of selections are among the lowest, it can be presumed that when making the final cut, members of the Presidium Standing Committee will still attempt to guarantee the success of their faction’s cadres. [21] For example, if a preferred cadre obtained the 90th position of a total of 100 candidates, it may be that the Party elders decide to cut the vote at 90 candidates, giving a 10% rate of failure. To ensure that Jia Ting’an and You Xigui would not lose the election despite their low rankings, the CCP set the rate of failure at 8% and 5% respectively at the Seventeenth and Sixteenth National Congress. Through consultation with the Party elders and top leaders, the CCP authorities can decide the margin of failed candidates by cutting the vote at the position of the lowest-ranking favoured candidate, thus placating all factions within the Party.


In the next stage of proceedings, on 21st October the finalised list of candidates for Central Committee membership was presented to the Party Congress for individual candidate election. The Party Congress members cast a vote of approval for each candidate. The only way a candidate can be eliminated at this stage is if their approval rating does not pass 50%.[22]This is a more ceremonial, symbolic process.


It is possible to re-construct the process of appointment to Central Committee membership, but due to a lack of related material, the picture painted by this research may not be entirely comprehensive. Most importantly, this research aims to convey that during the process of PNDE, every attempt is made to avoid any political unrest, by way of certain methods unknown in public. In academic circles, when consulting official PRC documents, it is not enough to simply skim the superficial meaning of the document. In order to uncover any hidden ‘stories’ in an official text, it is crucial to deeply explore the actual implementation of a given issue. In terms of research into high-level political personages in the PRC, these ‘stories’ may be of great academic value. 


Successes and Failures of the PNDE System


PNDE is an important mechanism currently being implemented in the CCP to recruit and appoint new political elites. This section will attempt to discuss some of the historical origins andevolutions of the system, and delve more deeply into the advantages and disadvantages of its design.  This issue will be approached from a more macroscopic perspective and the analysis will not just be limited to Central Committee membership selection.   


There are in fact several advantages to the application of PNDE to select and appoint personnel. Firstly, this system creates a long-term atmosphere of caution for cadres expecting promotion. As the process of nomination takes a long time, and the masses participating fairly numerous, one moment of carelessness from the cadres in terms of the five indices of appraisal (morality, ability, diligence, initiative, and integrity:德、能、勤、积、廉) can easily result in criticism. Xi Jinping (习近平)’s appointment to the role of Secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee was not just because of the recommendations of the Party elders. More importantly, when the Central Committee assigned people to Zhejiang Province (where Xi Jinping was posted at the time) to carry out ‘Public Nomination’ at a grassroots level, Xi Jinping earned the highest marks of approval, leading to the authorities’ decision to assign Xi Jinping to a governing role in Shanghai.[23]


Li Xiaopeng (李小鹏), who also hoped to gain Central Committee membership, enlisted the co-operation of his father Li Peng to pay visits to several provinces to rally up support. However, due to ecological damage sustained during his directed expansion of a hydro-electric plant, Li Xiaopeng received negative criticism and finally failed to be appointed to the Central Committee.[24] This method of long-term appraisal means that qualification for cadre selection no longer relies on invitation or elections of short-term competition, thus reducing the leeway for political manipulation by cadres.


In addition, the authority over the criteria for cadre appointment rests with central government. For example, in recent years the central government has stated that it will ‘take care to select cadres familiar with the fields of financial management, foreign economics and trade, fiscal administration and banking, law, urban planning management and information technology.’[25]The PNDE method of recruitment allows the CCP to adapt the criteria for nomination at any given time, and, through the information supplied by the masses, to select and appoint those cadres who match the CCP’s intentions. In other words, the central government can employ this mechanism of selecting cadres to fulfil the needs of national development, by guaranteeing that the cadres nominated by the masses have the talents required at the time. Maria Edin believes that this kind of system, which links standards of cadre appraisal to the needs of national development, is a typical pattern in countries in a developmental state.[26]


Finally, a direct comparison with Western election systems suggests that PNDE may be beneficial for stability during the process of governmental reform. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, introduced Western-style democratic elections to elect members of the People’s Congress. In this election, 13% of the Soviet Communist Party cadres contesting the elections failed to be elected, including around 30 high level cadres. Nikolai Ryzhkov, the former Chairman of the Soviet Union’s Council of Ministers, believes that this spelt the beginning of the Communist Party’s loss of political power. After this election, thelegitimacy of the one-party rule began to evaporate, and finally the regime was destroyed. [27]The experience of the Soviet Union has led the CCP to see defeat of one candidate in elections as a path to the destruction of the whole Party regime. [28]


The design of PNDE allows the CCP to control the entire election procedure. From this perspective, it can be predicted that at the Eighteenth National Congress, the CCP will not introduce Western-style elections. It is far more likely that the number of candidates will be increased in order to boost the level of competition. It is even possible that the system will be extended from two rounds to three, in order to facilitate the selection of the best candidates. [29] In whatever way PNDE develops, as the final selection power and decisions concerning the candidate name list will always rest with the Party, a repeat of the Soviet failure will not occur in China as a result.


However, there are certain criticisms of PNDE. Firstly, an important part of the system – the results of the nomination by the masses – is not immediately open to the public. The results of PNDE for Municipal Party Committee secretaries are all published, which raises the level of competition.[30] On the contrary, the results of PNDE at the level of central government are not made public, as the results of PNDE are only for the reference of those in central government departments. As this information is not made public, this kind of election system lacks competitive significance. Instead, its main function is merely to provide a source of information for the central government, in order to control the performance and criticism of subordinate cadres.


Secondly, the control of central government over the process of PNDE is stronger than that of the regional authorities. For example, the basic level of naming candidates includes joint nomination from the upper Party authorities and cadres. However, the right of nomination at the central government level is firmly in the top elite’s hands. For instance, the Public Nomination stage of the selection of Politburo members at the Seventeenth National Congress was planned by Xi Jinping and Li Yuanchao (李源潮).[31] Regional level Public Nominations usually involve the candidates presenting their political proposals, and the masses responsible for nomination are allowed to pose questions on the spot.[32]However, Public Nomination at central government level has no such measures in place at all.


Finally, one remaining fault of this system is that individuals harbouring resentments may use the process of Public Nomination to exact revenge. On the night before the Seventeenth National Congress, 61 year-old Ma Kai (马凯), the Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (国家发改委), was considered to be a popular candidate for Politburo membership due to his background in finance and economics and the high probability that he would be promoted to the position of Vice Premier of the State Council. But his name surprisingly did not appear on the final list of candidates for Politburo membership drawn up by central government.


The leaked results showed that Ma Kai received a low score in the stage of appraisal by the masses. As Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, during a large-scale process of examination and investigation, he offended regional authorities, provoking this collective response against him from regional officials.[33] It can be conjectured that those cadres who successfully become preliminary candidates through Public Nomination will be those most proficient in public relations; working achievements do not necessarily count for as much.


PNDE is a system still in the process of development. This system, when employed at the central government level, causes the CCP to face a raised level of risk, meaning that the control exercised over the system is particularly strict. Foreign media succinctly pointed out: “as the process of producing the candidate name list by democratic nomination remains under the control and guarantee of the Politburo Standing Committee, it can be seen that whilst promoting inner-Party democracy, the CCP has developed a method of reducing risk to the lowest possible level.”[34]On the whole, PNDE should not be seen as an independent system, but rather as a constituent link providing relevant information for the Party’s ‘closed negotiations’ on appointment of new personnel.


 


 Conclusion: Adaption of the CCP regime and cadre recruitment system


Though PNDE is a limited system, it is still valuable for discussion and exploration. In terms of CCP political operations, this system may become a new procedure for personnel selection and appointment. In the past, personnel recruitment was mainly under ‘Party Committee guidance (党委主导); the upper Party authorities selected cadres for future succession based on age, personal background, and abilities. PNDE, however, attaches importance to the function of the masses in judging the achievements and conduct of the cadres. PNDE will certainly not replace the model of ‘Party Committee guidance. The significance of the procedure is instead to use the information provided by the masses to better understand the conduct and ability of lower-level cadres.


The CCP is piloting in earnest the system of PNDE which can be seen on some levels as a ‘two-round election system’. However, this system is intrinsically different to election systems in Western countries. Firstly, the definition of the masses is strictly limited; only Party members and cadres are included in this identification. Secondly, the election only decides upon candidates. Finally, through the two-round election by the masses, the better candidates are identified stage by stage, and the upper Party authorities perform the final selection. In this sense, the election system in PRC merely carries the function of ‘information accumulation’. The aim of the system is not to elect the most publicly popular leaders through a process of sufficient competition and participation, but instead to increase the governing ability of the CCP by providing the upper Party authorities with a source of information to refer to when making personnel appointments, thus avoiding the selection of any corrupt or inept cadres.


The emerging system of PNDE was derived by the CCP regime to meet the needs of national development. Many academics believe that the CCP regime is a resilient political system.[35] The example of PNDE demonstrates that, through innovation, an election system that can adapt to the needs of the regime has gradually evolved. David L. Shambaugh believes that the CCP regime will come up with a balance of survival between adaptation and extinction.[36]


In fact, for the CCP system, PNDE is an adaptive mechanism which can be employed to simultaneously handle two important aspects of governance: recruiting talented personnel, and maintaining the one-party system. The current election system has its roots in the West, but the CCP has attempted to alter the inherent nature of elections, and has created a new logic: limiting elections to deciding on candidates, and providing information for the Party by way of the masses voting in a two-round election system, is beneficial for personnel appointment in the CCP. In sum, this system simply functions as an adaptive tool to ensure the continued existence of the CCP regime.






[1] Dangzheng lingdao ganbu xuanba renyong gongzuo tiaoli [Regulations for Selection and Appointment of the Party Cadre Leadership], in Zhonggong zhongyang zuzhibu yanjiu shi [PRC Central Organisation Department Research Office] (ed), Ganbu renshi zhidu gaige zhengce fagui wenjian xuanbian [Selected Cadre Personnel System Policy Reform Statute Documents] (Beijing: Dangjian Readers Press, 2007), p. 46.



[2] Jiang ‘qunzhong gongren’ yuanze luodao shichu yu shengwei zuzhibu fubuzhang Jiang Xianji duihua ganbu xuanba zhidu gaige [Applying the principle of Mass Acknowledgement (群众公认) to reality – Discussion of Cadre Selection System Reform with Provincial Committee Organisation Department Chairman Jiang Xianji], Sichuan Daily, 13/08/2004, Issue 6.


 



[3] Kevin J. O’Brien and Lianjiang Li, “Accommodating ‘Democracy’ in a One-Party State: Introducing Village Elections in China,” in Larry Diamond and Ramon H. Myers eds., Elections and Democracy in Greater China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 124.



[4] The masses number roughly 35,000 people, including cadres working at a provincial and ministerial level, as well as in the military and in state-owned enterprises.  



[5] Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiushi  [Party Literature Research Office of CCP’s Central Committee], Deng Xiaoping nianpu: 1975-1997 (xia) [Chronological Record of Deng Xiaoping: 1975-1997 Volume 2] (Beijing: Zhongyang Wenxian Press, 2004) p.1173.



[6] Xin yi jie zhonggong zhongyang weiyuanhui he zhonggong zhongyang jilu jiancha weiyuanhui dansheng ji [Record of the founding of a New Central Committee and PRC Central Regulatory Investigation Committee] (21/10/2007), Xinhua Net <http://big5.xinhuanet.com/gate/big5/news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2007-10/21/content_6918611.htm>



[7] During the process of ‘Public Nomination’ for Central Committee membership at the Seventeenth National Congress, the amount of masses participating was dramatically increased. The masses include cadres such as those from the provincial level, national central departments, central economic organisations, as well as from central industry and the military in Beijing. “Record of the founding of a New Central Committee and PRC Central Regulatory Investigation Committee,” Xinhua Net.



[8] [8] “Record of the founding of a New Central Committee and PRC Central Regulatory Investigation Committee,” Xinhua Net.



[9] Zhou Jiong, ‘Xiao nüzi’ ruhe buru zhengtan de [How the ‘young woman’ entered the political world]’, Southern Metropolis Daily, 19/03/2008, Issue A7.


 



[10] ‘Multi-candidate election’ in this research refers to an election where the number of candidates is more than the number of places available.



[11] Zhongwei houxuanren yuxuan mingdan zuo queding [Preliminary name list of candidates for Central Committee membership decided yesterday], Wen Wei Daily, 19/10/2007, Issue A6.



[12] Cha’e xuanju kuoda, zhangxian minzhu jinbu [Expansion of Multi-candidate Election: Prominent Democratic Progress], Wen Wei Daily, 22/10/2007, Issue A3.


 



[13]Interview, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences scholar, 16/7/2008.



[14]Interview, Chinese regional Party journal journalist, 28/11/2010.



[15] Deng Liqun, Shi’er ge chunqiu (yi jiu qi wu – yi jiu ba qi) [Deng Liqun, Twelve Springs (1975-1987)] (Hong Kong: Bozhi Press, 2005), p. 473.



[16] Zhongyang lingdaoren bianhua xuanju hou cai zhixiao [Change in central leadership only made known after election], Southern Metropolitan Daily, 18/10/2007, Issue A6.



[17] Zhongguo gongchangdang di shiqi ci quanguo daibiao dahui zhuxituan changwu weiyuanhui chengyuan mingdan [The name list of Presidium Standing Committee members of the Seventeenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China], 14/10/2007, People Net, <http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/104019/104101/6376014.html>



[18]Interview, Party School scholar, 10/7/2011. 



[19] Robert Lawrence Kuhn, The Man Who Changed China: the Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin (New York: Crown Publishers, 2004), p. 121.



[20]Kuhn, The Man Who Changed China, p. 248.



[21]Interview, Party School scholar, 10/7/2011. 



[22] Dang xuan an xing huo depiao paixu youbie [Differences between being ordered by surname or by score in the election], The Sun Daily, 21/10/2007, Issue A20.



[23]Interview, Party School scholar, 12/7/2011. 



[24]Interview, Chinese regional Party journal journalist, 28/11/2010.



[25] Zhongguo shengbu ji ganbu miji tiaozheng, nianqing hua zhishi hua tedian tuchu [Rigorous modifications put forward to create a younger and more knowledgeable body of provincial and ministerial-level cadres in China], Xinhua Net, 23/10/2007, <http://big5.xinhuanet.com/gate/big5/news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2007-10/23/content_6928019.htm>



[26] Maria Edin, “Local State Structure and Developmental Incentives in China,” in Richard Boyd and Tak-Wing Ngo eds., Asian States: Beyond the Developmental Perspective (London; New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), pp. 122-123.



[27]Nikolai Ryzhkov, Xu Changhan (trans.) , The Tragedy of Great Power (Beijing: Xinhua, 2008), pp. 311-312.



[28]Interview, Chinese think tank scholar, 2011/5/25.



[29]Interview, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences scholar, 2008/7/16.



[30] Shi Weimin, Shan Hanqing Jiangsu sheng Suqian shi Suyu qu Caiji zhen ‘Gong tui zhi xuan’ dang wei shuji diaocha

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