Can one man dominate the Chinese Communist Party? This has been a much debated issue in the field of Chinese politics. Using a novel database that tracks the biographies of all Central Committee (CC) members from 1921 to 2007, we derive a measure of top CCP leaders' factional strength in the CC. We show that Mao could not maintain a commanding presence in the Party elite after the Eighth Party Congress in 1956, although the Party chairman enjoyed a prolonged period of consolidated support in the CC at a time when the CCP faced grave external threats. No Chinese leader, not even Mao himself, could regain the level of influence that he had enjoyed in the late 1940s. Our results, however, do not suggest that a “code of civility” has developed among Chinese leaders. The Cultural Revolution saw the destruction of Liu Shaoqi's faction. Although violent purges ended after the Cultural Revolution, Chinese leaders continued to promote followers into the CC and to remove rivals' followers.
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