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Marketization, Centralization and Globalization of Cadre Training in Contemporary China*

  • Frank N. Pieke

Strengthening the ideological and professional training of cadres is a cornerstone of the socialist modernization of the Chinese party-state. On the basis of long-term field research in Party schools, this article shows that this effort entails much more than the upgrading of existing institutions. The CCP has embarked on a simultaneous marketization, centralization and globalization that has integrated cadre training into the larger market for higher education and training. This new approach privileges China's richer areas. Poorer places such as Yunnan province struggle to meet the ever higher demands of the centre from their local budgets. The article concludes that the gap between rich and poor areas in China is about more than wealth alone. Poorer areas cannot take part in China's new, glossy socialism, and will be not only economically but also politically and administratively left behind.

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1 Price, Jane L., Cadres, Commanders, and Commissars: The Training of the Chinese Communist Leadership, 1920–45 (Folkstone: Wm Dawson, 1976).

2 This sequence of events is found in most of the local Party school gazetteers that I have perused for this study; see also Barnett, A. Doak, Cadres, Bureaucracy and Political Power in Communist China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), pp. 168–69.

3 Zhonggong Yunnan shengwei dangxiao jianshi (Brief History of the Yunnan Province Party School) (Kunming: Yunnan renmin chubanshe, 2000), pp. 77–79; Zhonggong Baoji shiwei dangxiao xiaozhi 1949 nian 6 yue–1987 nian 12 yue (Baoji City Party School Gazetteer June 1949–December 1987) (Baoji, 1989), p. 8.

4 The Meizhou city Party school reportedly opened again on 1 January 1974, training a total of 3,174 cadres between 1974 and the official end of the Cultural Revolution in October 1976. See Zhonggong Meizhou shiwei dangxiao yange (The Course of Change and Development of the Meizhou City Party School), 25 September 2005,, accessed 18 February 2008.

5 Zhonggong Zhongyang guanyu banhao geji dangxiao de jueding (Decision of the Chinese Communist Party Centre on the Correct Handling of Party Schools at All Levels), 5 October 1977.

6 “Song Renqiong tongzhi zai quanguo ganbu jiaoyu gongzuo dianhua huiyi shang de jianghua” (“Speech of comrade Song Renqiong at the national telephone conference on cadre education work”), 1 February 1981, Zugong tongxun, 1981, p. 31.

7 Deng Xiaoping, “The reform of the Party and state leadership system,” 18 August 1980, Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (1975–1982) (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1984), pp. 302–25.

8 “Speech of comrade Song Renqiong at the national telephone conference,” pp. 31–49.

9 See Li, Bobai and Walder, Andrew G., “Career advancement as Party patronage: sponsored mobility into the Chinese administrative elite, 1949–1996,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 106, No. 5 (2001), pp. 1371–408; Brief History of the Yunnan Party School, pp. 116–23; and Tran, Emilie, “From senior official to top civil servant: an enquiry into the Shanghai Party school,” Perspectives chinoises, Vol. 46 (2003),, accessed 15 May 2006.

10 Jiang Zemin, “Wei ba dang jianshe cheng gengjia jianqiang de gongren jieji xianfengdui” (“The struggle to build the Party into an even stronger vanguard of the working classes”), in Zemin, Jiang, Lun dang de jianshe (On Party Building) (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2001); “Guanyu jiaqiang dangxiao gongzuo tongzhi” (“Notice regarding the work of strengthening Party schools”), central document summarized in Brief History of the Yunnan Party School, pp. 170–72.

11 Some localities also operate separate Party schools and schools of administration. One example is Kunming municipality, where “personal factors” were cited as the reason for keeping the two establishments separate.

12 For a longer description of the formal institutions of cadre training, and more specifically Party schools, see Pieke, Frank N., The Good Communist: Elite Training and State Building in Today's China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), chs. 2 and 3; and Shambaugh, David, “Training China's political elite: the Party school system,” The China Quarterly, No. 196 (2008), pp. 827–44. Until now, hardly any English (and only a few Chinese) studies of Party schools exist, with the exception of Emilie Tran, “From senior official to top civil servant: an enquiry into the Shanghai Party school,” China Perspective, No. 46 (2003), p. 35, and a few accounts of the Central Party School in Ignatius Wibowo and Lye Liang Fook, “China's Central Party School: a unique institution adapting to changes,” in Brødsgaard, Kjeld Erik and Yongnian, Zheng (eds.), The Chinese Communist Party in Reform (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 139–56; Fewsmith, Joseph, “Where do correct ideas come from? The Party school, key think tanks, and the intellectuals,” in Finkelstein, David M. and Kivlehan, Maryanne (eds.), China's Leadership in the 21st Century (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2003), pp. 152–64; and Saich, Tony, Governance and Politics of China (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 9192.

13 “Ershiyi shiji jiaqiang he gaijin dangxiao gongzuo de jueding” (“Decision on the strengthening and improvement of Party school work in the 21st century”), 5 June 2000,, accessed 14 June 2006.

14 “2001 nian – 2005 nian quanguo ganbu peixun guihua” (“2001–2005 national plan for cadre training”), in Zhonggong Zhongyang Zuzhi Bu Ganbu Jiaoyu Ju (Cadre Education Bureau of the Central Organization Department of the Chinese Communist Party), Quanmian tuijin xin shiji de ganbu jiaoyu peixun gongzuo (Comprehensive Promotion of Cadre Education and Training in the New Century) (Beijing: Dangjian duwu chubanshe, 2001), pp. 1–14, or online at, accessed 14 June 2006.

15 In October 2003, the Central Organization Department, the Central Propaganda Department and the Central Party School jointly issued the “Relevant Opinions on Further Deepening the Reform of Cadre Education in the Central Party School” (“Guanyu jin yi bu shenhua Zhongyang Dangxiao ganbu jiaoyu gaige de ruogan yijian”). This document is not publicly available, but much of its content is cited in other sources, some of which have been referenced in the following sections. Additionally, a summary of the content was posted on the website of the Party school of the Guangxi Autonomous Region; see “Jinqi yaowen: Zhongzubu Zhongxuanbu Zhongyang Dangxiao lianhe xiafa wenjian yaoqiu jianchi he wanshan jiaoxue xin buju. Jin yi bu shenhua Zhongyang Dangxiao jiaoxue gaige” (“Important news about the immediate future: the Central Organization Department, the Central Propaganda Department and the Central Party School jointly issue a document demanding the upholding and perfection of the new arrangement of education. Take one step further in deepening the reform of the education at the Central Party School”),, accessed 18 June 2008.

16 National Development and Reform Commission, Jiji zhichi da guimo ganbu peixun gongzuo (Actively Encourage Large-scale Cadre Training Work); Ministry of Finance, Zhuahao ganbu jiaoyu peixun jingfei de baozhang luoshi (Secure the Funds for Cadre Education and Training), reports at the Tenth National Joint Conference on Cadre Education (Dishi ci quanguo ganbu jiaoyu lianxi huiyi), 2005.

17 For more details on these national academies see Shambaugh, “Training China's political elite,” pp. 834–36.

18 “Ganbu jiaoyu peixun gongzuo tiaoli (shixing)” (“Regulations on cadre education and training work (trial)”), online at, accessed 15 September 2006.

19 The first endorsement of competition between multiple providers of cadre training was given in the 2000 “Decision on the Strengthening and Improvement of Party School Work in the 21st Century.”

20 I have discussed this point at greater length in Pieke, The Good Communist, ch. 6; and in Pieke, Frank N., “Contours of an anthropology of the Chinese state: political structure, agency and economic development in rural China,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 10, No. 3 (2004), pp. 517–38.

21 Cadre training as part of mutual support between different parts of the country is co-ordinated by means of regulations of the State Ministry of Personnel (which since 2008 is part of the new Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security); interview with the head and deputy head of the International Co-operation and Exchange Department, Beijing Party School, 27 April 2007.

22 Interview with the head of education, Yunnan Party School, 12 December 2004.

23 Interview with the head and deputy dead of the International Co-operation and Exchange Department, Beijing Party School, 27 April 2007. On American impact on China's administrative reform, including cadre training and education, see Tong, Caroline Haiyan and Wang, Hongying, “Sino-American educational exchanges and public administration reforms in China: a study of norm diffusion,” in Li, Cheng (ed.), Bridging Minds across the Pacific: US–China Educational Exchanges, 1978–2003 (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), pp. 155–75.

24 Information provided at a meeting with a senior administrator and a professor of the Central Party School, 28 April 2007.

25 Personal communication, professor at the Central Party School, 6 May 2008.

26 Interview with the head and other senior administrators, Yiliang Party School, 27 November 2004.

27 Interview with the head and deputy dead of the International Co-operation and Exchange Department, Beijing Party School, 27 April 2007.

28 Tran, “From senior official to top civil servant.”

29 The University of Oxford, for instance, decided in 2006 to subsidize a training programme of high-level cadres when it became clear that the international donor and the Chinese contribution together would not be enough to cover the full costs.

30 On the Chinese “regulatory state,” the most elaborate and empirically grounded account is given in Yang, Dali L., Remaking the Chinese Leviathan: Market Transition and the Politics of Governance in China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004). Pearson, Margaret M., “The business of governing business in China: institutions and norms of the emerging regulatory state,” World Politics, Vol. 57 (2005), pp. 296322 shows how the state contains “excessive” market freedom and regulatory independence.

31 The following paragraphs are based on interviews at the School of Public Administration, Renmin University, 16 December 2006; the School of Public Management, Tsinghua University, 27 April 2007; the Continuing Education Department, Tsinghua University, 30 April 2007; and Peking University, 19 December 2006.

32 In Russia, the transition to post-communism has had a similar, albeit much more profound, impact on the higher party schools of the Soviet era; see Huskey, Eugene, “From higher party schools to academies of state service: the marketization of bureaucratic training in Russia,” Slavic Review, Vol. 63, No. 2 (2004), pp. 325–48.

33 Interviews with an administrator and a professor at the Central Party School, 28 April 2007.

34 South China Morning Post, 24 April 2006. These commercial courses for businesspeople may not be organized directly by the school or its external training department, but through an independent provider. This would explain why the two administrators of the school remained silent on this point.

35 One of my interviewees, a teacher at the Party school of Honghe prefecture, had gone so far as to publish an article in the Journal of the Yunnan Provincial Party School about the degradation that he witnessed around him; see Yaming, Dong, “Dui dangqian xingshi xia jiaqiang he gaijin ganbu peixun wenti de yanjiu” (“Research on the problems of strengthening and improving cadre training under the current circumstances”), Yunnan shengwei dangxiao xuebao (Journal of the Yunnan Provincial Party School), Vol. 5, No. 2 (2003), pp. 7274.

36 More details on the organization and politics of degree education at Party schools are given in Pieke, The Good Communist, chs. 4 and 5.

37 Interview with the head and other senior administrators, Yiliang Party School, 27 November 2004. The local school can only retain 30% of student fees for correspondence degrees, with the rest going to the provincial and central schools whose degrees the school teaches.

38 Interview with the head of Shilin Party School, 28 November 2004.

39 Chuangshou (“creating income”) is a pervasive practice within the Chinese state sector. An institution's created income falls outside the regular directly allocated budget of that institution (and is thus termed “extra-budgetary”) and can be used at its own discretion. Since 2000, the extra-budgetary income of administrative departments and governments has been brought under more direct central control and is now more of a separate funding stream than invisible treasures (xiao jinku) completely beyond the scrutiny and control of higher levels as was the case in the 1990s. Like other departments, Party schools first had to transfer their self-created income to the government's finance department and then received a fixed percentage back as a separate allocation for approved items of expenditure; interview with the head of Shilin Party School, 28 November 2004, and interview with the head and other senior administrators of the Yiliang Party School, 27 November 2004.

40 Field notes, 28 November 2004.

41 Interview with the head and other senior administrators of Yiliang Party School, 28 November 2004.

42 See their brochure “Guojiaji zhongdian zhixiao Qujing Qilin qu zhiye gaoji zhongxue jianjie” (“A short introduction to the national level keypoint vocational school the Qujing City Qilin District Vocational High-level Middle School”).

43 Field notes, 18 November 2004.

44 Field notes, 1 and 3 December 2004; interview with the deputy head of the theoretical education section, organization department of Honghe prefecture, 2 December 2004.

45 Interview with the head of the cadre section, minorities commission, Honghe prefecture, 2 December 2004; interview with the deputy head of the theoretical education section, Organization Department, Honghe prefecture, 2 December 2004; interview with the deputy head of the United Front Department, Honghe prefecture, 1 December 2004.

46 Castells, Manuel, The Rise of the Network Society (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1996).

47 On Chinese globalization see Pieke, Frank N., Nyíri, Pál, Thunø, Mette and Ceccagno, Antonella, Transnational Chinese: Fujianese Migrants in Europe (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), ch. 1.

48 For a longer discussion of the concept of neo-socialism, see Pieke, The Good Communist, ch. 1. On the mixing of the market and Leninism, see Sigley, Gary, “Chinese governmentalities: government, governance and the socialist market economy,” Economy and Society, Vol. 35, No. 4 (2006), pp. 487508, and Shambaugh, David, China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation (Washington, DC and Berkeley: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and University of California Press, 2008), p. 6.

* I would like to thank Christine Wong, Andrew Walder, Stephen Collier and Susan Greenhalgh for their comments on all or parts of this article.

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