Xiaowei Zang writes frequently on the nature of the Chinese political elite from a sociological perspective. This book serves as a summary of many of his research concerns. Put simply, he argues that within one political hierarchy, the Party and the government have significantly different personnel systems (elite dualism). Both value loyalty and expertise, but the government system pays more attention to expertise, and the Party to loyalty. He demonstrates these views with extensive data drawn from Who's Who in China Current Leaders (1988 and 1994). He sees his approach as reflecting and demonstrating the utility of neo-institutional concerns in analysing elite formation in China.
While the data is usefully presented, I have many difficulties with Zang's approach and argument. First, I find his overall discussion of separate Party and government institutions confusing. It is never clear when these two institutions definitely came into existence and when they developed their own norms, values and so on. He spends two chapters (three and four) showing the precursors to elite dualism, but concludes on p. 60 that it was only in 1982 that leadership transition began. One must question then how well established were the norms, values, and other markers of institutional boundaries when he uses the 1988 and 1994 Who's Who. If leadership transition only began in 1982, then what is the purpose of discussions of elite dualism dating back to the Jiangxi Soviet? It is one of the properties of formal organizations and bureaucracies that they have a functional division of labour. Given predictable recurring patterns of such a division of labour, it is not surprising that people are recruited into different functional specialities on the basis of their background. But while Zang demonstrates this point well, to argue that there are separate Party and government hierarchies as a result seems to go too far.