This article addresses three questions concerning authority relations (personal relations with superiors) in transitional China. First, can superiors retain an organizational unit in order to save a protege's job? Second, has instrumental usage of particularistic relations, or guanxi, lost its importance? Third, has ‘principled particularism’, an integration of political loyalty and authority relations, continued to impact careers? Based on first-hand survey data, I find that state-owned enterprises in which managers had closer authority relations were less likely to be sold or discontinued, and close authority relations also reduced the likelihood of career blockage (demotion/lay off). The significant interactive effect of party membership and authority relations revealed the continuation of ‘principled particularism’. The study underlines institutional continuity during rapid social change, renders insights into the processes of organizational restructuring, and depicts the relational base of formal organizations.