Free Essay About The Chinese Cadre System
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: System, China, Government, People, Management, Leadership, Culture, Communism
One of the most fascinating elements of Chinese culture and its economy is the cadre system, or ganbu, in which public officials hold full-time responsible positions within the government or its leading party. This is a revolutionary method of establishing bureaucracy, as efficiency and effectiveness were emphasized, as well as youth, in the selection of new leaders within the Chinese government. The fact that this cadre system operates primarily in China reveals much about their various attributes and the unique cultural factors that make up the country, and the current possibility of changes within that system may have long lasting implications for the stability of the country. Despite the ostensible strengths of the cadre system, the weaknesses showcase a nation that is unable to fully commit to the ideals of cadres, instead creating a hierarchical class system that violates China’s own natural predilection for extended families and natural communities.
The Chinese cadre management system came about as a result of the Communist revolution in China, as the cadres became the ruling upper class of China and quickly started to abuse their power through manipulating rations and controlling resources. In the late 1970s, the Chinese people quickly adapted to this cadre system, increasing the number of cadres into the millions. Cadre management is an incredibly in-depth and difficult process, as there are myriad guidelines, policies and regulations dealing with “both the general operation of the Party as an organization and the specific Party function of cadre management” (Manion 203).
Rationalizing cadre management has long been a struggle within Chinese culture, as shown in the system of the 1950s and 1960s, and that of the post-Cultural Revolution attitudes toward the cadres. In the 1950s, systematic practices for cadre management took place, in which cadre appointments and promotions were decided on a much stricter set of criteria, establishing straightforward paths to improvement and advancement that cadre members could follow. Fixed ranks, graduated salaries and centralized authority over assignments took place, and the system overall was extremely rigid (Manion 204). This system was extremely powerful, and the Communist Party had a tremendous amount of clout and influence within that system.
However, this changed with the Cultural Revolution, when the Party leaders and apparatus was significantly changed and attacked. This led to a number of more fluid, irregular changes, and the cadre management system was decentralized. Whereas the system in the 50s was incredibly rigid, the new system post-Cultural Revolution was incredibly fluid and flexible, as appointments, rehabilitations, arrests, promotions and more came about in waves (Manion 205). The different tasks that have been put in place includes dramatically changing the cadre system to further propel China’s drive toward modernization, reshaping cadres in order to skew younger and more competent. While the system was not as well-structured, it at least provided a greater thrust towards efficiency, youth and innovation . For better or worse, as uneven as it is, the new system seeks to make itself flexible, malleable and always willing to change (Manion 206).
The cadre system seems to appeal to a fundamental need within the Chinese people to have a hierarchical, authority-based system: “Chinese authorities are dependent on responsibility systems, particularly their use of strict, vicarious, and collective liability principles, as an institutional tool to address pervasive principal-agent problems they face in governing a large authoritarian bureaucracy” (Minzner 53). This is one of the greatest strengths of the cadre system, in that it allows the Chinese a somewhat more organized, structured way of rewarding merit and organizing the bureaucracy to make sure the most effective individuals get into high-influence positions. Given a sufficiently strong use of responsibility systems, and the proper use of the top-down structure afforded to the cadre system, it is possible to solve local problems more efficiently with the help of central authorities and the legislative push they can give local cadre officials.
However, there are many weaknesses to the Chinese cadre system as well, not the least of which includes a decidedly open hand in dealing with issues that violate the social order. Whenever grievances are placed against high-level officials, they “resort to repressive tacticsto prevent petitioners from reaching higher officials and thereby negatively affecting the career prospects of local officials” (Minzner 57). Because the system is so rigid and inflexible at times, it can lead to devastating and unethical behavior to maintain one’s position within the cadre system. Rather than acting as a pure meritocracy, the cadre officials in place are merely tempted to answer questions to their authority with suppression and violence. Riots and cover-ups in response to government failures are common, leading to tremendous instability and a decided lack of trust in the Chinese government to look out for its people (Minzner 123). Instead of providing the people with a voice in their government, “the role of national and local legislatures in policy-making has increased,” and transparency is decidedly low for these institutions (Minzner 115).
This suppression of resistance and dissent has made it uniquely difficult to actually address the systemic problems within China, and has led to tensions between the cadre system and the Chinese people. Though it has been shown that “increased citizen input into the policy-making process through legislative or administrative hearings” can achieve similar results to the cadre system’s accountability, this has not really taken place (Minzner 115). Regardless of the system’s ideals, it is far too easy to abuse that power once a cadre leader achieves it.
The impersonality of the cadre system is, as Jowitt explains, part and parcel of the unique system of Leninist Communism that is present in China, which offers a decidedly Western take on Communism. In Leninism, “social action is primarily oriented to impersonal norms,” and its level of impersonality is procedural, rather than charismatic (Jowitt 1). A charismatic leader “dramatically reconciles incompatible commitments and orientations,” but procedural impersonality removes this mitigating force, combining everyone into a single unit that must reconcile itself (Jowitt 2). The uniquely Chinese context of these Leninist collectives stems back to the “impact of collectivization on the Chinese village,” in which natural communities came into being that straightforwardly gathered and achieved collective goals (Jowitt 35). In this way, the particularly Leninist format of collectivization seems incompatible with the way the Chinese seem to gather in groups, which may explain some of the difficulties inherent to this issue. Because these natural collectives have been replaced with “authoritative and effective frameworks of action and organization” that have nothing to do with the extended-family, China in particular has difficulty making the cadre system work, particularly in the post-reform era (Jowitt 36).
Despite the ostensibly merit-based nature of the cadre system, the system as a whole has much more of a class-based hierarchical system than traditional Communism might allow. Studies support the idea that Chinese cadre families instill upon their children ideas of established elites, interconnection, and the ‘right to rule’ based on family history (Jowitt 40). This particular attribute violates the egalitarian principles of Communism, and seems to indicate the cadre system as a heavily-entrenched network of families that do not wish to give up their power even if the Chinese people demand it.
In these ways, the strengths and weaknesses of the cadre system are made plain. The cadre system, when employed in a perfect context, allows for the Chinese people to promote and ascribe its people to positions of importance based on merit and their capacity to work for their people. However, the ideal does not match the reality, as the Cultural Revolution has proven; cadre leaders, rather than working for their people, instead create a hierarchical class structure that is so heavily entrenched that dissenters are more likely to be silenced than listened to. This stems from the imposition on the Chinese people of a brand of collectivism that does not follow along with their natural desire to collect an extended family or establish clear borders for communities. Instead, the imposition of capitalistic and class interests provides substantial tension in these instances, and makes the cadre system a problematic one at best. Despite its outward flexibility, the rigid class structure it creates is difficult to reconcile with the tenets of Leninist Communism that China purports to follow.
Jowitt. “The Leninist Phenomenon.”
Manion, Melanie. “The Cadre Management System, Post-Mao: The Appointment, Promotion,
Transfer and Removal of Party and State Leaders.” The China Quarterly 102 (June 1985): 203-233.
Minzner, Carl. F. “Riots and Cover-Ups: Counterproductive Control of Local Agents in China.”