China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - "L'ecole Du Vice": Professionalization of Student Cadres in Chinese Elite Universities

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Roosevelt Room 1, Exhibit Level

How does the Chinese Communist Party manage to renew its leadership and solve the red versus expert dilemma by promoting officials who are both loyal and competent? Overall, the literature on the transformation of the Chinese political elite focuses on the broad outcomes, the fact that officials are younger and more educated, but it falls short in unveiling the mechanisms at play. I approach this issue through a unique account of cadres’ first professionalization experience in college and how it affects their future careers. While overlooked in the literature I show how the experience as “student cadre” within the Party’s youth organizations has been increasingly important in post-reform China - as it equals early screening and professionalization for numerous cadres. I hence address broader gaps in the literature regarding the links between loyalty and personal networks, as well as on the development of vocations in an authoritarian system. Youth political organizations are excellent observation platforms in order to study politicians in the making. We can see how they cultivate a specific role, how they learn through practice the rules and skills needed in order to be a considered as politicians. Also, by focusing on the very beginning of the political career, we can study the development of personal as well as organizational loyalties. My study of the student cadre experience is based on in-depth interviews and biographical data. This paper is the result of fourteen months of field-research conducted in four universities in Beijing and Nanjing between 2011 and 2015.

Jerome Doyon

SOAS University of London, Ile-de-France, France

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