Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China
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Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China

Edited by Yingjie Guo

This comprehensive, interdisciplinary Handbook illustrates the patterns of class transformation in China since 1949, situating them in their historical context. Presenting detailed case studies of social stratification and class formation in a wide range of settings, the expert contributors provide valuable insights into multiple aspects of China’s economy, polity and society. The Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China explores largely neglected contemporary topics such as women’s social mobility in relation to marriage and the high school entrance exam as a class sorter, placing it at the forefront of progressive literature.
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Chapter 13: China’s top leading cadres: more red, expert, or gold?

Peng Lu


There is no standard conception of ‘ruling class’ or ‘political elite’ in China studies. Even cadres in the villages have been labeled as (political) ‘elite’ (O’Brien and Li 2000; Oi and Rozelle 2000; Manion 2009). Similarly, researchers use different criteria to divide cadres into ‘rankings’ for theoretical or practical purposes (Zhou, X. 2000; Nee and Cao 2002), and it is subject to debate which cadres belong to the ruling class within the Chinese Party-state and which belong to the middle classes. Yet the ruling CCP has its own official criteria, which are clearly defined and rigorously implemented. Simply put, there are 12 administrative rankings in the cadre hierarchy: cadres above the fifth rank (zheng ting ji) are normally called ‘senior cadres’ (gaoji ganbu); personnel above the vice-ministerial level are referred to as ‘top leading cadres’ (gaoji lingdao ganbu). This chapter concentrates on the core constituent of the ruling class within the Chinese Party-state, the ‘top leading cadres’, although it must be acknowledged that ‘senior cadres’ and even officials at lower levels of Party-state jurisdictions, particularly those who are actively involved in its governing functions, can and should be included in China’s ruling class as well. Many authors working on China’s top leading cadres have traced their evolution over time and analyzed the paradigm shifts in the evolution and methodological approaches to this group in the scholarship (Harding 1984; Madsen 1993; Unger 2002; Shan 2008; Lieberthal 2010; Ni and Yuan 2011).

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