China Leadership Monitor

China’s Midterm Jockeying: Gearing Up for 2012—Part Five: Party Apparatchiks

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The apparatchiks, or functionaries, of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a group that includes several heavyweight contenders for the new top leadership, are particularly important at a time when the Chinese leadership is undergoing a large-scale generational change. These Party apparatchiks control the two most crucial functional domains of the Chinese political system: organization and propaganda. The Central Committee’s Organization Department is responsible for supervising or coordinating the turnover of thousands of current CCP officials in favor of younger colleagues from the central down to the township level, a process that began early this year and will conclude at the 18th Party Congress in the fall of 2012. Meanwhile, the Central Committee Propaganda Department’s recent tightening of media control and the return of old-fashioned Maoist propaganda (as evident in Chongqing’s propaganda fanaticism, which is endorsed by some top leaders) seems to reflect the growing tension between the continuation of rigid ideological indoctrination on the part of the Party apparatus and an increasingly pluralistic and rapidly changing society. This essay assesses the career paths, factional identities, and political status of the top 56 Party apparatchiks, and also analyzes a number of contending governance mechanisms in the now 90-year-old party, which has been struggling for survival or revival.