China Leadership Monitor

Educational and Professional Backgrounds of Current Provincial Leaders

Thursday, October 30, 2003

This article focuses on the educational and professional characteristics of the current provincial leaders. A quantitative analysis of the data on 325 provincial party secretaries, governors, and their deputies shows three important trends. First, educational credentials continue to be an important criterion in the selection of provincial leaders. Not only has the percentage of provincial leaders with college educations reached a zenith in the history of the People's Republic of China (PRC), but many of these leaders also hold advanced postgraduate degrees. Second, the professional distribution of provincial leaders has become increasingly diversified. Although leaders trained in engineering and the natural sciences continue to dominate provincial-level leadership, economists and those who majored in business management now form the largest professional group among provincial leaders in the younger cohort (age 54 and below). And third, leaders with educational experience overseas have emerged in almost every province-level administration in the country. Most of them studied in the West, especially in the United States. All these recent changes in the profiles of China's provincial leadership will have profound implications for the country's socioeconomic development in the years to come.