Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

China's new leaders are not the engineers of old

Viola Zhou offers this analysis for the South China Morning Post. Can you figure out what a "technocrat" is? And why are technocrats no longer the dominant political leaders?

Out with the technocrats, in with China’s new breed of politicians
Only a decade ago, eight of the nine top Communist Party leaders studied engineering or natural sciences – the most sought-after majors when the country was struggling to industrialise.

But no one in the newly appointed Politburo Standing Committee, unveiled on Wednesday, belongs to the so-called technocrats, who worked as engineers or natural science researchers before entering the political arena.

President Xi Jinping, who studied chemical engineering at Tsinghua University, was the only one with such experience, but he went straight to the government after graduation and pursued a higher degree in Marxist theories and political education…

Wang Yang, who started as a food factory worker, got his first degree in management at a party school in 1992…

Wang Huning was… the head of the international politics department at the prestigious Fudan University…

[F]rom 1997 to 2007, all of the top leaders sitting on the innermost Standing Committee shared an engineering background…

[W]hen Li Keqiang joined the Standing Committee he was the only member to have studied humanities as an undergraduate…

Tao Yu, a political sociologist at the University of Western Australia, said that for Chinese officials – who spend decades ascending the political ladder – governing experience mattered more than academic background.

“But higher education does have an impact on their rule,” Tao said. “Leaders who went to universities tend to do a better job in reading data and analysing problems. They are very different from the revolutionaries who used to run China.”…

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