China’s Communist Party: From Mass to Elite Party

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The Communist Party of China (CPC) is not withering away as predicted by some Western scholars. On the contrary, in recent years, the party has centralised and strengthened its rule over China. At the same time, party membership has changed. Today, workers and farmers only account for only one-third of the total party membership compared to two-thirds when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established. Instead, new strata and groups such as technical and management personnel have evolved. The composition of the party’s cadre corps has changed accordingly, and cadres today are younger and much better educated than during Mao’s time. The leading cadres form an elite which is at the heart of a ranking-stratified political and social system. This article discusses how the CPC has evolved from a mass to an elite party. It argues that in this process, the party has taken over the state resulting in a merger and overlap of party and government positions and functions, thereby abandoning Deng Xiaoping’s ambidextrous policy goals of separating party and government. Centralisation and reassertion of ranking-stratified party rule is Xi Jinping’s answer to the huge challenges caused by the economic and social transformation of Chinese society—not a return to Mao’s mass party.
TidsskriftChina Report
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)385-402
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - 2018


  • CPC
  • Elite politics
  • Cadre
  • Ranking system
  • Institutional reform