Networks of Power. An informal network among Chinese Communist Elites 1982-2007

48 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2014 Last revised: 2 Sep 2014

Date Written: 2014


This paper argues and provides evidence for how social network analysis can explain the internal workings of non-democratic regimes. It provides the intuition for a theory that relates network centrality to the formation of winning coalitions from the research of authoritarian regimes, and illustrates how central individuals have more negotiating power and more options when it comes to joining coalitions. The theory is tested on the members of the Chinese Communist Party's (CPC) Central Committees (CC) between 1982 and 2012 and their appointment to the Politburo (the inner circle or winning coalition). An informal network is inferred by assuming that those who have been promoted under other members during their earlier career are connected to their former superiors. An analysis with exponential random graph models shows that such \promotion ties" between members with the same provincial origin or with common pre-P.R. China experiences are more common than expected at random. This is consistent with China experts' account of how bureaucrats and supporters in their work environment. Furthermore, the network between the members of a given CC so inferred resembles that derived from other sources on factions within the CPC. The network approach indicates that it is the number of patrons that matter for ascension to the inner circle (and not just the fact of having a patron, as other papers have shown), but that being well-connected to peers and having one's own clients matter equally. Furthermore, even if the identity of the potential patrons is unknown, more complex centrality measures (which take into account the connections of one's connections) allow predicting who will enter the inner circle, and help identify patrons.

Suggested Citation

Keller, Franziska, Networks of Power. An informal network among Chinese Communist Elites 1982-2007 (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Franziska Keller (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) ( email )

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