Dynamics of Party-Member Recruitment in Rural China

Posted: 14 Feb 2019 Last revised: 13 Apr 2020

See all articles by Jidong Chen

Jidong Chen

Tsinghua University - School of Public Policy and Management

Yingwei Huang

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

Shengmin Sun

Shandong University

Date Written: January 20, 2019


The recruitment of new party membership is crucial for the survival of incumbent parties in authoritarian regimes. The incumbent party needs to adjust its recruitment strategy in response to the changing task of the party organization. For a revolutionary party that just took the power, it needs to implement its ideal from the revolutionary period (such as repressing pre-revolution elites) in order to establish its own credibility. However, for a long-standing incumbent party that relies on performance-based legitimacy, it recruits among individuals with higher human capital. In this paper, we test the implications of the above logic by examining the recruitment dynamics of the Chinese Communist Party in rural China. By analyzing a national-wide micro-level dataset, we find that before 1979, pre-revolution elites were less likely to be recruited as party members, whereas after 1980, we no longer detect such an identity-based strategy. Instead, the recruitment involves a significant weight on individuals’ human capital. Furthermore, we also track the transition path between the two phases as well as its regional heterogeneity.

Keywords: party organization, recruitment, the Chinese Communist Party

Suggested Citation

Chen, Jidong and Huang, Yingwei and Sun, Shengmin, Dynamics of Party-Member Recruitment in Rural China (January 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3328003 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3328003

Jidong Chen

Tsinghua University - School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Beijing, 100084

Yingwei Huang (Contact Author)

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) ( email )

Beijing, 100732

Shengmin Sun

Shandong University ( email )

27 Shanda Nanlu
South Rd.
Jinan, Shandong 250100

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