On 15 January, the People’s Daily published a revised version of the “Work Regulations for the Promotion and Appointment of Leading and Party Government Cadres”, dating from 2002. This document provides the specific norms required for appointment to senior positions in the government and the CCP. A translation is underway and will be posted on this website in due course. According to an explanatory article, also in the People’s Daily, there are ten major updates from the previous version:
First, the document now requires that leading cadres must “put virtue first” if they wish to rise in rank. According to the People’s Daily, this stems from drive developing in recent years to ensure that cadres combine ability with integrity. It refers to a document that the Central Organization Department published in 2011, the “Opinions concerning Strengthening Assessment of Cadres’ Virtue” (a full background website on this topic is available via the Party magazine Seeking Truth, in Chinese). The PD also quotes Tsinghua University professor Cheng Wenhao, who heads a research centre on clean government, who states that public officials can only serve society and benefit the people if they have sufficient moral integrity, and that lack of integrity would bring ruin to society.
Second, changes will be made to the cadre evaluation structures. These will come to include indicators connected to people’s livelihoods, including employment, income, technological innovation, education, healthcare and social security, on top of factors that had been stressed before, such as social harmony, economic development, environmental preservation, etc. According to professor Zhu Lijia of the National School of Administration, cited by the PD, this would change the trend to “only look at GDP”, and implement the policies set out at the third plenum.
Third, detailed provisions are made limiting the range of candidates who are eligible for assessment. Persons who are not subject to assessment, cannot be promoted or appointed to higher positions. Specifically, this affects cadres under the following circumstances (1) not being generally recognized by the masses, (2) not being evaluated well enough in annual examinations, (3) “running around for titles” or canvassing votes, (4) having a spouse migrating abroad or, if not having a spouse, having children migrating abroad, (5) having been subject to administrative or disciplinary punishment and (6) other reasons.
Fourth, there will be additional procedures for candidates undergoing assessment. More specifically, Party organization bodies must obtain information from discipline supervision bodies concerning candidates’ corruption situation. Also, auditing departments must provide input on candidates for positions with economic responsibilities.
Fifth, a clause is added to the list of criteria for promotion eligibility, which requires that candidates conform to the qualifications of relevant laws and regulations. According to Cheng Wenhao, this allows for more specific rules for appointments in specific departments or regions where this is necessary.
Sixth, the scope for open appointments and competitive selections is defined. According to the People’s Daily, a number of regions had started to use these methods to avoid domination by “number one leaders” (yibashou 一把手) and backroom politics. The 2002 rules only stated that open appointments were to be carried out facing society, and competitive elections were internal to specific work units or systems. The new regulations provide further details, by allowing for open appointments in cases where a particular locality or department cannot find suitable candidates internally and competitive selections might be conducted in circumstances where many candidates vie for the same position, and consensus cannot easily be found. Furthermore, the new rules stipulate that open appointments and competitive selections must survey and measure the process according to scientific standards, give prominence to the characteristics of the position, give prominence to prominent achievement, and stress the combination of ability and personal qualities, so that persons are not merely selected on the basis of grades and marks. Lastly, open appointments for county-level or lower officials should not be carried out across provinces. According to Cheng Wenhao, this last point might originate from the fact that this would bring organizational difficulties, as well as from the fact that it might be better for grass roots officials to have local experience.
Seventh, the conditions for removing cadres from their position are updated. On the one hand, three new conditions are implemented: (1) being subject to an investigation for liability, (2) resignation or transfer to a different position; or leaving a position for study for more than a year, if that has not been arranged organizationally. One condition has been deleted, not passing the annual evaluation or the cadre assessment, being found unqualified by more than one third of votes in a democratic survey, and being found unqualified by the organizational department. The reason for the latter, according to a vice-director of a county organization department in Jiangsu cited by the PD, is that these requirements were too easy to manipulate. Claiming that no completely scientific and reasonable method to evaluate cadres has been developed anywhere in the world, he stated that there were problems with the extent to which democratic surveys were truthful and scientific in nature, with the fact that it was difficult to evaluate different kinds of officials in different places, which meant that the previous rules did not result in the effects hoped for.
Eighth, with regards to term limits, the new rules provide that officials who have held the same position for two terms of office, can no longer be recommended or nominated for the same position. Furthermore, the new rules stipulate that young cadres with few diverse experiences, or who lack experience in working at the grass roots, should be sent to work at the grass roots, poor and remote regions or complex and environments.
Ninth, cadres who “take the blame and resign” (yinjiucizhi 引咎辞职) cannot hold positions for a year, and may not hold a positions that are higher than their previous position for two years. That period can be lengthened for those also subject to Party discipline punishment, in view of the circumstances. Furthermore, organizational punishment has become an explicit ground for demotion.
Tenth, with regard to cases of neglect of supervisory duty or malpractices in the appointment process where grave consequences result, the new rules explicitly impose responsibility on the main leading members of the Party Committee involved, relevant leading persons, relevant leading members the organization department and the discipline supervision committee involved, as well as other responsible persons.
These rules mark another step in the continuing efforts of the leadership to bring lower-level officials into line and curb incentives for corruption. Some of the new initiatives are not new, the push towards stronger moral requirements on senior officials had been initiated under the previous leadership. However, what merits attention is that these rules send another strong signal that Xi’s assertion of strict discipline, as well as his repeated taking aim at abuses and malpractices are no mere rhetoric. He is, literally, rewriting the rules.
Update: another take by the always excellent Chris Buckley can be found here.