From 17th to 18th Party Congress: Implications for Intra-Party Democracy

  • Chen Gang
Keywords: China, election, intra-party democracy, leadership change, political reform


Growing intra-party pluralism and intensified factional rivalry have pressured the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to adjust the authoritarian official-selection system by resorting to an 'intra-Party democracy' mechanism based on informal polls among influential party officials and retirees. The progress, albeit slow and opaque since the 17th Party Congress in 2007, is increasingly seen as the CPC's only solution to intensified factional rivalry at various levels and the decline of legitimacy associated with the corrupt and inept officialdom. With backroom straw polls setting new norms for the CPC to settle factional infighting over power transfer at the 18th Party Congress, this intra-party democracy procedure has been gradually routinized at both the central and local levels to make the appointment process more consultative and to fend off democratic outcries from the public. In the past few years, cautious but substantial experiments with contested polls have been introduced by CPC's organizational departments to the monolithic political system, in which key party/government officials are facing increasingly competitive voting tests before they can be promoted to higher levels.