Chinese Associate Professor explains the CPC’s unique system of leadership training for its party members, seen as the essential secret for the success of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Leadership training has particularly been emphasized under President Xi Jinping. There is a growing realization in Beijing that governance capabilities require continuous improvement to solidify China’s role as a global power and better deal with uncertain times and relationships.
Mr. Xi Jinping, President of China, has set the modernization of the national governance system and governance capacity as one of the key goals of deepening reform in the Chinese system.
It includes deepening the reform of the leadership training system through its institutionalized management in its Structure, Procedure, Regulation, and Culture (SPRC). To ensure institutionalization of training, at least four vertical lines of SPRC are needed based on the related research.
As John Witter said, “Institutionalization is a procession throughout which the values, norms and missions become accepted and actualized with its institutional structure, institutional procedure and institutional culture.” My research also shows that regulations and laws are of great value in the process of institutionalization.
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China’s unique leadership structure
“Every government and party organization around the world has to grapple with the challenge of selecting and training capable and trustworthy individuals to serve the interest of its institutions. China is no exception.”
Based on state and party constitution, the Communist Party of China (CPC) continues to manage leadership training through the Organization Departments, China’s top human resources management agency at different levels. Unlike European countries, China’s concept of civil servants ranges broadly, from the national president to an ordinary clerk at various levels, from the government to party and their linked mass organs.
Leaders in China refer to the high-rank party and government leaders at and above the deputy director level, often referred to as the Key Minority in China because they play a key role in state governance despite their small numbers. Most of them are party members, but not necessarily, since quotas are reserved in government agencies at different levels for the participating parties, sometimes translated as minority parties.
Training leaders to deliver
China aims to establish a highly qualified and professional leadership development system, including comprehensive leadership training, merit-based performance assessment, and promotion with open and fair competition to assure the quality of party and government officials.
The leadership training system in China is built based on a legal system and a series of laws and regulations that been developed as a guarantee for it, e.g., ‘The Civil Servant Law of the PRC (2006),’ ‘The Regulation on Training Party and Government Leaders (2006),’ and ‘Regulations on Leadership Training 2018-2022.’
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The regulations have been developed according to new features and requirements of leadership management in the recent period. Hereby, four vertical lines SPRC, i.e., structure, procedure, regulation, and culture, are adopted to illustrate the leadership training system.
Its unique structure can first reflect the distinct features of the CPC leadership training system. China has invested heavily in leadership training and resulted in the world’s largest leadership training network, which comprises 3,000 schools and academies at all levels.
An open, pluralistic and complementary school system is initially formed with the party school, academy of governance, and executive leadership academy as the central platform, with the active participation of colleges and universities and other training institutions, and wide usage of online training.
It is a complete training institute system from the national level at the top to the county level at the bottom, which covers all public leaders’ training in China. The general picture of the leadership training system that China has already formed is as follows.
There have existed four national-level leadership schools, namely the Central Party School (CPS), also named Chinese Academy of Governance (CAG, formerly called as National School of Administration, NSA), China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP), China Executive Leadership Academy Jinggangshan (CELAJ), China Executive Leadership Academy Yan’an (CELAY), and each one has its own focus.
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The Central Party School emphasizes the training of the Party theory, Contemporary Knowledge, and public administration. While the two academies like CELAJ and CELAY pay more attention to the party history and take a holistic view of national development, CELAP makes a significant contribution to modern training of leadership skill, economic and management, which is represented by its training synergy of “Values Education, Capacity Building and Behavior Orientation.”
These leadership training institutions have had an integrated network across the country. Moreover, they are affiliated with more than 100 Provincial Party School, Provincial School of Public Administration, Leadership Academy, and Leadership Training Centers.
Procedure: Going by the book
The first annual demand-oriented leadership training plan is initially formed with scheduled training by the related departments and self-selecting training by leaders. Training plan for the next year will be issued at the end of each year. On this basis, a leadership training operation mechanism is formed with the inter-coordination of the administrative department, schools, employers, and participants.
Second, the annual training plan is approved by the Central Organization Department. It is a system on which the party and state government play a strategic role. “Over the years the party has issued a number of documents stipulating who should receive what kind of training. Of particular importance are the cadre training plans drafted and issued by the Central Organization Department.
Since the Central Organization Department is directly responsible for cadre management in China, these training plans have become important guidelines for cadre training.” Additionally, besides the annual plan, COD also has the long-term insight to make a five-year plan, and the latest five-year training plan was issued in 2018.
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Third, the leadership schools will be responsible for implementing the annual plan and the five-year plan as per the national development strategy. After the ministries or provincial governments receive the training notice from the Central Organization Department, they encourage leaders to apply as per their educational background and work responsibility.
Leaders are often active in learning new knowledge, the new theory, and the new practice. As the saying goes, “if you do not change your brains (actually mindset), you will have to change your chairs.” Thus the Chinese leadership training is an essential secret for the success of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Regulation: Ensuring training
Chinese leaders have long emphasized the importance of leadership training. A series of laws and regulations were formulated and implemented in the last decade so that the leadership training system has a legal basis for its operations.
For example, China Civil Servant Law and Leader Education and Training Regulations specify full-time study, central group learning, in-service self-study, and other training forms, including leadership training operation systems combining with planned training and self-adjusting training is to be given to the leaders, who have the right and duty to receive this education and training. In addition, funding for leadership training should be included in the government’s annual budget at all levels.
The CPC central committee approved the first guidelines in 2006. Leaders above the county (division) director level must be released from work to have at least three months of training within five years. It is about 110 hours per year, 10 hours more than that of Singapore.
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The Party Central Committee has also issued, together with the regulations, the Plan of Education and Training for Cadres throughout the Country (2006-2010) and renewed every five years, planning for future training and putting forward a series of objectives and assurance measures.
This means that leadership training has entered a new era. The China-Europe Forum praised it as, “The education and training of cadres have now become institutionalized, and the infrastructural foundation has been further strengthened.”
Inculcating right Culture
Innovative: It keeps up with the pace of times by implementing cultural excellence. As for trainers, while strengthening the structure of full-time teachers, they are widely selected and employ party and government leaders, business executives, experts, and role models with rich practical experience and high theoretical level as teachers, forming a faculty with a combination of full-time and part-time teachers.
The training model of hierarchical classification training is initially developed with primary short-term training for position need and subsequent mid-and-long term training for overall quality improvement, a combination of lectures and site visits, and the wide use of presentation, research, case study, scenario simulation training, etc.
At the 16th CPC National Congress, the party determined to build itself into a study-oriented party. The CPC Politburo spearheaded collective learning, establishing a learning example for all party members.
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Contemporary: The training content system is initially formed with the combination of political theory education, competence cultivation, and leadership behavior training. In addition, to the continued focus on political education, there is a significant increase of knowledge and skill content, such as financial management, emergency management, information technology, and other professional training, becoming the basis of leadership training.
It has continued the tradition of producing leaders in tune with current requirements and needs. For instance, it conducted programs with Five Contemporary Courses; they are ‘contemporary world economy,’ ‘world technology,’ ‘world law,’ and ‘the setting up of China’s Legal System, the current trend of thinking in the contemporary world.’
These courses help them be aware of developments worldwide and how China could best position itself among them. Some non-traditional threats like terrorism, global warming, and environmental protection have become frequent topics of the national leadership school.
International: First, to send Chinese leaders to be trained abroad. The first batch of leaders was sent abroad in 1993 for economic management training. Since then, leadership training overseas became an important task. Many world-renowned universities have had training programs for Chinese officials.
The number of Chinese officials going overseas for training is very large, trained in numbers rarely seen globally. Although it has been adjusted in size and number in recent years, overseas training has played an irreplaceable role in expanding leaders’ international horizons and improving their governing ability.
Second, international trainers and overseas national leaders are invited over. Scores of these international speakers arrive each year from every corner of the world to help build up Chinese leaders’ global mindset. It encourages Chinese leaders to appreciate the party’s goals and the government and broaden the global spectrum and strategic perspective.
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Third, China also provides training services for foreign participants, like CELAP Seminar on “European Business Circle to Understand China,” “Public Administration for African Countries,” and “Global Leadership Practice for Foreign Government Leaders.” Furthermore, More than 6,700 international participants from 130 countries attended different seminars and programs in CELAP in the past decade.
Modernization: Necessary to Address Future Challenges
President Xi Jinping reiterated that there would be no large-scale development without the large-scale learning & training of the whole party. A high-quality leadership team has indeed been selected and trained over the past years, explaining why China has maintained stable development in socio-economic improvement.
However, there have still existed some challenges in Chinese leadership training. More severe risk management like the Pandemic Covid-19 and Sino-US trade conflict for current Chinese leading officials have turned up when the domestic and international environment is uncertain.
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The long-standing problems have imposed intense pressure on the leadership training system in China. How to address these challenges needs further exploration. Therefore, we believe that a big step has been taken in modernizing the training institution and capacity by the CPC, and greater success will be achieved in the future.
Liu Genfa, Associate Professor, Deputy Director-General of International Department, China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP).