No. 52 | 17.07.2022
Young cadres volunteer to help grape producers in Rongjin Village, Zhangjia Town. [China Daily]
“Hard work brings opportunities”: The Promotion Process for Young, Grassroots Cadres
Yang Hua (杨华)
Yang Hua (born in the 1980’s) is a professor at the School of Sociology at Wuhan University. He engaged in rural research in 2007, visited nearly 20 provinces and cities in China, and published a book titled 县乡中国:县域治理现代化 (County and Township in China: The Modernization of County Governance) in 2022, which immediately became a national bestseller.

In the new era, beginning in 2013, young, grassroots cadres across China are moving in a positive direction as exemplified by their proactivity and work among the people. However, the road to getting promoted to higher positions is not always easy, as some cadres still struggle with thoughts of “self-protection” and “blame avoidance”. Yang Hua’s investigatory report looks into the promotion process of young cadres and their new understanding of what it entails

Key points:

  • Before the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress in late 2012, the dominant perspective of young cadres was that the “personal relationship” factor within the Party’s ranks was considered the first determinant for successful promotion in some regions of China. Although it may not be completely true in the overall promotion process, this perception made hard-working cadres that were not promoted feel aggrieved and disappointed, and led to many complaints.
  • After the 18th CPC National Congress, the personnel selection and appointment mechanism was corrected through a series of initiatives launched by the CPC's Central Committee that reshaped the internal political climate of the Party and the government.
  • The environment for young cadres’ development has improved significantly in the following four ways: 1) Unit (单位 dānwèi) or branch leaders took the initiative to build a positive and united working atmosphere for young cadres to work together and cooperate closely. 2) Unit or branch leaders intentionally built a development mechanism within which young cadres can grow and be more carefully mentored. 3) Unit leaders frequently pay attention to young cadres’ work, life, learning, and development. 4) Competency and work attitude are regarded as the only criteria for personnel selection and appointment, which generates a new environment and new thinking – if you work hard, you will have a chance for promotion.
  • Since 2000, young, grassroots cadres born in the 1980s and 1990s, have been promoted to many leadership positions. They are thoughtful, experienced, energetic, and ambitious, but still feel a lot of pressure stemming from assuming misplaced “political accountability”, a requirement that is often projected onto the young cadres.
  • According to the survey conducted by Yang, in certain regions, young cadres feel demoralized by this misplaced accountability; some said in the survey interview that it felt like a kind of Sword of Damocles that could fall at any time: If your efforts cannot deliver the expected results, you may be replaced, relocated, and downgraded very soon.
  • Usually, this demoralizing pressure stems from the following four erroneous practices: 1) Rights and responsibilities are often mismatched. 2) Sometimes, there are too many so-called “must win” tasks given to grassroots cadres: any failed task means the cadre is not promoted and is possibly downgraded. 3) The accountability mechanism may be abused by more senior cadres, who are used to shifting the burden and blaming their subordinates. 4) Grassroots cadres could be burned-out by requests to accomplish all their tasks at the highest level of quality.
“The American Production System”: The Rise and Fragmentation of a Manufacturing Empire
Yan Peng (严鹏)
Yan Peng is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Modern Chinese History, Huazhong Normal University, and the Deputy Director of the Research Center at the Chinese Industrial Culture. He has published several articles on the relationship between the historical process of industrialization and socialism in China. He has also published a book titled War and Industrialization: The Change in the Chinese Equipment Manufacturing Sector during the Anti-Japanese War.


The trade frictions in the world all center around the manufacturing sector. Over the past five years, the trade war between China and the US has intensified and will continue to escalate further. Yan Peng offers a point of view based on a historical analysis of events: The bedrock of US political hegemony was a strong manufacturing sector. In recent decades, US manufacturing has shown an irreversible decline, despite government efforts to revive it. This decline has become one of the important sources for today’s global political and economic tensions.

Editor's note: While the author has pointed out how competitive weakness has contributed to the decline of US manufacturing, a deeper analysis of the rules that govern production in the age of imperialism is needed. Since the mid-1990s, with the dominance of finance capital’s drive to maximize profits, US imperialism accelerated the move of their industrial base overseas, especially to the Global South and to China in particular. In parallel, there were other factors at play: productivity gains eliminated many jobs in the US and the lack of manufacturing investment resulted from finance capital investing where profits were greatest.

Key points:

  • As a result of their inability to manufacture basic necessities during the Independence War from Great Britain, American military and political leaders quickly learned the vital importance of having a strong manufacturing sector that could supply strategic materials and manufactured goods. Thus, "The American Production System” was born, first developed by the military, and then introduced into the American industrial sector where it continued to develop.
  • The "The American System" has two connotations: the first refers to 19th century US economic protectionist ideas and policy practices against British free trade, known as the "Institutional American system"; the second refers to the rise of the 19th century US manufacturing system of mass production.
  • Mechanization of mass production – a standardized production system based on interchangeable parts and modules – is one of the main characteristics in the evolution of US manufacturing.
  • The military and political hegemony achieved by the US after World War II became, over time, a paradox for US manufacturing. To maintain their political hegemony, the US was forced to make economic concessions to its allies, opening up its domestic market to the allies’ manufactured goods. As a result, foreign competitors gained greater market share and this contributed to the decline in such industries as auto, steel, and machine tools.
  • The US, however, maintained its innovative and long-term leadership in the military, aerospace, and electronic information industries, which generated high profit margins by leveraging the large amount of accumulated knowledge capital.
  • For the US government, the problems of unemployment, the loss of skilled workers, a lack of self-sufficiency in defence-strategic goods, and the deterioration of regional economies brought about by the decline of domestic manufacturing are severe. Since the 1980s, the US has been waging trade wars, first against its allies and then against emerging developing powers.
  • The economic contradictions within the US, represent an important reason why the world political and economic order has entered an era of conflict and turmoil, which US hegemonic power is unable to resolve.

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