CCP Internal Resilience – post 6 of 10

Decentralization and family first

Sometimes, we think of CCP governance as Xi Jinping sitting in Zhongnanhai, pushing buttons, and everyone jumps. That may be true now to some extent, but more generally, Chinese governance is highly decentralized.  A mayor owes more direct allegiance to the city Party leader, and perhaps one or two people at the provincial level, than to Xi Jinping directly.  Of course, the obligations extend all the way up and you don't want your own leader to lose face.

The extensive decentralization of governance also supports CCP stability.  Provincial and local officials have wide latitude to respond to local conditions, as has been the case for a thousand years.  Except when CCP demands adherence, rulings from Beijing can be treated locally as guidelines rather than as strictly interpreted law. This system avoids putting officials in precarious positions in local affairs.  Willingness to adhere to a general CCP path is enhanced – no one is forced out on a limb.  No coalition of governors of mostly rural provinces need develop, or even a coalition of wealthy east coast provinces. 

Decentralization also allows cadres to think of family first, rather than CCP first.  Minxin Pei makes the argument that incomplete property rights, along with unclear regulations, means that local elites must cooperate, maybe stretching the law, maybe not, maybe going against some national guideline, maybe not, to accomplish development goals.  Without clarity in law, no one knows if a plan someday might be found in violation of some rule.  Implementation of any plan requires coordination, so cadres stick together.  And if partners in a project can be family, well so much the better for coordination and bonding. 

Confucius did not support written law, seeing it as an invitation to seek alternatives.  People guided by wise leadership would simply self-regulate.  Unwritten or unclear law can facilitate community. Community bonds can be strong, even in a cabal. 

More than anything else – patriotism, loyalty to a communist ideal, adherence to a vow – personal loyalty to CCP is based on security and opportunity for one’s family.  There are roughly 90 million CCP members now.  With some overlap in families, let’s project 60 million households, each with at least three members and more likely four or five, with grandparents and aunts.  We might reasonably speculate that the income of 250 million individuals is directly dependent on CCP, about 20% of the total population and a much larger share of the population in the wealthy provinces.  There are millions more people whose livelihoods depend on government and its stability – anyone with a job in banking, finance, engineering, architecture, academia, insurance or health care.  What clearly emerges is the Chinese version of "I'm All Right, Jack" - a British expression used to describe those who act only in their own best interests even if assistance to others would necessitate minimal effort on their behalf.   You mean I can’t watch Youtube, or say what I want online?  Ok. Where's the beef?  If there were deep conflict in CCP, which side would I choose?  Which side is safe?  Better let sleeping CCP lie.