The Making of Chinese Civil Service Law : Ideals, Technicalities, and Realities

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

11 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


  • Hon S. Chan

Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-398
Journal / PublicationAmerican Review of Public Administration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


The goal of Chinese civil service reform is an appropriate balance in the relationship between politics and administration. This article examines the interaction between Chinese reformers and bureaucrats by raising two key questions: “What problems did Chinese reformers identify?” and “What measures did Chinese bureaucrats use to address these problems?” The article discusses three approaches that reformers took toward establishing a civil service system in China as they attempted to define, arrange, and interpret priorities to meet political and policy challenges. Core to the endeavor is the question of how far measures can be taken to reduce the power and authority of the Communist Party of China such that a state civil service can fully function. The article finds that, although some bureaucrats did want to adopt certain Western principles in civil service (as they understood or misunderstood them), for the most part they relied on an examination of the national political systems to define reform problems and formulate solutions. In the final analysis, because the reformers decided to write politics into the law, the bureaucrats needed to find ways through the legislation to formalize the leading role of the party, to make description fit with facts (i.e., comport with reality), and to unify personnel management power by merging a statutory civil service law with a nonstatutory personnel management system.

Research Area(s)

  • cadre personnel management, Chinese Civil Service Law, civil service reform, nomenklatura, path dependency