Performance management in the People's Republic of China during the market reform era : a case study of two counties in Shaanxi Province

中國市場經濟變革年代的績效管理 : 陜西省地方政府的案例研究

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Jie GAO


Awarding Institution
Award date2 Oct 2007


This study seeks to examine the role that performance management plays locally in China. It clarifies the type of politics underlying the evolution of performance management since the late 1970s, charts the course of its development, examines the evolution of specific cadre evaluations, and assesses the distribution of performance targets in Chinese local governments. This study argues that performance management, a typical management tool in introducing market principles to reinvent government in major Western democracies, is used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as an instrument to ensure the accomplishment of higher-level policies in lower-level organizations, and to control the behavior of local cadres. The empirical findings of this study provide an interpretation which differs from current literature that the CCP relies more on a planning approach than a market-driven one to tighten the Party’s monitoring and administrative capacities. The thesis specifies the following three points. First, performance management works different in China as compared to major Western countries because the reform context is different. Performance management has been developed within a unified cadre personnel management system in China. Under the CCP’s monopoly of authority over crucial personnel decisions, performance management is akin to reinforcing centralized Party personnel authority over the bureaucracy and to ensuring leadership selection. Second, the historical evolution of performance targets shows that objective measurement is not primarily developed to promote government efficiency or to impartially appraise the work of cadres. In recent years, there had been a proliferation of precise and quantified indicators in measuring cadres’ work accomplishment. However, the cadre evaluation focused on whether local cadres can accomplish the targets allocated by higher-level authorities. Third, the Chinese authorities adopted a planning approach to conduct performance management. Performance targets, the performance levels of each target, and the implementation priorities of these targets are established by the authorities. Local cadres had very limited discretion to negotiate with their superior authorities on the accomplishment of the performance targets, most of which are economic tasks. Put in this light, economic management is to a large extent planned and controlled by the authority and not adjusted by “the invisible hand”. Performance management further extended the philosophy of planning economy and the extent of control over offices and organizations, and individual cadres far exceeded what could be the case in a planning economy.

    Research areas

  • Case studies, China, Civil service, Shaanxi Sheng, Performance standards, Personnel management