I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here's what I'm watching: The Party's personnel system - how the Party selects, educates, appoints, trains, monitors, evaluates, retrains, promotes, and, when necessary, demotes, its cadres and officials.
Two facts about the Communist Party of China, the CPC, the Party, are not in dispute: The Party is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding, and the Party has transformed the economy and society of the largest population on earth. Many analysts give many reasons to explain how the Party accomplished this Herculean task. But one of the most important reasons is often overlooked, underreported and certainly under-appreciated: the Party's personnel system. This is the purview of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, which has long operated outside the glare of the media or public discourse.
I can argue that a critical success factor in China's transformation from a poor, weak country to the world's second largest economy, and having eliminated all abject poverty, is the quality, expertise and real-world experience of the country's senior officials, the large majority of whom are Party cadres.
From my earliest investigative tours of China, I have been impressed with the managerial quality of the Party's local leadership: how well each Party secretary knows his region or remit, with a firm grasp of granular quantitative data, economic, social and environmental. The Party's personnel system works both in the down-to-earth practice at the Party's governance grassroots, and in the policy-setting theory at the Party's central intellectual brain trust.
I like to focus on the Party secretaries of China's nearly 3,000 county-level administrative regions, the public sector CEOs of their regions. This is the core of China's administrative system where national policies get implemented, converting theory and policy into practice and real work.
I recall mentioning to one county party secretary that I had been impressed with a young cadre working on the anti-poverty campaign in a remote mountain village. Later I found out that the very next day that county secretary changed his schedule to make an unplanned trip to visit that young cadre, perhaps to learn his "best practices", perhaps to mark him for advancement - now that's action.
In terms of the CPC's national governance system, the CPC Organization Department is responsible for all senior officials in every sector of Chinese society: central and local governments, media, education, state-owned enterprises, NGOs, think tanks, and the like.
Personally, I have come to know the CPC Organization Department and I can corroborate how seriously they take their responsibilities for selecting, educating, training and monitoring officials. They quantify and systematize personnel data, and they apply common standards. They are results oriented, seeking optimal leaders for essential jobs. While all political systems have tradeoffs, in providing professional managers for running society, there is something to learn from China's Party-based personnel systems.
I'm keeping Watch. I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn.
Script: Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Editors: Yang Yutong, Liu Yuqing
Designer: Qi Haiming
Videographer: Morgan Compagnon
Producer: Wang Ying
Supervisor: Mei Yan, Adam Zhu
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