"Undogmatic Commitment: Youth Organizations and Elite Renewal in post-Mao China". by Dr Jerome Doyon, University of Oxford

Published: 5 October 2020

"Undogmatic Commitment: Youth Organizations and Elite Renewal in post-Mao China". by Dr Jerome Doyon, University of Oxford

4pm–5.30pm Wednesday 18 November 2020

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Since the beginning of the reform era in 1978, the decreasing importance of ideology and the alternative career options provided by a liberalized employment market have made the Chinese Party-State’s ability to attract recruits and maintain their commitment all the more puzzling. If ideology and material gain cannot fully account for it, what motivates young Chinese’s commitment to a long-term career in the party-state? This talk tackles this question by analyzing the first steps of political professionalization in the CCP’s youth organizations and unveiling the crucial role these institutions play in political recruitment. The Chinese party-state selects and cultivates recruits starting from the first years of college, to progressively incorporate them into its elite.

My argument is two-fold. First, focusing on the first steps of political professionalization in post-Mao China, I argue that the progressive alteration of social ties and the growing attachment to their social role as future party-state leaders are crucial in explaining the officials’ long-term commitment to a political career. I call this phenomenon undogmatic commitment as it is based on the recruit’s ambition rather than ideological fervor. Second, based on the study of individual trajectories and the multiples relationships the cadres develop throughout their career, I argue that they develop a diffuse allegiance to the party-state: they are embedded in complex networks made of hierarchical and horizontal ties, which render difficult the establishment of isolated  cohesive groups, or factions, that could organize against the party-state itself. Commitment to their career translates a commitment to the survival of the regime.


Speaker bio


Jérôme Doyon is a Departmental Lecturer at the School of Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford. His research focuses on Chinese domestic politics, in particular the Party-State apparatus, elite politics, political youth organizations, and the management of ethno-religious minorities. He is the author of Négocier la place de l’islam chinois : Les associations islamiques à Nankin sous l’ère des réformes [Arranging a space for Chinese Islam : Islamic associations inNanjing during the reform era], (L’Harmattan : Paris, 2014). His current book project focuses on the professionalization of young Party-State officials. 

The Scottish Centre for China Research Seminar Programme gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the MacFie Bequest. 

First published: 5 October 2020

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