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CCP's Mishu System Tsai and Dean

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CCP's Mishu System Tsai and Dean

  1. 1. The China Journal, no. 73. 1324-9347/2015/7301-0007. Copyright 2015 by The Australian National University. All rights reserved. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu System: Unrestricted Informal Politics within an Authoritarian Regime This article analyzes the Chinese Communist Party’s opaque mishu (secretary) system. It consists of two branches: institutional mishu and personal mishu. The former are mainly employed in Party Committee general offices, to assist the Committee leadership and liaise between departments to push Committee policies and to administer and compile relevant documents to support the policy-making process. Personal mishu work instead in the indi- vidual leaders’ executive offices. Those working for members of the Politburo Standing Committee can be divided into four main categories: political, confidential, security and life mishu. Both institutional and personal mishu work essentially on behalf of CCP lead- ers at various levels. In addition to clarifying the formal arrangements of the mishu system, this article will also consider the system through the lens of unrestricted informal politics, discussing particularly how mishu are able to accumulate power through leverage of the client–patron relationship between themselves and their leading cadre. Within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a dynamic élite group has emerged, dubbed the “Mishu Clique” (mishu bang 秘书帮).1 The members of this group have worked as high-level institutional or personal mishu2 of impor- tant top leaders, and have subsequently been promoted to advanced positions in their own right. For example, Wen Jiabao (温家宝) and Zeng Qinghong (曾庆红) both worked as institutional mishu in the Central General Office (Zhongyang bangongting 中央办公厅) before making their way into the Politburo Standing Committee, while Ye Kedong (叶克冬), a personal mishu employed by Hu Jintao during his stint in the Communist Youth League, later became Vice Head of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. It is generally accepted amongst 1. See table 1 at the end of the article for an illustration of former mishu now working in high-ranking roles. 2. This article uses a pinyin transcription of the term mishu. Although this word can generally be translated as “secretary”, within Chinese politics the term can refer to various roles and positions. Furthermore, as the responsibilities of the CCP mishu are far broader than mere secretarial work, it is more logical and appropriate to employ the transcribed Chinese term. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  2. 2. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu observers that the prevalence of former mishu holding élite positions can be at- tributed to the client–patron relationship between the mishu and his leading cadre (shouzhang 首长), as well as the extensive informal political opportunities and personal networking (guanxi 关系) offered by the role, allowing mishu to secure ever greater promotion and advancement.3 Unfortunately, the mishu system is little understood, although this lack of understanding does not reflect its significance within the politics of the CCP.4 Academic discussion of this topic has been limited by a dearth of informative materials. Up to now, the most significant examination has been that by Wei Li and Lucian W. Pye in a 1992 article in The China Quarterly,5 which drew mostly on the memoirs of mishu working for important members of the political élite during the era of Mao Zedong. The article revealed the intensity of work- ing relationships between leaders and their mishu, often resulting in close and long-lasting ties. In two further papers of note, Cheng Li discusses the “mishu phenomenon” which, he argues, has already become a distinctive pattern within modern Chinese politics, and James C. Mulvenon and Michael S. Chase consider the working role of mishu.6 However, due to the lack of information available when these articles were written, they were not able to delve deeply enough into the world of the mishu. As Kenneth Lieberthal lamented, a clearer and more up- to-date understanding of the role of today’s mishu within Chinese politics is still notably lacking.7 This article sets out to address this deficiency, employing a range of newly pub- lished memoirs and other literature, as well as interviews, to depict and analyze the role of the mishu system within the CCP. The existing literature does make the important point that mishu and their senior leaders form client–patron rela- 3. See Andrew Nathan, “A Factionalism Model for CCP Politics”, The China Quarterly, No. 53 (January– March 1973), pp. 34–66; Tang Tsou, “Prolegomenon to the Study of Informal Groups in CCP Politics”, The China Quarterly, No. 65 (March 1976), pp. 98–114; Frederick C. Teiwes, Leadership, Legitimacy, and Conflict in China: From a Charismatic Mao to the Politics of Succession (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 1984), pp. 94–99; Lowell Dittmer, “Chinese Informal Politics”, The China Journal, No. 34 (July 1995), pp. 1–34; Lowell Dittmer, “East Asian Informational Politics in Comparative Perspective”, in Lowell Dittmer, Haruhiro Fukui and Peter N. S. Lee (eds), Informal Politics in East Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 290–308; Joseph Fewsmith, Elite Politics in Contemporary China (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 2001), pp. 35–38. 4. Cheng Li, China’s Leaders: The New Generation (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), pp. 147–64; Meng Jun, Zhonggong mishu bang (The CCP’s Mishu Clique) (Hong Kong: Ha Fai Yi Publications, 2009). 5. Wei Li and Lucian W. Pye, “The Ubiquitous Role of the Mishu in Chinese Politics”, The China Quarterly, No. 132 (December 1992), pp. 913–36. 6. Cheng Li, “The Mishu Phenomenon: Patron–Client Ties and Coalition-Building Tactics”, China Leadership Monitor, No. 4 (Fall 2002), /article/6191, accessed 25 June 2013; James C. Mulvenon and Michael S. Chase, “The Role of Mishus in the Chinese Political System: Change and Continuity”, in David M. Finkelstein and Maryanne Kivlehan (eds), Chinese Leadership in the Twenty-First Century: The Rise of the Fourth Generation (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 2003), pp. 140–51. 7. Kenneth Lieberthal, Governing China: From Revolution Through Reform (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), p. 191. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  3. 3. tionships, allowing the mishu to share in the power of the leader for whom they work. This falls into the realm of informal politics. This article refines this insight by considering the concept of “unrestricted informal politics” to describe the particular characteristics of the mishu’s power. There is no doubt that informal politics exists in both China and the West, but the disparity between the two is one of scale. That is to say, in the West informal politics is limited by the existence of checks and balances on leaders’ power, meaning that the power available to share with clients is also restricted. However, under China’s authoritarian regime, the relative lack of boundaries on senior leaders’ power provides the ideal foun- dation for mishu to siphon off enormous power of their own. The client–patron relationship between mishu and their senior leaders can be termed “unrestricted informal politics”. Lowell Dittmer argues that the relationship between informal and formal poli- tics is one of functional interdependence.8 In other words, the informal element of mishu political power is derived from the formal functioning of the mishu system. This article will first discuss the source of mishu’s unrestricted informal power—the formal system structure as a whole—then clarify the various differ- ent roles of mishu individually. After establishing this background, the article will move on to elaborate upon the concept of “unrestricted informal politics” within the CCP’s mishu system. The unrestricted informal political power enjoyed by mishu is rooted in the cen- tering of the entire formal mishu management system around senior leading cad- res with close ties to these intimate members of staff. The mishu system is divided into institutional (jigou 机构) and personal (siren 私人) mishu.9 Institutional mi- shu work in Party Committee general offices (dangwei bangongting 党委办公厅),10 whereas personal mishu are based within the individual executive offices of senior leading cadres (shouzhang bangongshi 首长办公室). Despite this division, both the institutional and personal mishu sectors place senior cadres at the heart of their structure. Mishu departments in both the general offices and individual leaders’ executive offices are directly managed by leading cadres, although they must also coordinate with other departments at the same level. In CCP parlance, this is a compartmental, horizontal (kuaikuai 块块) administrative structure. The 8. Lowell Dittmer, “East Asian Informational Politics in Comparative Perspective”. 9. Wei Li and Lucian W. Pye, “The Ubiquitous Role of the Mishu in Chinese Politics”, p. 916. 10. The general office system is extensive, including both Party and government sectors. This article will only discuss the Party sector; hereafter, “general office” refers only to those in the Party sector. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  4. 4. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu informal political power of the mishu is sourced precisely from this structure of direct management by senior leading cadres. Institutional mishu make up the vast majority of the staff in Party Committee general offices at various levels of the Party hierarchy.11 Every level of general office is subject to a dual leadership (shuangchong lingdao 双重领导) system,12 which involves professional guidance from the superior-level general office, as well as direct leadership by the Party Committee at that level.13 In other words, general offices are managed directly by the leading cadre members of their as- sociated Party Committee. The Central General Office is led directly by the senior leading cadres of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee. Provincial Committees in turn direct provincial general offices, and so on. In 1996, former Central General Office Director Yang Shangkun (杨尚昆) mentioned that some local Party Committees have requested that the Central General Office exercise direct, vertical leadership over provincial or municipal general offices. However, this arrangement would be unfeasible in practice, as the Central General Office exists to serve the central leadership, and local general offices to serve local lead- ers. In other words: “Whatever the Party Committee does, the general office must do”.14 Thus, the work of the institutional mishu staffing the general offices revolves around the leading cadres in the supervising Party Committee. All mishu working in the Party’s general offices—including the director (zhuren 主任)—can be categorized as institutional mishu, and they cover a range of functions. The important units within the Central General Office, for example, include the Secretarial Bureau (mishu ju 秘书局), Security Bureau (jingwei ju 警卫局), Complaint Letters and Visits Bureau (xinfang ju 信访局), Confidential Bureau (jiyao ju 机要局) and Confidential Communication Bureau (jiyao jiaotong ju 机要交通局).15 The Secretarial Bureau oversees the smooth day-to-day run- ning of affairs and is on standby duty 24 hours a day, charged with compiling and organizing communication and information, and notifying individual directors’ offices immediately, should an urgent situation arise.16 The Security Bureau is 11. The central, provincial and municipal levels have larger general offices (bangongting), whereas county and townships levels have smaller offices (bangongshi). Despite the nominal difference, this article will treat both the same, for the sake of simplicity. 12. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di yi juan) (Collected Works of Li Xin [Vol. 1]) (Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2008), p. 354. 13. For more on the difference between direct leadership and professional guidance, see Kenneth Lieberthal, Managing the China Challenge: How to Achieve Corporate Success in the People’s Republic (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2011), pp. 52–53. 14. Su Weimin, “Yang Shangkun tan zai zhongyang bangongting ershi nian” (Yang Shangkun Discusses His 20 Years in the Central General Office), Bainian chao (100-Year Trend), No. 7 (2008), p. 22. 15. Tian Yi, “Pingmin zongli Wen Jiabao” (Wen Jiabao: The Common People’s Premier), Shidai chao (Trends of Our Time), No. 7 (2003), p. 16; James C. Mulvenon and Michael S. Chase, “The Role of Mishus in the Chinese Political System”, p. 142. 16. Wu Jiansheng, “Qian chui bai lian cheng meiyu” (Tempering Stone Into Fine Jade), Mishu gongzuo (Mishu Work), No. 2 (February 2005), p. 14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  5. 5. responsible for the safeguarding and protection of all cadres in the Politburo and above. Whenever Politburo members leave the confines of the secure govern- ment complex at Zhongnanhai (中南海), the Security Bureau Director is tasked with coordinating security arrangements.17 The Complaint Letters and Visits Bureau receives and responds to complaint letters, petitions and personally de- livered complaints,18 and the Confidential Bureau is responsible for handling the confidentiality of Central General Office documents.19 Finally, the duty of the Confidential Communication Bureau is to transmit safely and deliver confiden- tial documents and communiqués, particularly missives sent from the central authorities to provinces and municipalities.20 Each of these bureaus is staffed by institutional mishu. In addition to the institutional mishu in the general offices, higher-level lead- ers also retain their own personal mishu. According to regulations, only leaders at vice-provincial leadership rank and above are entitled to the services of personal mishu, who handle both professional and life-oriented tasks; however, many lower-ranking leaders flout the rules by employing private secretaries.21 The per- sonal mishu working on behalf of the Politburo Standing Committee members are divided into even more specific categories. Four types are of particular impor- tance: political (zhengzhi 政治), confidential (jiyao 机要), security (jingwei 警卫) and life (shenghuo 生活) mishu.22 Personal mishu are employed in the executive offices of individual leaders, and are directly led by their respective senior cadre.23 On paper, each category of mishu also receives the professional guidance of related bureaus in the Central General Office, which has a wide and comprehensive professional scope.24 For ex- ample, security mishu are handled by the Security Bureau of the Central General Office, confidential mishu by the Confidential Bureau, and political and life 17. Wu Jicheng and Wang Fan, Wu Jicheng huiyi lu (Memoirs of Wu Jicheng) (Beijing: Contemporary China Press, 2003), p. 385. 18. Zhang Tongqin, Mishu xue gailun (Introduction to Mishu Studies) (Beijing: People’s University Press, 2011), p. 45. 19. Li Gengqi, “Wo zai zhong ban jiyao shi gongzuo de rizi li” (My Time Working in the Central General Office Confidential Bureau), Mishu gongzuo, No. 11 (November 2006), p. 53. 20. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di yi juan), p. 31. 21. Li Song, “Mishu fubai, beihou shi ‘yi ba shou’ quanli wubian” (Behind Mishu Corruption is the Unlimited Power of the Élite Leadership), Mishu (The Mishu), No. 4 (2009), p. 6. 22. The functions of these four types of mishu are relatively comprehensive and important in nature. These mishu are thus likely to form close relationships with their senior leader. Leaders will, according to necessity, also employ mishu with more specialized functions. For instance, State Council member Yang Jiechi was once employed as Deng Xiaoping’s personal interpreter mishu. However, these specialized mishu carry out functional, non-political jobs and are therefore less likely to develop client–patron relationships with senior leaders. 23. Executive officers are traditionally named informally after leaders; the office of Jiang Zemin was known as “Jiang’s Office” (Jiang ban), Hu Jintao’s was “Hu’s Office” (Hu ban), and so on. 24. Lu Congmin, Waijiao rensheng: wo de huiyi he ganwu (Diplomatic Life: My Recollections and Sentiments) (Beijing: Zhongxin Press, 2009), p. 174. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  6. 6. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu mishu by the Central General Office Secretarial Bureau.25 The Central General Office maintains constant contact with individual executive offices in order to provide support when needed. In practice, however, as executive office mishu are backed behind the scenes by a powerful Standing Committee member, their demands tend to take precedence over the guidance of the Central General Office bureaus.26 A pertinent example is the hiring of personal mishu. Technically, mishu should be assigned by the Central General Office, but in reality the decision is often made according to a leading cadre’s wishes.27 Senior leaders may take several considerations into account when deciding upon mishu appointments, includ- ing recommendations from other trusted cadres. Jiang Qing (江青), for instance, selected her personal mishu, Yan Zhanggui (阎长贵), on the recommendation of Cultural Revolution Small Group member Qi Benyu (戚本禹).28 Cadres also rec- ommend their own children to one another, a practice particularly prevalent in the 1980s.29 Senior leaders may select former colleagues, or mishu hailing from their home region. For example, Zhong Shaojun (钟绍军) worked with Xi Jinping (习近平) in Zhejiang before becoming his mishu;30 Li Keqiang (李克强) and his mishu, Shi Gang (石刚), both come from Anhui Province.31 From 2003 onwards, the CCP ruled that those hoping to become mishu must first pass a professional examination before being qualified to take on the role.32 The direct relationship between personal mishu and their senior leading cadre is vividly reflected in a number of examples, not least that of Zhou Enlai (周恩来). Arranged in a drawer of his office desk, laid out like a row of piano keys, were buzzers to summon whichever mishu he needed.33 Mishu were expected to be constantly at his beck and call, to the extent that a running joke amongst the mishu at the time played on a classic adage: “All roads lead to the director”.34 In fact, even Zhou’s toilet had a bell to call his mishu; in the course of using the bathroom, Zhou would call in the mishu on duty to hear important notices 25. Xue Litai, “Hu Jintao zhangwo le dang zheng jun da quan” (Hu Jintao’s Powerful Hold on the Party, Government and Military), Lianhe zaobao (United Morning News) (24 September 2007), p. 12. 26. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di yi juan), p. 354. 27. Interview, Chinese scholar, 18 November 2012. 28. An Xiaoyi, “Yan Zhanggui gei Jiang Qing dang mishu” (Yan Zhanggui Working as Jiang Qing’s Mishu), Yanhuang chunqiu (Chinese People’s History), No. 1 (2003), p. 54. 29. Interview, Chinese scholar, 18 November 2012. 30. “Dami Zhong Shaojun” (Mishu Zhong Shaojun), Xingdao ribao (Sing Tao Daily) (13 June 2013), p. A24. 31. “Li Keqiang dami ren guo yan shi fu zhuren” (Li Keqiang’s Mishu Takes on State Council Research Office Deputy Director Role), Xingdao ribao (21 June 2013), p. A32. 32. Zhang Tongqin, Mishu xue gailun, p. 26. 33. Tong Xiaopeng, Feng yu sishi nian (di er bu) (Forty Years of Hard Work [Vol. 2]) (Beijing: Central Literature Press, 1996), p. 343. 34. Cheng Hua, Zhou Enlai he ta de mishumen (Zhou Enlai and His Mishu) (Beijing: China Radio and Television Press, 1992), p. 263. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  7. 7. and arrange the day’s schedule. His mishu jokingly christened the bathroom “The Second Office”.35 In short, both the personal and institutional mishu systems are at the service of individual leading cadres. The structure of the system at the central level, in- cluding the dual leadership mechanism, is portrayed in figure 1 below. General offices, the workplace of the institutional mishu, come under the direct leader- ship of the senior cadres in their associated Party Committee, but are also guided professionally by their superior-level general office. The personal mishu working in the individual executive offices of leading cadres are directly led by the cadre himself, but also receive professional guidance (zhidao 指导) from the related bureaus in the Party Committee general office at their level. The formal work of mishu centered on a senior cadre allows them to develop informal but close client–patron ties with the leader for whom they work. This relationship, in ad- dition to the leaders’ own relatively unlimited power, creates the conditions for unrestricted informal politics. According to Li Xin (李欣), who previously worked in the Central General Office, the general offices are crucial core units (hexin yaohai bumen 核心要害部门) in the CCP system due to their close working relationship with Party Committees.36 An understanding of the work of the general offices thus reveals the importance of the institutional mishu to the CCP as a whole. Each level of general office, staffed by institutional mishu, serves the needs of its associated Party Committee. General offices handle the details of the various day-to-day affairs handled by the Committee leadership, allowing institutional mishu to grasp clearly the Committee’s agenda and operations.37 General offices also coordinate the operations of each Party department and unit at their level, and are responsible for ensuring that all units adhere closely to the Committee’s directives. Coordination of the various Party departments allows the general of- fice staff to accumulate the most comprehensive information on every possible subject. Thus, before laying out policy, Party Committees often call on the general office to coordinate with relevant units or directly to chair meetings to discuss the 35. Zhang Zuoliang, Zhou Enlai de zuihou shinian (Zhou Enlai’s Last Ten Years) (Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Press, 1997), p. 82. 36. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di er juan) (Collected Works of Li Xin [Vol. 2]) (Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2008), p. 86. 37. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di san juan) (Collected Works of Li Xin [Vol. 3]) (Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2008), p. 2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  8. 8. Structure of the CCP’s mishu system Note: 1. Solid lines represent a direct leadership relationship, and dotted lines represent a relationship of professional guidance. 2. A detailed breakdown of the operations in individual executive offices of provincial leading cadres is as yet unclear and thus cannot be laid out in this diagram. 3. According to CCP regulations, cadres of municipal leadership level and below are not entitled to employ personal mishu, and so the Party Committee offices at their level provide related services instead. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  9. 9. issues at hand.38 Yang Shangkun, former director of the Central General Office, explained that his role was primarily to understand the inclinations of the central leadership, and then to synchronize the central and local levels in order to imple- ment central directives most effectively.39 General offices’ coordination work involves balancing the interests of the lead- ership and various departments, and is therefore far from easy. For example, the Party Committee plus the mayor and vice mayor of a directly controlled mu- nicipality number seven or eight people; the municipal level general office must coordinate between them to lay the foundations for the development and promo- tion of every single political regulation. If at any point leaders display differences of opinion, it is the role of the general office to iron out the problems. Some departmental leaders are unwilling to accept the guidance and negotiation of the office staff, and attempt instead to approach senior leading cadres directly. In this situation, the general office director must step in to thwart the unsatisfied cadre’s efforts, to avoid troubling the senior cadre. Li Xin recalls that, in the course of his work, he received many complaint letters from disgruntled cadres containing the acerbic words “please do not rebuff me, noble secretary” (qing mishu laoye buyao dangjia 请秘书老爷不要挡驾).40 Another important role of the general offices is the accumulation and proces- sing of information. Since the Opening Up and Reform, the CCP has aimed to strengthen the function of data collection and reporting functions within the general office system, in order to supply Party Committee members with up- to-date information on the political, economic and social conditions needed to make appropriate policy choices.41 At that time, the CCP introduced a slogan stating that the general offices would no longer be mere “recorders” (liusheng ji 留声机)—simply replaying messages—but would instead be upgraded to “pro- cessors” (chuli ji 处理机)—handling policy-making information.42 General of- fices at every level would be responsible for compiling appropriate materials and information, and acting as the eyes and ears of its Party Committee. Every gen- eral office produces a regular publication for internal reference which discusses important societal situations, such as the recovery from the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake.43 The Central General Office compiles a publication entitled “Daily 38. Mei Weiwei and Mei Yulin, Jiyao mishu gongzuo guifan daquan (Specifications of Confidential Mishu Work) (Nanning: Guangxi People’s Press, 2010), p. 266. 39. Li Ying, “Xin Zhongguo zhongyang bangongting zhuren gangwei shang de Yang Shangkun” (The New Director of the Central General Office Yang Shangkun), Zhonggong dangshi ziliao (Party History Materials), No. 3 (2007), p. 158. 40. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di san juan), p. 3. 41. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di san juan), p. 88. 42. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di er juan), p. 10. 43. Yang Dianzhong, “Tantan women ban ‘meiri qingkuang huibao’ de zuofa he tihui” (Discussing the Method and Experience of Organizing the “Daily Briefing”), Mishu gongzuo, No. 8 (August 2008), pp. 22–23. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  10. 10. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu Briefing” (Meiri huibao 每日汇报) which circulates important information to the central leadership on a daily basis.44 In order to gather information most effectively, each general office acts as a data processing center. If necessary, general offices dispatch staff to the grass roots to conduct investigations and clarify specifics. After 1986, every level of general office established a system of “direct reporting” (xinxi zhibao dian 信息直报点) which involved dispatching information officers to important companies, auton- omous bodies, community groups and schools, primed to pass on information at any point in time.45 In the case of a significant occurrence such as a large-scale popular protest, criminal case, serious disaster or traffic accident, information of- ficers must send a report to their general office within two hours. After receiving the news, general offices must prudently distinguish between which information is suitable for public scrutiny and which should be limited to internal reference. Public information can be passed on to the media, whereas internal information must be delivered to the superior general office in strict compliance with the Party’s confidential document transfer system.46 For example, when the SARS epidemic hit in 2003, the CCP set up a dedicated internal telephone system and intranet site in order to disseminate information about the crisis. Each general office was required to file a report to the superior- level general office at least once a day. When faced with significant and large- scale disasters, each level of general office must send reports to the superior office within 30 minutes of receiving new information.47 Within this strict reporting system, it is vital that every information officer can be contacted at any time. A general office staff member revealed that, on one occasion, information officers were unable to contact him as a large-scale incident was unfolding. Ever since making this mistake, he has made sure to keep his mobile telephone switched on 24 hours a day, and checks every evening that it has enough battery charge to last through the night.48 The information gathered by the general offices must be reported clearly and concisely to their associated Party Committee. As reports are generally re- ceived early in the morning, CCP cadres have come to call these briefs “spiritual breakfast” (jingshen zaocan 精神早餐).49 It is important for the reports to be as comprehensive as possible. A document detailing the instructions of the central 44. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di san juan), p. 11. 45. Jiangsu Taizhou Municipal Party Committee General Office, “Women shi zenyang gao hao shangbao xinxi gongzuo de” (How We Deal With Reporting Information), Mishu gongzuo, No. 8 (August 2012), p. 29. 46. Mei Weiwei and Mei Yulin, Jiyao mishu gongzuo guifan daquan, pp. 251–52. 47. Zhang Chunlin, “Bianjiang diqu dangwei bangongshi zenyang tigao gongzuo xiaolü” (Improving Effi- ciency in Border Region Party Committee Offices), Mishu gongzuo, No. 8 (August 2008), p. 18. 48. Xi’an Municipal Party Committee General Office, “Bangongting gongzuo shiwu ershi li (xia)” (20 Cases of Mistakes in General Office Work [Part 2]), Mishu gongzuo, No. 4 (April 2010), p. 29. 49. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di er juan), p. 151. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  11. 11. leadership states that “the Central General Office urges all offices to truthfully convey all information, and consider how to resolve the tendency of reporting only the good news”.50 The CCP’s reinforcement of the information-processing function of the general offices is beneficial to its aim of improving governing ability, as it allows for rapid reactions to the needs of society. This was the initial goal behind the restructuring of the general offices’ operations from “recorders” to “processors”. MISHU Of the four types of personal mishu, political mishu are undoubtedly the most important, often referred to as “great secretaries” (dami 大秘). They take on a huge range of responsibilities: Liu Congwen (刘崇文), former political mishu to Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), recalls that his work included investigation and research, drafting documents and responding to petitions and letters. Hu also requested Liu to gather the information needed to help him write a memoir, but Hu passed away before the work could be completed.51 Zheng Bijian (郑必坚), the former vice-principal of the Central Party School, also worked as Hu Yaobang’s politi- cal mishu in the 1980s, and helped him to compose the political report of the 13th National Party Congress.52 During the 1980s, Party elders such as Deng Xiaoping (邓小平) and Chen Yun (陈云) would even send their political mishu to chair Politburo meetings on their behalf.53 Precisely what constitutes “politi- cal affairs” is by no means clear-cut; the power of the political mishu is limited only by the attitude of their leading cadre. Former Premier Zhu Rongji (朱熔基) preferred to see to his own duties himself, and the power of his political mishu was therefore limited. However, his predecessor, Li Peng (李鹏), would delegate a great many tasks to his mishu, thereby allowing them far greater power.54 Political mishu often work as the directors of the leading cadre’s individual executive offices.55 Executive offices are the first point of contact when approach- ing a senior cadre, and thus the office directors act as a representative of the leader, ready to communicate with other departments and units in his name 50. Zhang Bangkui, “Zhongyang bangongting lingdao tongzhi tan jiejue xinxi gongzuo zhong de bao you nan wenti” (Central General Office Leading Comrades Discuss Resolving the Difficulties of Reporting Bad News), Bangongshi yewu (General Office Business), No. 6 (1998), p. 12. 51. Liu Chongwen, “Hu Yaobang shishi qian bannian de xintai” (Hu Yaobang’s Way of Thinking in the Six Months before his Death), Yanhuang chunqiu, No. 9 (2009), pp. 3–4. 52. Xi Yin, Zhongguo gaoceng wendan (The Knowledge Bank of Chinese Top Leaders) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang People’s Press, 2008), pp. 151–53. 53. Ezra F. Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), pp. 379–80. 54. Interview, Chinese scholar, 8 November 2012. 55. The director of President Hu Jintao’s executive office was ranked at deputy ministerial level ( fu bu ji). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  12. 12. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu whenever necessary. For example, when Jiang Zemin ordered Hu Jintao to han- dle the US spy plane collision incident in 2001, this in practice involved “Hu’s Office” working closely with the Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇) on Hu’s behalf.56 During the Sino–US negotiations over Chinese accession to the World Trade Organization, when the Chinese delegate, Minister of Foreign Trade and Cooperation Long Yongtu (龙永图), placed a telephone call to “Zhu’s Office” (Zhu ban 朱办) at 6 a.m. on 15 November 1999 to inform Premier Zhu Rongji of the status of the discussions, it was Zhu’s political mishu, Li Wei (李伟) who answered the call.57 In other words, political mishu are the chief supervisors of the executive offices, and must be prepared to take care of any political issue on behalf of their senior leading cadre. In general, as leading cadres have many pressures on their time, it is the re- sponsibility of political mishu to help read and process documents on their be- half. The political mishu acts as a “filter”, sifting through information and writing summaries and abstracts to lighten the reading load of the senior cadre.58 When submitting documents to the senior leader, it is imperative that political mishu possess acute discretion and avoid submitting any problematic content. During the Cultural Revolution, Jiang Qing’s mishu, Yan Zhanggui, forwarded her a letter written by a young Beijing actress, requesting help on the basis of their shared oc- cupational background. Jiang had worked as an actress in Shanghai in the 1930s, but was adamant that her past be covered up. When presented with the letter, she not only immediately relieved Yan of his duties, but even had him sent to prison.59 For many Politburo Standing Committee members and senior cadres, the first item on the day’s agenda is to read the Internal Reference documents (neibu can- kao 内部参考, or neican 内参) with the political mishu’s help. Neican documents are highly confidential edited news reports prepared by Xinhua News Agency (Xinhua she 新华社), circulated only to the highest leadership. There are different levels of clearance within the CCP; only the highest level of clearance, limited to the Politburo Standing Committee members, can access the “Domestic Status Proofs” (guonei dongtai qingyang 国内动态清样), which outlines the details of the most significant and urgent incidents, such as the 1989 riots in Lhasa or the flooding of the Yangtze in 1998.60 Political mishu first skim through the contents 56. Tang Jiaxuan, Jing yu xu feng (Strong Rains and Warm Winds) (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2009), p. 271. 57. Zhao Yining, “Zhu Rongji zongli jueduan ZhongMei tanpan de gushi” (The Story of Premier Zhu Rongji’s Decisive Sino–US Negotiations), Ershiyi shiji jingji baodao (21st Century Business Herald) (21 Nov- ember 2011), p. 13. 58. Tong Xiaopeng, Feng yu sishi nian (di er bu), p. 342. 59. An Xiaoyi, “Yan Zhanggui gei Jiang Qing dang mishu”, pp. 54–55. 60. Chen Yanhui, “Neican jiemi” (Revealing the Secrets of Internal Reference), Xinhua Ao bao (Xinhua Macao Daily News) (30 May 2005), p. 3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  13. 13. of the neican and highlight the most important points, before passing it onto the leading cadre. Zhou Enlai had his political mishu read him the neican aloud at breakfast.61 Leading cadres may write remarks and instructions on the document and direct their mishu to send a copy to the Central General Office and to any other relevant departments, to take action as instructed.62 The Central General Office will subsequently charge appropriate general offices with the task of moni- toring the application of the leading cadre’s directives. This process is known as “supervision and inspection” (ducu jiancha 督促检查),63 and is a special part of the overall information transmission system within the CCP, reflecting the con- ditions of pervasive external supervision. Under the conditions of a persistent lack of media freedom, it is vital for the top leadership to have access to compre- hensive information sources in order to maintain and strengthen their capacity to govern effectively. In addition to the neican documents, since political mishu work so closely with senior leaders they have a great deal of sensitive information at their fingertips. For example, in the early 1980s, many smuggling cases implicating CCP cadres occurred in the coastal provinces of Guangdong and Fujian. Chen Yun’s mishu, Zhu Jiamu (朱佳木), revealed that he was allowed to enter Chen’s office and read the briefings of proceedings regarding charges of corruption.64 Under normal cir- cumstances, such sensitive documents would be seen by nobody but the most senior leadership. Another responsibility falling within the scope of a political mishu’s work is arranging important survey and investigation (diaoyan 调研) trips for the lead- ing cadre. When members of the Politburo Standing Committee take these trips, the schedule and location are decided upon by the Standing Committee and then carefully organized by the senior cadre’s political mishu, the Central General Office and the top leader in the diaoyan location. The information is categorized “top secret”. To promote recognition of CCP policy in rural areas, at Chinese New Year in 2006 Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao paid visits to rural regions in Shaanxi and Shandong respectively.65 Both itineraries were arranged by the Politburo Standing Committee and brought to fruition by the planning and coordination of Hu’s mi- shu, Chen Shiju (陈世炬), and Wen’s mishu, Qiu Xiaoxiong (丘小雄). The senior cadres’ speeches and discussions on such trips, and even the questions asked by the general public, are all drawn up in advance by the political mishu. Often, they organize local Party representatives to act as members of the general public, in 61. Cheng Hua, Zhou Enlai he ta de mishumen, p. 251. 62. Chen Yanhui, “Neican jiemi”. 63. Li Xin, Li Xin wenji (di er juan), pp. 52–55. 64. Zhu Jiamu, Lun Chen Yun (Discussing Chen Yun) (Beijing: Central Literature Press, 2010), p. 12. 65. Li Guangmin and Zhong Jian, “Jiemi Zhongnanhai de diaoyan zhengzhi” (Decrypting the Politics of Zhongnanhai’s Investigation and Research), Fenghuang zhoukan (Phoenix Weekly), No. 435 (15 May 2012), pp. 24–25. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  14. 14. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu order to ensure that the agenda runs smoothly. Another example of such arrange- ments is Deng Xiaoping’s famous Southern Tour in 1992. The Central General Office put forward suggestions for the trip, which were ultimately decided upon by Deng’s political mishu, Wang Ruilin (王瑞林).66 Local cadres hoping to film Deng’s trip had first to obtain permission from Wang.67 In addition to organizing the trips of senior cadres, some political mishu go on investigative trips by themselves, collecting information for their leader. In the Mao era, perhaps the most famous mishu to embark on such tours was Tian Jiaying (田家英), who investigated the People’s Communes on behalf of Mao Zedong and offered suggestions for improvements to the system.68 Further to this, Chen Yun’s political mishu, former Minister of State Security Xu Yongyue (许永跃), recalled that, after Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour, he was dispatched by Chen to Guangzhou and Fujian to observe the development of township en- terprises in the south. Chen asked him to investigate several hundred enterprises, and told him: “When you go, say that it was I that sent you; that you are there on my behalf”. On his return to Beijing, Xu Yongyue presented Chen Yun with lengthy reports of his observations.69 These examples illustrate the significant power of the political mishu. However, it is far from easy to become a successful and competent political mishu. In addi- tion to excellent planning skills, political mishu must also possess acute political acumen and the ability to comprehend the intentions and wishes of their leading cadre even when these are not explicit. For example, when noting instructions on documents concerning particularly sensitive topics such as demolition, land acquisition or personnel appointment, some senior cadres are not willing to dis- close their true opinion or make criticisms. In recent years, the term “provisional agreement” (ni tongyi 拟同意) has become a common watchword in the CCP vocabulary, allowing cadres to sidestep this dilemma neatly. When receiving documents inscribed with this ambiguous phrase, involved units usually com- municate with the political mishu to clarify whether the senior leader merely has certain concerns that he is reluctant to voice, or whether he entirely disagrees with the proposals.70 In other words, above and beyond organizing daily affairs, political mishu must also express the true sentiments which the leading cadre 66. Tian Bingxin, “Deng Xiaoping ‘Nanxun’ zhong xian wei ren zhi de gushi” (The Little-Known Stories of Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour), Nanfeng chuang (Southern Window), No. 14 (July 2004), p. 23. 67. Chen Kaizhi, “Wo quancheng peitong Xiaoping Nanxun” (Accompanying Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour), Zhongguo jingji zhoukan (China Economics Weekly), No. 38 (27 September 2009), p. 74. 68. Ye Yonglie, Mao Zedong de mishumen (Mao Zedong’s Mishu) (Shanghai: People’s Press, 1994), pp. 265–67. 69. Qiao Jun, “Fang guojia anquan buzhang, yuan Chen Yun tongzhi mishu Xu Yongyue” (Interviewing National Security Bureau Director, Chen Yun’s Former Mishu Xu Yongyue), Bainian chao, No. 3 (2006), p. 17. 70. Hu Ben, “Lindao pishi: weimiao jiqiao yu chuanyue luoji” (Leaders’ Instructions: Subtle Techniques and Circular Logic), Gongchandang yuan (Communist Party Members), No. 8 (2010), p. 54. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  15. 15. himself does not dare venture. If not hardened by lengthy experience in CCP of- ficialdom, it would be unlikely that many could successfully rise to the challenge. MISHU After political mishu, confidential mishu are the most important group, responsi- ble for managing all of the leading cadre’s confidential matters. The scope of their work involves document confidentiality and couriering. The CCP’s more confi- dential documents, such as those sent from leaders at department level and above to members of the Politburo Standing Committee, are marked with the words “top secret” (juemi 绝密) or “for addressee only” (qinqi 亲启).71 Confidential mishu alone have the right to open such documents on behalf of their leading cadre. These documents often discuss important inner Party political issues; for example, during Party elections for members of the Central Committee (Zhongyang weiyuan 中央委员), the list of potential candidates is conveyed by such a document.72 In addition, confidential mishu also act as couriers for top secret documents. Individual leading cadres’ confidential mishu maintain a professional connec- tion with the Confidential Bureau of the Central General Office, and may be re- sponsible for transferring important documents between the senior cadre and the office, as well as between senior cadres themselves. If a top secret document is marked “extra urgent” (teji 特急), confidential mishu must ensure that it reaches the hands of their leading cadre immediately.73 Mao Zedong’s confidential mishu, Luo Guanglu (罗光禄) and Gao Zhi (高智), would enter Mao’s bedroom directly and wake him on receipt of any particularly urgent or significant message.74 In fact, after the founding of the PRC, as Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi (刘少奇) and Zhou Enlai habitually worked through the night, confidential mishu scurried back and forth to deliver secret and “extra urgent” documents between leaders into the small hours.75 After Hua Guofeng (华国锋) took office, leaders began to work in the daytime instead, and the role of confidential mishu as night-time couriers faded away, but they still needed to be ready at a moment’s notice. For example, in 1981, Chen Yun had copies of his missive “Improving the Cultivation of Young Cadres Is Imperative” (tiba peiyang zhongqing nian ganbu shi dangwu zhi ji 提拔培养中青年干部是当务之急) delivered immediately to Deng Xiaoping, 71. Shan Lan, Hong qiang nei de mishumen (shang) (The Mishu within the Red Walls [Part 1]) (Jilin: Yanbian University Press, 1998), pp. 33–34. 72. Cheng Hua, Zhou Enlai he ta de mishumen, p. 318. 73. Ji Dong, Nanwang de ba nian (A Memorable Eight Years) (Beijing: Central Literature Press, 2007), p. 70. 74. Shan Lan, Hong qiang nei de mishumen (shang), pp. 33–34. 75. Li Gengqi, “Wo zai zhong ban jiyao shi gongzuo de rizi li”, p. 53. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  16. 16. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu Hu Yaobang and other senior figures.76 The topic of cadre rejuvenation was par- ticularly delicate at the time, as it touched upon the thorny issue of senior lead- ers’ retirement. This example demonstrates that confidential mishu are trusted to handle even the most sensitive of materials. However, some senior leaders, such as Premier Zhou Enlai, so respected the notion of confidentiality that they preferred to handle these files themselves, and did not make much use of confidential mishu. In fact, a secure private telephone line connecting only the highest leadership was installed in Zhou Enlai’s bed- room.77 His mishu recalled that, when the telephone rang, aware that it was an- other leader calling on highly important business, Zhou would immediately send all the mishu out of the room.78 In order to ensure total confidentiality, Zhou’s of- fice had only three keys cut: one for the Premier himself, one for his confidential mishu, and one for his security mishu. Nobody else was allowed to enter without authorization.79 In addition to written documents, mishu must handle confidential telegrams and other communications. The former Chinese ambassador to Japan, Xu Dunxin (徐敦信), recalled that, during the process of signing the Sino–Japanese Friendship and Peace Treaty in 1978, he received a request from the Japanese for- eign minister to pay a visit to China. The ambassador immediately placed a call to “Deng’s Office” for advice. The call was answered by Deng Xiaoping’s mishu, who swiftly made an oral report to Deng and conveyed the immediate response, “Welcome to China”.80 A further responsibility of confidential mishu is to record the spoken words of their leading cadre. Many of today’s mishu use dictaphones for this purpose, but Mao’s mishu Gao Zhi recalls that Mao did not allow the use of recording devices. Gao Zhi had no choice but to rely on the strength of his own memory.81 Close in importance to the confidential mishu are the security mishu, who are responsible for safety and security arrangements. In fact, the security mishu are never more than a few paces away from their leading cadre. Whenever Mao Zedong traveled by car, his driver would be on the left, with Gao Zhi in the front right seat; Mao would sit on the back right, and on his left would invariably be 76. “Jinian Chen Yun tongzhi bainian danchen” (Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Comrade Chen Yun’s Birth), Zhejiang News (13 June 2005), /006133109_02.shtml, accessed 23 December 2012. 77. Ji Dong, Nanwang de ba nian, p. 66. 78. Cheng Hua, Zhou Enlai he ta de mishumen, pp. 183–84. 79. Cheng Hua, Zhou Enlai he ta de mishumen, p. 438. 80. Yang Faxi, “Fang Zhongguo qian zhu Riben dashi Xu Dunxin” (Interview with Former Chinese Ambassador to Japan Xu Dunxin), Qiushi (Seeking Truth), No. 20 (2008), p. 63. 81. Gao Zhi, Jiyao mishu de simian (Memoires of a Confidential Mishu) (Beijing: Central Party School Press, 1993), pp. 97–99. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  17. 17. his security mishu, Li Yinqiao (李银桥).82 Although regulations state that security mishu should be appointed by the Central General Office Security Bureau, sen- ior leaders generally prefer to employ their most trusted confidants in the role. In 1989 when he was transferred from Shanghai to Beijing to take on the posi- tion of General Secretary, Jiang Zemin, concerned that unknown security mishu might be plants of other leaders sent to spy on him, insisted that the Central General Office also transfer his mishu from Shanghai to continue working for him in Beijing.83 Security mishu must conduct security arrangements in tandem with the Central General Office Security Bureau. Whenever leading cadres make excur- sions or tours, the security mishu and the security staff of the General Office first analyze the security needs for the trip. For example, before Deng Xiaoping embarked on his Southern Tour in 1992, his security mishu, Zhang Baozhong (张宝忠), went ahead of him to Guangdong to prepare necessary security deploy- ments.84 Security mishu must also ensure the safety of their leading cadres when at home. Each Politburo member’s home is guarded by a squad, and each Standing Committee member’s by a platoon.85 These guards are nominally arranged by the Central General Office, but security mishu also give specific directions for dispatching and planning. As safeguarding a senior cadre is a round-the-clock responsibility, security mishu live in the leader’s house. For example, when Jiang Zemin was the acting General Secretary, his security mishu lived with him in the Zhongnanhai compound.86 The CCP is also well aware of the importance of subduing the security mishu when attempting the seizure or arrest of a high official. For example, in 1971, when detaining Lin Biao’s (林彪) close supporters Huang Yongsheng (黄永胜), Wu Faxian (吴法宪), Li Zuopeng (李作鹏) and Qiu Huizuo (邱会作), and again in 1976 when apprehending Jiang Qing’s Gang of Four henchmen Wang Hongwen (王洪文), Zhang Chunqiao (张春桥) and Yao Wenyuan (姚文元), the CCP lured the security mishu of each official to a different location, and disarmed and restrained them, before the arrests could be made.87 Had such action not been taken, the mishu might have called on other forces to come to the leading cadres’ aid, potentially resulting in violent turmoil. 82. Ye Yonglie, Mao Zedong de mishumen, p. 332. 83. Sheng Xue, “Yuanhua An” hei mu (The Inside Story of the Yuanhua Smuggling Case) (Hong Kong: Mingjing Press, 2001), p. 37. 84. Tian Bingxin, “Deng Xiaoping ‘Nanxun’ zhong xian wei ren zhi de gushi”, p. 23. 85. Zhang Hailin, “Yuan fu zongli Ji Dengkui de changzi huiyi wangshi” (Former Vice Premier Ji Dengkui’s Eldest Son Recalls Past Events), Liaowang dongfang zhoukan (Eastern Outlook Weekly), No. 398 (30 June 2011), p. 65. 86. Sheng Xue, “Yuanhua An” hei mu, p. 39. 87. Gu Baozi, Kua chu Zhongnanhai (Out of Zhongnanhai) (Beijing: China Women’s Press, 2006), pp. 290–95. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  18. 18. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu The final category of personal mishu is the life mishu, who are relatively less important. Their main responsibility is to organize the logistics of a leading cad- re’s personal affairs. For example, Xie Guofu (谢国富), Chen Yun’s life mishu dur- ing the 1990s, recalls that he was responsible for coordinating the use of all of the official cars of “Chen’s Office”.88 Another important facet of a life mishu’s work is to handle the “special supply” (te gong 特供) for the leading cadre. The CCP special supply system enables exclusive logistics units to provide higher-quality food, tobacco, alcohol and clothing for senior cadres.89 As life mishu are deeply involved in a senior cadre’s personal affairs, in certain cases they can obtain a great deal of informal power. During the late stages of Mao Zedong’s life, as ill health confined him to his bed, his life mishu, Zhang Yufeng (张玉凤), stayed with him and was one of the very few people allowed into his room. Even the élite Politburo Standing Committee members were compelled to respect Zhang’s opinions when deliberating over Mao’s healthcare.90 As Lucian W. Pye has insightfully noted, the line between formal and informal politics within CCP officialdom is perpetually indistinct.91 Due to the nature of their work, mishu who gain the favor of their leading cadre are in a position to mine a rich vein of heightened power. Factions and patron–client relation- ships also exist in Western countries,92 and the existence of an influential secre- tarial system is hardly peculiar to China. For example, in the United States, the Executive Office of the President is staffed with the President’s own secretaries and wields a considerable amount of power in drafting policy and budgets. So why is a “Mishu Clique” not emerging in Western countries? Simply put, the CCP regime lacks systematic checks and limits on the power of its leaders, and through their close working relationship the CCP’s mishu are in an ideal position to leverage excessive influence and clout from the leader for themselves. Furthermore, the Party Committee general offices and individual leaders’ execu- tive offices are vital cogs in the CCP machine, pivots of the Party’s administra- tive operations and hubs for gathering and processing information. Through 88. Xie Guofu, “Wo suo liaojie de Chen Yun” (What I Understand of Comrade Chen Yun), Renmin ribao (11 June 2005), p. 6. 89. Du Qing, “Shenmi shiqi de te gong pin” (Special Supplies in the Period of Mystery), Renwu huabao (Important Figures Illustrated Paper), No. 11 (June 2011), pp. 96–97. 90. Li Zhisui, Mao Zedong siren yisheng huiyi lu (Memoir of Mao Zedong’s Personal Physician) (Taipei: China Times Culture, 1994), pp. 588–89. 91. Lucian W. Pye, “Factions and the Politics of Guanxi: Paradoxes in Chinese Administrative and Political Behaviour”, The China Journal, No. 34 (July 1995), pp. 36–37. 92. See Alex Weingrod, “Patrons, Patronage, and Political Parties”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 10, No. 4 (July 1968), pp. 377–400. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  19. 19. their close association with these offices, mishu are easily able to reap personal gains.93 In democratic countries, although clients may be able to share informally in their patrons’ power, the formal constraints on leaders mean that this sharing is by no means “unrestricted”. The informal power of mishu is not without con- straint, however; rather, under the conditions of unrestricted informal politics, the power of mishu is inextricably linked to the power of senior leaders. For ex- ample, since the strongman eras of Mao and Deng, greater restrictions have been placed upon CCP leaders, and in turn the unrestricted power of their mishu has somewhat waned. Nevertheless, as long as conditions of relatively unconstrained power continue to exist for senior leaders, so too do conditions of unrestricted informal politics for mishu. Mishu understand in great depth how to survive within the CCP system, mak- ing sure never to clash with their leader or steal his limelight. They also zealously avoid meeting other leaders’ mishu in private, to avoid raising their leader’s suspi- cion.94 Some of the more suspicious senior leaders like to “tame” their mishu with an initial firm strike to establish a sense of hierarchy. For example, Yang Yinlu (杨银禄), Jiang Qing’s confidential mishu during the Cultural Revolution, re- called that, the very first time he met her, she set the tone by loudly admonishing him for some very minor issues.95 In private, mishu address their leading cadre as “boss” (laoban 老板), demonstrating the nature of their professional relation- ship.96 The following quotation aptly describes the model CCP mishu: The first impression outsiders get of mishu is one of diligence and modesty. They are always dressed appropriately, neither too fat nor too thin, and seem to possess an innate insight into the ways of the world. They carry out their work methodi- cally, are never rash or flustered, and are always ready to respond to their leader’s summons. They generally carry a briefcase, and are the last to draw up a seat qui- etly in a crowd of people. They neither speak nor laugh much, but instead placidly shake or nod their head; they walk with an upright posture, and are careful to walk at a respectful distance behind their leader.97 The humility of mishu in the presence of their leader does not necessarily equate to a similar attitude behind the scenes. For example, the leaders of many of 93. Li Song, “Mishu tiba ‘lujing yinhuan’” (Mishu’s “Hidden Path” to Promotion), Liaowang xinwen zhoukan (Outlook Weekly), No. 1393 (8 November 2010), p. 13. 94. Sheng Xue, “Yuanhua An” hei mu, p. 56. 95. Yang Yinlu, “Wo gei Jiang Qing dang mishu” (I Was Jiang Qing’s Mishu), Wenshi cankao (Literary and Historic Reference), No. 7 (April 2011), p. 49. 96. Sheng Xue, “Yuanhua An” hei mu, p. 180. 97. Yang Min and Huo Ye, “Gaoguan shenbian de mishumen” (The Mishu at the Side of High Officials), Renmin wenzhai (People’s Digest), No. 2 (2011), p. 8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  20. 20. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu China’s officially recognized “national impoverished counties” (guojia ji pinkun xian 国家级贫困县) manage to approach and bribe the mishu of central leaders into negotiating a way to retain their impoverished status and thus continue to receive the central authorities’ generous grants. Another source of bribes for mi- shu is the selling of official positions. A Chinese academic told us that, although the power to put forward candidates for a role lies officially with the Organization Department, the department accepts recommendations from senior cadres. As the true origin of a senior cadre’s recommendations is not at all clear, this process is open to manipulation by unscrupulous mishu. Due to the close relationship between mishu and leading cadres, the mishu are often referred to as the “Second Leader” (er lingdao 二领导).98 Mishu have control over many aspects of a leader’s life, including his activities, visitors and document-signing, all of which can be used to turn an illicit profit.99 A Chinese academic told me that, after the Tiananmen incident in 1989, it was extremely difficult to get authorization to publish more sensitive materials. When attempt- ing to publish his book, the academic managed to request the help of a leading cadre’s security mishu, who asked the cadre to write an inscription on the book cover. The publishing authorities had no choice but to authorize the book’s pub- lication, out of respect for the senior cadre. A Taiwanese businessman revealed that he kept a large photograph of himself and a senior cadre on prominent dis- play in his office. To gain the opportunity to meet the senior cadre, he had gone through the political mishu. After establishing a relationship with the political mishu, it was fairly simple to gain a photo opportunity with the cadre. The pho- tograph could then act as a shield against the potential malice of local officials. Unsure of the nature of the relations between the businessman and the senior cadre, they dare not stir up trouble. It is not only mishu who are prone to engage in corrupt behavior. Often the leading cadres are also keen to gain from their positions, and enlist the help of their most trusted mishu to do so. Illustrative examples include the corruption cases of the Hebei Provincial Party Secretary Cheng Weigao (程维高) and the Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Liangyu (陈良宇), who accepted bribes through their respective mishu, Li Zhen (李真) and Qin Yu (秦裕).100 The mishu also made a tidy profit in the process. The opportunity to squirrel money away is certainly attractive—many mishu may actually have no intention whatsoever of being 98. Yang Min and Huo Ye, “Gaoguan shenbian de mishumen”, p. 9. 99. Li Song, “Mishu fubai: shikong de yinxing quanli” (Mishu Corruption: Out-of-Control Concealed Powers), Liaowang xinwen zhoukan, No. 1298 (12 January 2009), p. 16. 100. Zhu Wenyi, “Zhongguo mishu buluo de quanli chang” (The Power Base of China’s Mishu Tribe), Juece yu xinxi (Policy-Making and Information), No. 220 (2003), pp. 34–35. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  21. 21. promoted to a new position, preferring to maintain their role over an extensive period.101 However, if a mishu does intend to progress in his career, the client–patron re- lationship enjoyed with his senior cadre will almost invariably smooth his path to the top. As shown in table 1 at the end of this article, many CCP officials ranked at Deputy Ministerial level and higher have had experience working as mishu. Due to its horizontal (kuaikuai) nature, regular vertical promotion through dif- ferent political rankings is not available within the mishu system; there instead appear to be two different notable career paths for mishu to take, seemingly un- related to whether they have worked as institutional or personal mishu. Firstly, some mishu work for one leader for a long period; once their work is complete, having gained no other qualifications or experience, these cadres often end up working in research institutes. Examples include Zhu Rongji’s mishu, Li Wei, Wen Jiabao’s mishu, Tian Xuebin (田学斌) and Li Keqiang’s mishu, Shi Gang. The second type of career route involves using the position of mishu as a spring- board to higher roles, leveraging the patronage of an influential senior cadre. After completing their stint as mishu, these cadres are transferred to different units to gain more experience, subsequently rising to important ministerial or provincial roles. For example, Li Jianguo (李建国) was promoted by his senior cadre, former Tianjin Municipal Secretary Li Ruihuan (李瑞环), to the post of Tianjin Deputy Municipal Secretary, and later worked as a provincial leader in Shaanxi and Shandong. Zhou Qiang (周强) was employed as the mishu of for- mer Minister of Justice Xiao Yang (肖扬), and later worked as a leader in the Communist Youth League and in Hunan Province. Both Li Jianguo and Zhou, who now hold posts in the State leadership, began their ascent with their work as mishu. The unrestricted informal political power of mishu derives largely from their senior leader, and thus the leader’s own power within the Party may influence the available career positions of their mishu. In 2003, Jiang Zemin installed his former political mishu, Jia Yan’an (贾廷安), as director of the Central Military Commission (CMC) General Office; in June 2013, Xi Jinping also selected his mishu, Zhong Shaojun, for the commission. Although neither Jia nor Zhong had any formal military experience, both had military rank conferred on them and entered the CMC General Office through the influence of Jiang and Xi respec- tively, thus helping their former senior leaders to retain a degree of vicarious influence over the military.102 However, at the 18th National Party Congress, Hu Jintao failed to maneuver his political mishu Chen Shiju into the same role. This probably reflects Hu’s lack of power within the Party. 101. Interview, Chinese university academic, 8 November 2012. 102. “Dami Zhong Shaojun”. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  22. 22. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu Once a senior leader loses power, it is highly likely that both his current and former mishu will also suffer some loss of political status. For example, when the Bo Xilai (薄熙来) affair exploded, his long-serving mishu, Wu Wenkang (吴文康), was also put under investigation.103 Former Sichuan Provincial Committee mem- ber Guo Yongxiang (郭永祥), employed as the mishu of Politburo Standing Com- mittee member Zhou Yongkang (周永康), came under investigation on suspicion of corruption in June 2013. Many outsiders consider this to be Xi Jinping’s open- ing gambit in eliminating Zhou Yongkang’s power.104 However, in certain circum- stances, a senior leader’s loss of power need not have consequences for the mishu. For example, when Hu Yaobang was ousted from the political arena in 1987, his mishu, Zheng Bijian, remained unaffected and went on to enjoy a success- ful official career. This may be because, although Hu had been forced to retire, the overall evaluation of him remained fairly positive, and there was no need to remove all trace of his former power base.105 In addition, some mishu have the support of other high officials in addition to their own senior leader. Zheng Bijian had previously worked for the Party elders Deng Liqun (邓力群) and Hu Qiaomu (胡乔木), and had been praised by Deng Xiaoping.106 These multiple connections to influential leaders may also have saved Zheng from suffering any unwanted consequences. One final important issue for the Party is how best to clamp down on mishu’s unrestricted informal political power. A potential method would be to weaken the links of patronage between leading cadres and mishu. In 2010, the CCP ruled that the promotion of mishu to new positions must be subject to the agree- ment of the supervising Organization Department, rather than on the decision of the senior cadre alone.107 In another interesting example, it was laid down in 2003 in Sichuan that male leaders could not employ female mishu, in order to avoid complicating political relations by triggering sexual relationships.108 While such measures could indeed curb the strength of the patron–client relationship, converting mishu’s informal political power from “unrestricted” to “restricted” 103. “Xuanze xing da hei yiguo” (The Calamity of Selective Anti-Corruption), Jiangnan dushi bao (Southern Metropolis Daily) (4 February 2013), p. A14. 104. Yu Zeyuan, “Zhonggong qian zhengzhiju changwei Zhou Yongkang jiang shou qianlian?” (Will Former CCP Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang Be Implicated?), Lianhe zaobao, No. 17 (25 June 2013), p. 17. 105. “Guanbao zan Xi jicheng Hu Yaobang linian” (Official Newspaper Praises Xi Jinping’s Inheriting of Hu Yaobang’s Ideals), Ming bao (Daily News) (16 April 2013), p. A20. 106. Xi Yin, Zhongguo gaoceng wendan, pp. 151–54. 107. “Dangzheng lingdao ganbu xuanba renyong gongzuo youguan shixiang baogao banfa (shixing)” (Reporting Practices on Matters Relating to the Selection and Appointment of Party and Government Leading Cadres [pilot version]),,, accessed 26 June 2013. 108. “Nan lingdao bu pei nü mishu” (Female Mishu Unsuitable for Male Leaders), Dagong bao (Ta kung pao, Impartial Daily) (28 July 2003), p. A13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  23. 23. Table 1. Name list of former mishu holding deputy provincial–ministerial leadership rank and above (as of June 2013) Name Position Year of Birth Mishu Experience State Leadership Rank Xi Jinping (习近平) General Secretary 1953 Mishu to Geng Biao (耿飚) 1979–82 Li Jianguo (李建国) Vice Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee 1946 Mishu to Li Ruihuan (李瑞环) 1981–87 Director of the Tianjin Municipal Committee General Office 1983–89 Zhao Hongzhu (赵洪祝) Central Secretariat Secretary 1947 Mishu to Wei Jianxing (尉健行) 1992–98 Liu Qibao (刘奇葆) Central Secretariat Secretary 1953 Mishu to Wan Li (万里) 1977–80 Ling Jihua (令计划) Chairman of the CPPCC 1956 Director of the Central Committee General Office 2007–12 Zhou Qiang (周强) Chief of the Supreme Court 1960 Mishu to Xiao Yang (肖扬) 1993–95 Provincial–Ministerial Leadership Rank Xu Shaoshi (徐绍史) Chairman of the Reform and Development Commission 1951 Mishu to Wen Jiabao (温家宝) 1983–85 Ji Bingxuan (吉炳轩) Heilongjiang Provincial Secretary 1951 Mishu to Hou Zongbin (侯宗宾) 1990–92 Jia Yan’an (贾廷安) Deputy Director of the General Political Department 1952 Mishu to Jiang Zemin (江泽民) 1982–94 Zhou Benshun (周本顺) Hebei Provincial Secretary 1953 Mishu to Zhou Yongkang (周永康) 2003–13 Li Wei (李伟) Director of State Council Development Research Center 1953 Mishu to Zhu Rongji (朱镕基) 1998–03 Jiang Yikang (姜异康) Shandong Provincial Secretary 1953 Mishu to Li Peng (李鹏) 1988–90 continued on next page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  24. 24. Han Zhangfu (韩长赋) Minister of Agriculture 1954 Mishu to Zhu Rongji 1998–2001 Huang Xingguo (黄兴国) Mayor of Tianjin 1954 Mishu to Chai Songyue (柴松岳) ?–1998 Cai Yingting (蔡英挺) Nanjing Military Region Commander 1954 Mishu to Zhang Wannian (张万年) ? –? Li Hongzhong (李鸿忠) Hubei Provincial Secretary 1956 Mishu to Li Tieying (李铁映) 1982–88 Wang Zhengwei (王正伟) Chairman of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region 1957 Mishu to Li Xuezhi (李学智) 1984–86 Zhong Shaojun (钟绍军) Director of CMC General Office (?) ? Mishu to Xi Jinping 2002–? Deputy Provincial–Ministerial Leadership Rank Qiu Xiaoxiong (丘小雄) Deputy Director of the State Taxation Administration 1952 Mishu to Wen Jiabao 1999–2003 Hou Yunchun (侯云春) Deputy Director of State Council Development Research Center 1952 Mishu to Li Rongrong (李荣融) 1996–2002 Ye Kedong (叶克冬) Deputy Director of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office 1953 Mishu to Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) 1983–87 Wang Huaichen (王怀臣) Sichuan Provincial Committee Member 1953 Mishu to Qiao Shi (乔石) 1983–85 Jin Daoming (金道铭) Shanxi Vice Provincial Secretary 1953 Mishu to Wei Jianxing 1987–2003 Gou Lijun (苟利军) Vice Chairman of the Tianjin Municipal NPC Committee 1953 Director of the Tianjin Municipal Committee General Office 2006–07 Dong Hong (董宏) Director of the Party Literature Research Office 1953 Mishu to Bo Yibo (薄一波) 1983–92 Hu Yadong (胡亚东) Vice Secretary of the China Railway Corporation 1953 Mishu to Zeng Qinghong (曾庆红) ?–? continued on next page Table 1. (Continued) Name Position Year of Birth Mishu Experience Provincial–Ministerial Leadership Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  25. 25. Chen Hao (陈豪) Vice Chairman of the All- China Federation of Trade Unions 1954 Director of the Shanghai Municipal Committee General Office 1999–2003 Hong Feng (洪峰) Deputy Mayor of Beijing 1954 Mishu to Ma Kai (马凯) ?–1991 Sun Qingyun (孙清云) Shaanxi Vice Provincial Secretary 1954 Mishu to Jiang Chunyun (姜春云) 1995–98 Yu Weiguo (于卫国) Fujian Vice Provincial Secretary 1955 Mishu to Ding Guan’gen (丁关根) 1991–95 Liu Weijia (刘维佳) Yunnan Provincial Committee Member 1955 Mishu to Wang Qishan (王岐山) 2002–03 Han Yongwen (韩永文) Hunan Vice Provincial Governor 1955 Mishu to Ma Kai 2006–08 Li Jinjun (李进军) Deputy Director of the CCP International Liaison Department 1956 Mishu to Dai Bingguo (戴秉国) 1997–99 Liu Xiaobin (刘晓滨) Head of the National Research and Development Commission Discipline Inspection Group 1956 Mishu to He Guoqiang (贺国强) 1994–96 Zeng Wei (曾维) Liaoning Provincial Committee Member 1956 Director of the Liaoning Provincial Committee General Office 2004–07 Liu Hongcai (刘洪才) Ambassador to the DPRK 1956 Mishu to Dai Bingguo 2001–03 Shang Yong (尚勇) Jiangxi Vice Provincial Secretary 1957 Mishu to Song Jian (宋健) 1992–95 Gu Chaoxi (顾朝曦) Vice Minister of Civil Affairs 1958 Mishu to Zhu Rongji 1985–2000 Fan Zhaobing (范照兵) Chongqing Municipal Committee Member 1958 Mishu to He Guoqiang 1999–2002 Lin Xiong (林雄) Head of the Guangdong Province United Front Department 1959 Mishu to Wen Jiabao 1986–93 Table 1. (Continued) Name Position Year of Birth Mishu Experience Deputy Provincial–Ministerial Leadership Rank continued on next page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  26. 26. Ding Xiangyang (丁向阳) Deputy Secretary General of the State Council 1959 Mishu to Wang Zhongyu (王忠禹) ?–? Wang Xiaodong (王晓东) Hubei Vice Provincial Governor 1960 Director of the Guizhou Provincial Committee General Office 1998–2000 Li Yi (李屹) Vice Chairman of the China Federation of Literary and Art 1960 Director of the Xinjiang Party Committee General Office 2000–04 Guo Kailang (郭开朗) Hunan Provincial Committee Member 1960 Mishu to Jiang Zemin 1997–2000 Zhao Dacheng (赵大程) Deputy Minister of Justice 1960 Mishu to Xiao Yang 1993–98 Xia Yong (夏勇) Deputy Director of the State Council Legislative Affairs Office 1961 Mishu to Hu Jintao 2003–05 Sun Wei (孙伟) Shandong Vice Provincial Governor 1961 Mishu to Wu Bangguo (吴邦国) 2000–04 Ling Yueming (凌月明) Chongqing Vice-Municipal Governor 1962 Mishu to He Guoqiang 1992–99 Ding Xuexiang (丁薛祥) Vice Director of the Central Committee General Office 1962 Mishu to Xi Jinping 2007 Director of the Shanghai Municipal Committee General Office (主任) 2006–07 Yin Li (尹力) Deputy Director of the State Food and Drugs Administration 1962 Mishu to Wu Yi (吴仪) 2006–08 Cong Bing (丛兵) Vice Secretary of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce 1962 Mishu to Zeng Qinghong 1992–99 Gongbao Zhaxi (公保扎西) [Tibetan] Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region 1962 Mishu to Zeng Qinghong 1991–? Chen Shiju (陈世炬) Deputy Director of the Central Committee General Office 1960 or 1963 Mishu to Hu Jintao 1992–2013 Table 1. (Continued) Name Position Year of Birth Mishu Experience Deputy Provincial–Ministerial Leadership Rank continued on next page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  27. 27. would involve targeting the source: the largely unconstrained political power of senior leaders. Such an approach would require systematic checks and balances and strict independent oversight. Unfortunately, under the current authoritarian CCP regime, such oversight does not appear conceivable. The mishu system is made up of two streams: institutional mishu and personal mishu. The former make up the staff of the Party Committee general offices at every level, liaising between departments and pushing policy decisions on be- half of the Party Committee, gathering data and processing it for senior officials. Personal mishu work in the individual executive offices of senior leading cadres. Those working for Politburo Standing Committee members are divided into four main categories: political, confidential, security and life mishu. Both institutional and personal mishu are subject to a dual leadership mechanism, but their main responsibility is to the leading cadres around whom the system revolves. Tian Xuebin (田学斌) Deputy Director of the State Council Research Office 1963 Mishu to Wen Jiabao 2003–08 Lin Nianxiu (林念修) Vice Chairman of the Guangxi Autonomous Region 1963 Mishu to Zou Jiahua (邹家华) 1994–2003 Yu Yuanhui (余远辉) Guangxi Autonomous Regional Committee Member 1964 Director of the Guangxi Autonomous Region Party Committee General Office 2010–13 Ji Wenlin (冀文林) Hainan Vice Provincial Governor 1966 Mishu to Zhou Yongkang 1998–2008 Shi Gang (石刚) Deputy Director of the State Council Research Office ? Mishu to Li Keqiang (李克强) ?–2013 Source: Wisers Greater China News Portal (Huike Da Zhonghua Xinwen Wang 慧科大中华新闻网); PRC Political Elite Database (Taiwan National Zhengzhi University Department of Political Science, directed by Professor Kou Chien-wen),, accessed 1–8 July 2013. Note: This table only includes directors of Party Committee general offices and personal mishu to senior leaders, but does not include cadres working in the general offices of government bodies.  Table 1. (Continued) Name Position Year of Birth Mishu Experience Deputy Provincial–Ministerial Leadership Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
  28. 28. Lifting the Veil of the CCP’s Mishu The importance of the relationship between a senior leader and his mishu can- not be understated; they are as inseparable as fish and water. Institutional mishu are invaluable to the senior cadre, as they provide important information and support for policy-making, and personal mishu assist with political, confidential, security and life-based tasks. As a result of this management structure centered on senior cadres, as well as the importance of relationships in Chinese culture,109 the division between the power of the leading cadre and his mishu is extremely indistinct. This allows the mishu to siphon off a certain amount of the senior cadre’s power, potentially leveraging this power to great personal advantage. Furthermore, mishu can continue to draw upon a strong client–patron relation- ship to benefit yet further, not least from the chance for promotion to high office and entrance to the ranks of the CCP’s powerful “Mishu Clique”. The mishu system is perhaps the only structure remaining in the CCP which has not undergone a process of institutionalization, remaining fairly constant over time. This is a result of the lack of formal limitations on the power of senior leading cadres, allowing mishu working for these leaders in vital hubs of admin- istrative operations, such as Party Committee general offices or individual execu- tive offices, to accumulate a vast potential for unrestricted informal power. In the worst of scenarios, mishu are in a position to play a ruthless role, manipulating policy and decision-making while raking in wealth and influence. Yet mishu re- main perpetually hidden from the glare of external scrutiny, concealed behind the protective screen of the leading cadres whom they serve. 109. Lowell Dittmer, “Chinese Informal Politics”, p. 10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
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