Organization Department of the Communist Party of China

Organization Department of the Communist Party of China
Abbreviation Zhongzubu (中组部)
Formation July 1921
Type Department directly reporting to the Central Committee
Headquarters Chang'an Avenue, Xicheng District, Beijing
  • Beijing
Zhao Leji
Executive deputy head
Chen Xi*
Deputy heads
Yin Weimin*, Wang Jingqing, Pan Ligang, Qi Yu, Deng Shengming
Gao Xuanmin
Parent organization
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
*Maintains full minister-level rank

The Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (simplified Chinese: 中国共产党中央组织部; traditional Chinese: 中國共產黨中央組織部; pinyin: Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng Zhōngyāng Zǔzhībù) is a department of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that controls staffing positions within the CPC.

The Organization Department is one of the most important organs of the CPC. It is a secretive and highly trusted agency,[1] and forms the institutional heart of the Leninist party system. It controls the more than 70 million party personnel assignments throughout the national system,[2] and compiles detailed and confidential reports on future potential leaders of the Party.[1]

Because the People's Republic of China is a one party state, the Organization Department has an enormous amount of control over personnel within the PRC. The Organization Department is indispensable to the CPC's power, and the key to its hold over personnel throughout every level of government and industry.[3] It is one of the key agencies of the Central Committee, along with the Central Propaganda Department and International Liaison Department.


The CPC uses the nomenklatura method ("list of names" in Soviet terminology) to determine appointments. The nomenklatura system is how a Leninist ruling party staffs the apparat, exercising organizational hegemony over appointments and dominating the political life of the country.[4]

The central nomenklatura list comprises the top 5,000 positions in the party-state, all of which are controlled by the Organization Department. This includes all ministerial and vice-ministerial positions, provincial governorships and First Party secretary appointments, as well as appointments of university chancellors, presidents of the Academy of Science and Academy of Social Sciences, etc.[4]

Related to the nomenklatura list is the bianzhi list, which is a list of the authorized number of personnel, as well as their duties and functions in government administrative organs, state enterprises, and service organisations. The bianzhi covers those employed in these organisations, whereas the nomenklatura applies to leadership positions.[2] However, because the Party and its organizational departments are constantly intervening in the personnel and administrative functioning of state institutions, the parallel existence of the bianzhi and nomenklatura systems has become an obstacle to fundamental administrative reform in China.[5]

While the system is from the Soviet Union, "the CPC has taken it to an extreme," Yuan Weishi of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong is quoted as saying by the Financial Times. "China is more radical. [The party here] wants to lead everything."[3]

An equivalent of the Organization Department in the United States, according to the Times, would "oversee the appointments of US state governors and their deputies; the mayors of big cities; heads of federal regulatory agencies; the chief executives of General Electric, ExxonMobil, Walmart and 50-odd of the remaining largest companies; justices on the Supreme Court; the editors of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, the bosses of the television networks and cable stations, the presidents of Yale and Harvard and other big universities and the heads of think-tanks such as the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation."[3]

Bruce Gilley and Andrew Nathan write that in the promotion of individual candidates for high positions, a good rating from the Organization Department is essential. The Department judges on such qualities as "ideological probity, loyalty to the Party, attitude toward work, and ability to mobilize others." Its research on individuals slated for top positions are "probing" and assessments often acute.[6]

In recent years, the party's Organization Department introduced an evaluation procedure for leading officials (the cadre responsibility system) that aimed to assess regularly the officials' performance and success at implementing policies.[5] Shambaugh also notes the promulgation of Regulations on the Selection and Appointment of Party and Government Leading Cadres in July 2002, writing that the Organization Department has stepped up its evaluation of cadres, including annual appraisal reviews according to various criteria.[2] However, research conducted by Thomas Heberer in China in 2007 revealed that an effective evaluation procedure is not yet in place. Crucial policy areas, such as environmental issues, are not being evaluated, and evaluation is predominantly based on self-assessment.[5]

The nomenklatura system is also facing grave challenges due to the development of the market economy and private entrepreneurship in China. Because Chinese citizens can now achieve upward mobility and the acquisition of resources outside the Party's control, the CPC is no longer the sole stakeholder. This development entails a challenge to the power monopoly of the CPC.[5]

Internal Party documents give frank assessments of the Organization Department's strategy to enhance its control. Before the 16th Party Congress, a set of Temporary Regulations were amended to encourage the appointment of cadres that explicitly supported Jiang Zemin's theory of Three Represents.[7] Jiang's closest ally in the central government, Zeng Qinghong, who headed the Central Organization Department at the time, gave a presentation at a special training session for organization and personnel cadres before the official release of the 2002 regulations. He asserted bluntly that "the work of amending the 'temporary regulations' consists in building a stronger thought, organization, and work style within the whole Party according to the requirements of the 'Three Represents'"[7]

The Organization Department was headed by Li Yuanchao between October 2007 and November 2012. He was replaced by Zhao Leji, the former Shaanxi party secretary.


The Central Organization Department played a leading role in the cadre reform drive from 2005-2006.[2] In June 1999 the department made efforts to prevent provincial leaders from working in their native provinces in an attempt to prevent corruption.[8]

Senior Party leaders often carry influence in the determination of key positions. The children of Li Peng, for example, came to hold powerful jobs in the power sector where he had ruled; while Zhu Rongji oversaw the finance sector, his son became the highly paid head of China International Capital Corporation, the country's largest investment bank; and Jiang Zemin replaced others when he was the Party official in charge of technology, putting loyalists into top jobs, and his son into a key position.[3]

The buying and selling of official positions also takes place, particularly in small localities, where head of the local Organization Department is among the most sought after positions. The job carries great discretionary power, allowing the wielder the ability to grant jobs to other individuals in return for cash. The practice is characterised by bribery, corruption, treachery, and "sheer desperate self-interest," according to the Financial Times, which examined internal documents produced by the Organization Department in Jilin Province.[3]

List of the Heads of Department


  1. 1 2 Bruce Gilley, Andrew J. Nathan, China's New Rulers: What They Want, New York Review of Books, Volume 49, Number 15 · October 10, 2002
  2. 1 2 3 4 David Shambaugh, China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation, University of California Press, 2009
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Richard McGregor, The party organiser, Financial Times, September 30, 2009
  4. 1 2 David Shambaugh (ed), The Modern Chinese State, Cambridge University Press, 2000
  5. 1 2 3 4 David Pong (ed.), Encyclopedia of Modern China, Gale Cengage Learning, 2009
  6. Bruce Gilley, Andrew J. Nathan, China's New Rulers: The Path to Power, New York Review of Books, Volume 49, Number 14 · September 26, 2002
  7. 1 2 Pierre F. Landry, Decentralized Authoritarianism in China, Cambridge University Press, 2008
  8. Cheng Li, China's leaders: the new generation, University of Hawaii Press, 2003
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