Provinces in Command: Changes in Prefectural Appointments from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping (2003-2020)

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China’s ‘Xi-Li era’ is said to be defined by both the concentration of power in the center and the strengthening of Party authority. In this paper, we ask whether these trends have been evident in local appointment practices since Xi Jinping took office in 2013. By comparing the career histories of 3,682 prefectural mayors and Party Secretaries under the Hu-Wen and Xi-Li administrations, we find that while appointment practices have shifted, the observed changes are not wholly consistent with the center- and Party-strengthening narratives. First, developments in the Xi-Li era suggest that while provincial authorities are increasingly using prefectural appointments for their own ends, the center remains high and far away in these decisions. Second, we do not find evidence that cadres with a strong Party background have a particular advantage in the Xi period. Instead, cadres with strong track records in key functional xitong, particularly those with an economic profile, are still the most likely to attain leadership positions. These findings contribute to the current debate on the nature of power reconfigurations unfolding in Xi’s China.




Jiang, X., Eaton, S., & Kostka, G. (2023). Provinces in Command: Changes in Prefectural Appointments from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping (2003-2020). Journal of Contemporary China, 32(144), 963–983.

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