Collective Charisma: Elite-Mass Relations in China and Vietnam

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All regimes, even authoritarian ones, rely on charismatic politicians for legitimacy and mobilization, but popular leaders can also leverage mass followings to advance personal interests. We argue that party-building norms and institutions help ameliorate this dilemma by fostering cultures of collective charisma among prospective leaders. Comparing across single-party regimes in China and Vietnam, we show how recruitment and vetting institutions foster collectivist cultures among rising politicians. Counterintuitively, our analysis also suggests that China’s more controlled approach to political cultivation is more prone to instability as it encourages strategic misrepresentation by elite contenders while raising a latent public demand for populists.




Gueorguiev, D. D., & Schuler, P. J. (2021). Collective Charisma: Elite-Mass Relations in China and Vietnam. Problems of Post-Communism, 68(3), 190–201.

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