AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
The informal dimension has always been paramount in Chinese politics. This was the case when Mao Zedong was in command, and it remains the case under Deng Xiaoping, despite all attempts to minimize its impact. It may be argued, nevertheless, that the nature of informal politics has changed significantly in the course of reform. How should we approach this phenomenon? With the People's Republic of China (PRC) moving to a new stage of political development, can we provide an analysis that is valid for both historical periods? These are the questions this paper attempts to answer.
We argue below that just as Chinese politics as a whole has been changing to reflect the economic shift from plan to market, elite factionalism has been evolving as well. Whereas a hybrid model of "partial reform" is best suited to the current Chinese economy, a modified factional model is the most useful analytical tool to understand elite politics in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at its present stage of development. Granted this conceptual innovation, not only did factionalism not abate during the post-Mao period, but it may actually have increased. Our most basic modification of the original model is to see Chinese factionalism as concerning itself not only with particularistic group and member interests, but also with economic and other public policy issues. This introduces the possibility of analyzing the relationship between macroeconomic issues in the public arena and factional disputes within the leadership core--an analysis we undertake in the second half of this article..
This change is a concomitant of the shift in the locus of major policy debate in the post-Mao period. We argue that reform united the victims of the Cultural Revolution after Mao's death, making for consensus upon the defeat of Hua and his neo-Maoist faction. But then, in keeping with Riker's minimal coalition principle, the reform coalition disintegrated:(1) within the general reform camp, Deng Xiaoping's pro-growth group came into conflict with Chen Yun's pro-stability group. This friction was caused by mainland China's cyclical developmental path, which was in turn a by-product of the synchronization of the business and reform cycles. It is important to note that this synchronization was contingent rather than a priori: reform is not necessarily correlated with economic expansion, nor retrenchment with contraction. In any case, synchronization exacerbated the intensity of the cycle, subjecting reforms to periodic criticism by the moderates and conservatives for having precipitated inflation, overheating, and other macroimbalances. These critics used the opportunity to rein in reform excesses and purge reformers, temporarily stalling reform momentum.
The first section of this paper evaluates some of the more promising paradigms for conceptualizing informal politics, including both factional and nonfactional approaches, and culminates in a preliminary attempt at synthesis. The second section applies this model to factional behavior during the reform era, in an attempt to demonstrate the dynamic interplay of economic variables and factional political maneuvers. The major purpose of the study is to reconceptualize factional politics to enable factions to pursue policy goals, thus making it possible to map out the relations between factional dynamics and political-economic cycles. As such, we will not go into the details of events but will instead offer a fresh theoretical perspective for analyzing China's new political economy under reform.
CONTENDING DEFINITIONS OF INFORMAL POLITICS
Informal politics has been defined in many different ways, usually vis-a-vis formal politics. For Haruhiro Fukui and Shigeko N. Fukai, for example, formal politics attempts to reformulate some existing rules of politics in order to defend and/or advance the collective interests of the group, be it the state or some substate entity, as defined by those in positions of authority.(2) Since formal politics is created to serve public interests, power politics on behalf of particular interests is by nature informal. It can also be the case, however, that an existing formal order fails to satisfy the material or nonmaterial needs of a large number of a group's members, in which situation a parallel informal order is likely to develop. Seen in this way, informal politics is understood as a functional supplement to an inadequate formal order.
Emphasizing the public, altruistic nature of formal politics as distinct from the "background" or "supplemental" nature of informal politics is surely useful in clarifying the distinction, although it begs the question of how to define the group whose interests provide the decisive criterion. Moreover, definition should define the concept not only in terms of what it is not but also in terms of what it is.
Peter Nan-shong Lee takes a Weberian approach to defining the term. For him, formal politics refers to those kinds of political activities that are organized according to the principle of impersonality, whereas informal politics is identified by the elements of face-to-face relationships of either traditional authority or charismatic authority. In addition to the criterion of personal specificity, informal politics is defined in terms of its working relationship to the legal bureaucratic order: informal politics may be either functional or dysfunctional for the organization's formally defined tasks. Exemplars of the functional informal type involve an effective "leadership core" (a Chinese version of the Fuhrerprinzip), opinion groups, and a personnel reward system; examples of the dysfunctional informal type are the cult of personality, factionalism, and a spoils system or "independent kingdom."(3) Only the latter, Lee implies, is "factional" behavior.
It is certainly true that formal politics usually appears impersonal, while informal politics often incorporates traditional or charismatic elements. However, there are exceptions to these general rules. The decision to name Lin Biao as the official successor to Mao Zedong at the Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 1969 and to write it into the constitution was a formal legal act, but it was also a decision made by dint of Mao's charismatic,authority in the overall context of a premortem quasi-dynastic succession struggle. In a society governed by legal-rational principles, as in the West, formal politics normally conforms to these rules and appears objectively impersonal. But in a political system that is essentially traditional or charismatic, such as Maoist China, legal-rational aspects tend to be subverted by the informal political environment. The boundaries of informal politics are thus to some extent coincident with the political culture of the macrosystem and do not accord with Weber's ideal types.
Another way of defining informal politics, as argued previously by Dittmer, is through an understanding of "relationships." According to this conceptualization, there are two types of relationship, the one value-rational and the other purpose-rational. (Although the terms are derived from Max Weber, let the reader beware: Weber was referring to actions, in the context of which, for example, a value-rational act is aimed at the realization of an absolute value; in reference to a relationship, however, it has a quite different connotation.) A value-rational relationship is one that is valued as an end in itself; it is typically built upon various connections (guanxi) that include shared kinship ties, common geographic origin, former classmates, teachers, or students, or some other bonding experience. A purpose-rational relationship, by contrast, is instrumental to the achievement of other ends and is formed with those colleagues, subordinates, and superiors with whom one has routine occupational contacts. Whereas the aggregation of one's value-rational connections constitutes an informal power base from which to exert informal power (shili), one's occupational or "business" connections together comprise the formal power base from which one can exercise official power (quanli). A formal power base is explicit and can be mobilized for a wide range of organizational objectives. However, career officials will be reluctant to rally around a colleague when personal interests are at stake and when the risks of implication are high. They are likely to balance their colleague's requests against various bureaucratic interests. If the affected cadre is to find support under these circumstances, any informal network must necessarily be mobilized at this time. However, one's web of personal connections (although flexible and mobilizable) is more implicit and may fail to rise to the task at hand. To sum up, informal politics is defined in terms of the realm of shill; and formal politics, in terms of the realm of quanli. And the two may interact in various complex ways.(4)
There are two sets of concepts here. Value-rational relationships are to informal political networks and shill politics as purpose-rational relationships are to formal power bases and quanli politics. In each set, the higher-level concept is defined in terms of specific lower-level concepts. Thus, informal politics is defined in terms of informal political bases, which in turn are defined by value-rational relationships. Nevertheless, there are apt to be empirically mixed cases, since the relationship between quanli and shill is rather fluid. Shili, an informal political base, may therefore also be built on relatively purpose-rational relationships, as clients enter into reciprocal ties with a patron having personal interests high on their agenda. The other side of the coin is that whereas old comrades-in-arms types of guanxi may constitute important value-rational relationships for a veteran politician's informal power base, a patron may on occasion dispense with such connections--even in such a highly "informal" political power play as the Cultural Revolution, which saw Mao dump much of the Hunanese "mafia" in favor of a new ideologically based coalition of mixed value-rational (for example, Jiang Qing) and purpose-rational (for …