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Comparing the French and Chinese Senior Civil Servants Selection System

par Matt 17 Février 2012, 17:29 English

ENA - National School of Administration (1980)

ENA - National School of Administration (1980)

Comparing the French and PRC’s Senior Civil Servants Selection System

Part 1: Introduction


In the context of the Western society rationalization, Max Weber theorized bureaucracy as a useful tool for the political power to implement policies in a rational way during the European industrial revolution. If modern bureaucracy is indeed more efficient and rational than the previous administrative systems, mainly because of the existence of written rules and a strict hierarchy, it is not, in reality, a simple tool. In almost every state in the world, Bureaucrats have a great role in the day-to-day management of the State, in policy initiative and implementation. For political authorities, both in developed and developing countries, having a skilled, compliant and competent bureaucracy is usually a State priority. As a matter of facts, multiples examples of bad management by unskilled bureaucrats exist in history, and it often resulted by a low economic growth, corruption and sometimes by a revolution or a Coup d’état and the fall of the problematic State.

For example, the “dynastic cycle” is an illustration of this weight on Chinese politics. As described by D. Usher  and Christian Göbel, new emperors always seek to maintain good relations with farmers – but – as time passes, corruption set in in the administrative apparatus. Bureaucrats increase taxes and take more and more resources from the peasantry. As a consequence, a revolution – or instability allows a new emperor to take the power. Obviously, a fiscal policy change is often made by the new emperor in order to satisfy the peasantry – and time passes hence corruption dawns again. 

The imperial era of China is far away, however the PRC understood the interest of having a skilled bureaucracy since bureaucrats’ selection and training are indeed a preoccupation for the PRC. The successive reforms that China has led these thirty last years are genuine illustrations of this importance. With Deng Reforms in the 1980s, the selection of civil servants has been heavily changed – since education is now a more important criterion than redness, it is normal to notice that bureaucrats are becoming more technocratic leaders than communist militant.

Another important country has known a major reform of its civil servant selection system: France. The system has been described as too elitist, since academic excellence was the only criteria for selecting civil servants. A reform took place in the 1980s in order to increase the diversity of the recruitment.

Thus, Chinese and French selection systems were exactly opposite; however, they are trying to reach the same point which is the medium between a technocratic and a politically engaged recruitment, between elitism and social diversity. They have other common points: Reforms have been launched at the same time: in the 1980s, and because of the same reason: a reversal of the country political leaders, Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping in China, Liberal-conservative coalition to socialist-communist coalition in France. Hence, we can observe that these two administrative systems tried to copy some precise elements of the other one; François Mitterrand tried to use some elements of the Maoist system, such as promoting not only graduates with the highest education, but taking consideration the social background of the civil servants in order to increase the social diversity of the senior civil servants. Deng did try to increase the education needed to become a senior civil servant, and build civil servants schools based on French ones such as The School of Governance his is the reason why, I think, comparing the Chinese and the French civil servant selection system could be interesting.

Methodological aspects:
How to compare the Chinese and the French system? The ideas which I will lean on are as following:
In this civil servant selection system study, I considered two important elements; this is what we are going to focus on in this analysis.
-    The first idea is that the system of selection itself and its underlying issues are obviously the most important thing to describe: where does the system come from? How to define the system? How the system is selecting civil servants?
-    The second idea that an analysis needs to explain the outcomes: Who is selected by these systems? What are the consequences on this selection on governance of these countries and why?

By comparing these two systems, I hope to find interesting conclusions regarding general links between bureaucrats’ selection and consequences on the political governance of a given country. For example, what is the consequence of an elitist selection of bureaucrats on governance?
First, I will describe the two selection systems separately and, since it is a description, there won’t be a comparison. Then, however, I will analysis the differences between them and the different outcomes.


Comparing the French and PRC’s Senior Civil Servants Selection System:

Part II: Description of the french civil servants selection system


Part 1: introduction

The French Public Service is a centralized bureaucracy divided in three types: territorial civil service, medical civil service and State civil service  composed of 5, 2 million civil servants, representing 20% of the total French workforce.

-    The State Civil Service is mainly composed of people working under a French ministry (2, 4 million people thus representing 46% of the total number of civil servants).

-    The territorial civil service includes 1, 8 million people working in territorial collectivities (for example, cities) and represents 35% of the total number civil servants.

-    The Medical Civil Service contains public hospital workers (969.000 people thus 18%).

Their organizations are different, however, there is only one usual way to become a civil servant, It is to succeed a Concours, a competitive examination . Each Concours is associated with one particular job or with a civil servant body.  Their difficulty and their academic requirements may change regarding the hierarchic level, the number of candidates and the number of places offered. Examinations can take place each year, every two years and sometimes every four years depending of the Concours. Nowadays, the number of Concours is stabilized around two thousands.

Examinations may change with each Concours, however, most of them are in reality very near in term of questions asked to the candidates, always around general knowledge, history and public law and composed of written examination and an oral examination. Thus, the selection is clearly based on academic performances. After someone succeeds a Concours, the civil servants may receive training, usually two-years in a civil servant great school.

The goal of these Concours, originally, was to promote equality of chances; however, we observed that very large parts of the best Concours are always succeeded by the sons and daughter of the upper-class. What is the French civil servants system selection? How elitist is it? Why is it so elitist? There are question we will try to answer is this part of this term paper. In order to answer, I need to explain the history of the education in France first.

A.    A brief history of The French Education system and of the Civil Servant Selection

The French education system is founded by French kings in order to create a royal administration, mainly during the Renaissance period during the 18th century. Instead of recruiting people coming from university, however, French Kings wanted to totally control the civil servants selections thus, they created small specialized school where civil servants were formed. At the beginning, mainly engineers and military officers were formed in this type of school. This way, most of the civil servants didn’t study in a university and were integrally formed in State schools totally controlled by the Royal administration. In order to select the best candidates, a competitive examination was created in all of these schools.

Soon, these schools became very prestigious and were called in French Grandes Ecoles (= Great School). Soon, they became so prestigious that private Great school have been built, copying the public Great School system. Then, The State itself extended the Great Schools system to non-civil servants. To summary, there are three types of Great Schools: civil servant great school, non-civil servant great school, and private great school, the common point is that they form elite French and select people by a Concours. In this term paper, I will translate Grandes Ecoles by Great Schools for a comprehension purpose; however, usually scholars don’t translate it since it is a matchless system in the world.

Successive regimes followed the same policy for more than three centuries. Since the 18th century, the French superior education system is divided in two groups: Great school which select with a Concours and university opened to all owners to all owners of secondary school diplomas. Three important periods can be noticed regarding the Civil Servant Selection system.

-    During the Napoléon First Empire in 1804, this policy has been heavily generalized to all of the civil servant selection system, since law and medicine universities were replaced by law great school and medicine great school and a lot of great schools were built.

-    After the defeat against Prussia in 1870, Elites were considered to be responsible of the defeat, so this policy was amplified further and the “École libre des sciences politiques” was nationalized and transformed in a great school with the goal to form French elite. 

-    In 1945, Charles de Gaulle amplified further this policy with one new civil servant body “civil administrator” which is still today the highest body in the public service system. The national School of administration is built as well with the role to form them.
The fact is that the two majors’ exercises in the examination process are socially greatly discriminating, the dissertation and the grand oral. Criteria used to mark are mainly around culture (art, novels, history, philosophy), the beauty of language and rhetoric, which is greatly not equally distributed among a country.

B.    The Civil Servant selection nowadays

As we said, the Civil Servant Selection is nowadays assured by Concours. Thus, the selection criterion is academic performances. Concours and civil servants are separated in three types regarding the hierarchy level. Thus, your initial Concours determine your whole carrier.

-    The “A” category: The highest rank of civil servants, a higher education diploma is required to apply the Concours. Since there is a high number of civil servants of rank A, we distinguish A and A+ category. A corresponds to the status of cadre, A+ corresponds to the status of senior civil servant (often a member of the Great Corps (explained below)). Represents 29% of the total civil servant population .

-    The “B” category: The medium rank of civil servants, a secondary diploma is needed to apply the Concours. They are in a mid-management position, and often become cadre at the end of their carrier. Represents 23, 4% of the total civil servant population5.

-    The “C” category: The lowest rank of civil servants, no diploma is required. Represent 45, 3% of the total civil servant population5. They are workers and employees.

Once you enter in a category, it is very hard to change. However, nowadays, a system of “triple Concours” exists in order to increase social mobility: each Concours is in fact composed of an internal Concours for civil servants, an external Concours for newly graduates and a third Concours for private seniors’ manager. However, the external Concours remains the most prestigious and offers the best professional carriers.

Senior civil servants are mainly formed in the National School of administration which graduates around 80 students a year. The best graduates of the school joins the Great Corps, which are seen as the most prestigious civil servants positions since the 19th century.

C.    Reforms on the selection system after 1980

In 1981, François Mitterrand has been elected president of the French republic, representing a socialist-communist coalition. He tried to make the system less elitist, mainly with the reform of French Education system and decentralization. For example, in 1981, a policy called “priority education area” which separates the French territory in two areas: normal education area and priority education area. Priority education areas have increased funds, increased number of teachers; they are located in poor areas such as cities suburbs. Mitterrand tried to reform Great School as well, with an academic help for students from low background preparing the examination, and new ways to accede Great Schools without passing Concours. Sciences Po Paris, one of the most famous French great schools has launched a specific applying for people studying in priority education areas. Moreover, the National School of Administration (ENA) has in 2011, ended the ranking system previously described, and replaced it with a more classical system: graduates from ENA ask for a ministry or an institution, and the institution can accept or refuse the candidate. However, the reform was led slowly and modestly without great changes. 

Comparing the French and PRC’s Senior Civil Servants Selection System:

Part 3 : The Chinese system


The current Chinese Civil Servants selection system is born in 1949 with the PRC and has been heavily influenced by Mao Zedong himself. Since Mao and the PRC revolutionize the civil servants selection, I won’t focus on the imperial administration system, which indeed is nearer from the current French one than the Maoist one. However, since the PRC took power with a revolution, it is important to notice that the selection system built by the Communist Party is mainly a reaction against the elitist mandarin selection system, responsible for many communists of the corruption during the Empire, and then during the authoritarian Tchang Kaï-chek Republic.

Two main elements are making very hard an analysis of the current selection system.
-    The first one is the fusion of the Communist Party and the State.
-    The second one is that the information about the system selection is unclear, since it remains widely a hidden process from the public. There is a gap between official information and the reality.
If you add these two difficulties together, the selection process is totally is fuzzy and blurred since it is hard to see the real role of the CCP in the selection in the State civil servants. However, I think it is totally justified to say that the CCP plays a great role and is integrally responsible of the selection system since it is the leading party.

We can obviously notice two systems of selection in PRC, one under Mao and one after his death, the second one is a reformed version of the version system.  I will describe both.

A.    Short description of the bureaucracy in China

The bureaucracy in China is often called a “fragmented authoritarianism” since the country national political organization is grouped under a lot of different structures . However, they are often assembled in six clusters which explain their tasks in the political system  often called xitongs in China.

-    Economic Bureaucracies: seek to increase economy growth. Composed of diverse bureaucracies5.

-    Propaganda and Education Bureaucracies: Responsibility for shaping the values and knowledge of China’s citizens. Composed of propaganda organs (mass media), educational system and research units5.

-    Organization and personnel Bureaucracies: Run the system of personal dossiers, collect and utilize data on individuals.

-    Civilian Coercive Bureaucracies: Civilian fist used to protect the communist system and to implement policies. Composed of the public security system, judicial system, prison, intelligence/counterintelligence units5.

-    Military System: Protect security and has extensive domestic political roles. Separated from the Chinese bureaucracy, however only virtually. It is composed of tha PLA, military-related science and technology system, production, transport and service facilities run by the general Logistic Department of the PLA.

-    Communist Party territorial Committees: Coordinate and prioritize activities within his or her geographical domain and represent the interests of that domain in dealings with both higher and lower levels. Actions are led by Communist Party Secretaries.
Another element that can be noticed is the importance of gateways (kou) which are small leadership groups which link Party leaders and bureaucracies (xitongs).

Moreover, the Chinese political system is composed of “organizations” at all levels of hierarchy, described by Lieberthal  as “have developed sufficient regularity and perceived importance to shape the behaviors of their members”. Hence, the Chinese system is less institutionalized and is based more on non-institutional relations than the French one.

B.    The civil servants selection system under Mao

How is organized the PRC under Mao? It is mainly a Party Rule, the state being a puppet of the CCP; thus, we can observe a double hierarchy for civil servants: one hierarchy within the Chinese State and one other in the CCP.  At the same level of hierarchy, the CCP member is in reality higher in hierarchy than the civil servant. Moreover, civil servants are widely members of the CCP. For example, a non-communist director of a bureau is higher in hierarchy than a communist section head, but the first follow the rule of the second.

I will call civil servants both cadre of the CCP, and worker in the State, since Chinese bureaucracy is in fact composed of the State and of the CCP.

Thus, in order to describe the civil servant selection, we need to describe the members’ application process of the CCP, since it is needed to become a civil servant. The official requirements are that the applicant must be a Chinese:
-    Who has reached the age of 18.
-    Who accept the Party’s Program and Constitution
-    Who is willing to join and work actively in one of the Party organization
-    Who carry out the Party’s decisions
-    Who pay membership dues regularly
However, requirements are in reality different. Applicants must as well have “the backing of existing members and to undergo exhaustive checks and examination by their local Party branch. They then face a year’s probation, again involving assessments and training” . Nevertheless, being a member of the CCP doesn’t mean being a bureaucrat or a civil servant, since the majority of members doesn’t work in the CCP or in the State.

We can, though, connect the notion of Ganbu with the notion of civil servants. It is a confusing term because of the lack of dichotomy between civil administration and party administration. They are nevertheless often defined as a meritocratic power elite opposite to the people (renmin) or to the masses (qunzhong), contrasting with ordinary members of the party. A ganbu can be considered as a leader, a politician, an official, a manager, and a civil servant. According to their position in the CCP, they can be Yiban ganbu (regular cadre), feilingdao ganbu (non-leading cadre) or lingdao ganbu (leading cadre). They are 40 million in PRC. All national cadres have a specific grade (jibie): 15 the lowest, 1 the highest. They can increase their grade with experience and time. There are currently in China 466000 Cadres of County or Office or higher, 39000 Cadres of Prefectures or higher, 2600 Cadres of Provincial level or higher . There are around 40 million of ganbu in China.

The selection criterions are morally based, mainly by redness and social class. Specialists and technicians have been mostly denigrated, mainly during the Great Leap and during the Cultural Revolution. The authorities believed that ideology ensures a faithful army of cadre for policy-implementation. Since “redness” is not a reality, the CCP uses criterions such as the past of the candidate, the past of his family, his reputation, his eventual recommendation, etc.

Mobilization of masses is one of the preferred ways used by the CCP to solve bureaucracies’ problems. The idea is that this method provides a reliable method for discovering, criticizing, and rectifying organizational problems. Examples include the criticism allowed during the Hundred Flowers Movement, the formation of peasants during the Early Ten Movement, the Cultural committee in 1966, greater autonomy of mass organizations from the Party in 1956-1957.

C.    The reform of the selection system after 1978

With Mao death, changes in the civil servant selection system have been noticed, since the CCP has changed its selection system.  One of the most important elements of Deng’s Reform was his attempt to reform the national bureaucratic system. They began in December 1978. The goal was to modernize the country, thus the administrative system must become efficient. We can notice two mains reforms, dangzheny fanli and ganbu khishihua zhuanyehua, respectively separating the Party from the government affairs and make cadres more knowledgeable and professional. Outcomes of this policy are explained in the second part of the term paper.
However, in reality, the selection system remains widely based on political competition and stayed far-away from a classical bureaucracy (weberian). “Politics is informed more by small group dynamics more than by formal rules and institutional boundaries” wrote Lieberthal. Actual power depend more on personal ties with other leaders than the formal office hold. For example, being a mishu (assistant of a leader) is a usual way to go up in the Chinese bureaucracy hierarchy.

After 1984, the system of nomenklatura changed as well. Before this date, the nomenklutura system allowed appointments two ranks “down” in the system , whereas only one nowadays moreover, other multiples changes can be noticed. The main problem was that in the past, conflicts were classical (same post on two different lists). However, the Party controls still totally the career mobility of the bureaucrats.

Comparing the French and PRC’s Senior Civil Servants Selection System: toward an educational dilemma?

Part 4 : Comparison, outcomes & conclusion


Reforms effects were different in both countries. China has seen the qualification of its civil servants increase greatly during and after the 1980’s, and bureaucracies were greatly modernized thus we can say it is a success; however, the French system is still widely elitist and cadres in the civil servant remain usually from the upper-class (see table below) and selection rates of Concours didn’t change, or increased further, thus we can say it is a failure. 

A.    Outcomes on selection

In France, civil servants recruited are the best performers at the Concours, thus education is a precondition of elite status. In China, it is the contrary: Recruiting young prospects with the right revolutionary credentials subsequently educating them further thus education is a consequence of elite status.  However, with this reform, it is changing in China and education becomes more and more important. In France, despite reforms, education remains the only criteria for being a civil servant, especially a cadre.

The French Concours system leads to widely elitist system, cadres coming from the upper-class whereas it is not this clear in the Chinese system. It is evident if we look at the comparative table (figure 1). Even if the comparison is not accurate since classifications are not the same in China and in France, we can see a major difference, since more than 80% of new cadre civil servants in France are sons of cadres and the proportion of sons of workers and villagers are totally insignificant.

The Deng’s reform changed the system by making merit more important, with the development of “in-service education and training in rotation”  , and “stress on managerial skills and professional knowledge in administrator qualification” (based on humanities, natural science and management). Thus, Ganbu became progressively more graduated. However, they remain generally from modest background. Pieke published a 2005 survey about Yunnan Party School students.  Here is a quotation coming from the conclusion of the survey.

“Despites emphasis on formal education, surprisingly many cadres interviewed were from a relatively modest background, usually children of local cadres or schools teachers, rather than middle class professional backgrounds where one might expect a very heavy emphasis on educational achievement. This was also reflected in the 2005 survey. Almost 40% per cent of the fathers of respondents were or had been cadres, while more than a quarter of the fathers almost 40% of the mothers were villagers. Clearly, the cadre corps tends to be a relatively closed elite with new recruits coming mainly from rural background.”

Nowadays, Appointment to a section level post now requires at least senior high school. A department level job requires at least vocational education. A ministry level job requires at least university undergraduate education. Moreover, we can notice that senior civil servants in China are more selected regarding their experience, which it is not the case in France, where most of senior civil servants become one when they finished their graduation around 25. 

Then, what is the consequence of the change in the Nomenklatura system? Obviously since it solves some occasional problems, the bureaucracy works with more efficiency. However the outcome in term of selection is that civil servants are more likely to be promoted from within, and not by the top. 

From figure 2&3, we can conclude that the effects of the french reform have been very weak or insignificant. The main criteria which change the selectivity were not the reform but actually the economic situation. Since being civil servants give a direct solution to unemployment, people who can’t find a job in the private sector apply more in diverse Concours. Moreover, since a civil servant can’t be fired, it is seen as good and preferable social position thus increasing demand hence selection.



Line: Unemployment rate (15-24)

Dotted line: Concours Selectivity rate

Source : Direction générale de l’administration et de la fonction publique (DGAFP)

How to explain the fact that selection did not decrease in intensity? The main reasons for scholars are that the reform was in reality superficial thus failed to decrease both social and educational selectivity. By educational selectivity, I mean the difficulty and the importance of academic performances on the selection. By social selectivity, I mean the proportion of people coming from the upper-class. The next question is naturally: how to explain the moderation of the reforms? It is mainly because of the conservatism of the Great schools, which oppose every changes suggested by the government. Moreover, since French leaders comes all from Great School, they are not willing to change and to reform Great School or to change the system.  A good example was the positive discrimination Sarkozy proposed in 2010 to the Great School which has been totally rejected by the CGE. The CGE is an institution which contains all Great Schools.

   B.    Outcomes on society and governance
1.    State Nobility in France, avoiding technocratization of the regime in China

As we said, in France, civil servants recruited are the best performers at the Concours, thus education is a precondition of elite status. In China, it is the contrary: Recruiting young prospects with the right revolutionary credentials subsequently educating them further thus education is a consequence of elite status.

Bobai Li and Andrew Walder has shown that the provision of adult education in China and the way of selecting CCP cadre has avoid the technocratization of the regime’s administrative elite (« iron law of oligarchization », Robert Michels). The Chinese system is favorable to modest people.  However, this way to select cadre is changing slowly because of inner-democracy and public examination. Andrew Walder has shown, in the post-Mao years education has become the most important determinant of recruitment into both the party and the cadre ranks.

In France, on the contrary, it leads to the creation of a State Nobility. Pierre Bourdieu, one of the three more prominent French sociologists with Auguste Comte and Emile Durkheim, developed a theory concerning great schools considered as a reference during the 1980s. For Bourdieu, one of the most essential functions of the French educative system is to reproduce social order and to maintain the current hierarchy in the society. In this regard, Great Schools have the function to produce a “State nobility” and contribute actively to reproduce inequalities that the French Revolution had destroyed.

French elites are not elites from their blood or their birth, however because of the legitimacy they acquired from Great School diplomas. These diplomas can’t be bought, or received in heritance – thus we can suppose that graduates from these schools legitimacy comes from their great academic skill and their work. It seems that these owners’ diplomas, which permit to have great and noble professional carriers, had success only because of their personal skills. For example, in French, in order to say that one person is stupid, the translated usual sentence used is “He didn’t graduate from Saint-Cyr” (Saint-Cyr is a great school).

However, if we analyze the social origin of pupils recruited by these institutions, it shows that these students are always coming from the upper class of society. From this fact, Bourdieu proved that the selection of these Great Schools is adapted to the members of the upper society thus explained why they succeed.

Concours, showed as perfectly egalitarian, is totally unequal, since it promotes know-how and knowledge owned by the bourgeoisie: for example, knowledge about opera, theater, classical art, rhetoric, history, etc. Chinese education system is mainly based on more egalitarian subjects such sciences or mathematics. This explains why the Chinese system stays egalitarian despite the increase of educational attainment needed.

For Bourdieu, the strength of this reproduction system is that the social order is maintained because all of the people in French society think that academic excellence, particularly, the success in applying a great school, is an affair of intellectual skills and intelligence. These shared believes hide from the eyes of everyone the real function of the Great School. The direct outcome is the symbiotic relation between French Elites, since economic, political, scientific, come all from the same schools.

2.    Changes in governance

One of the main consequences of this social and educational selection is that French Elites speak the same languages, and with a shared view of their role in the state which increase efficiency (reduce incomprehension). The symbiotic relation permits to promote national interest, since both private and public leaders come from the same schools and know each other’s. Seniors levels have been seen as dynamic, innovative, confident and highly trained.

The drawback is that Elites try to defend their own interests: the failure of the policy regarding the increase of social diversity in Great Schools is an example. It becomes harder to reform the current system.

It makes French society greatly hierarchical, which structures politics. The elitism of the selection created and conserves a separation of people and French cadres’ civil servants which lead to a gap between demand and offer policies regarding the State. One example can be the French May 1968 Maoist unsuccessful revolution against technocracy. Nowadays, one of the divisions in French politics is between pro-system and anti-system. Jean-Marie Le Pen, former president (1972-2011) of the Front National and Marine Le Pen, president of the same party since 2011, for example describe themselves as anti-system politicians, since they are against the technocratic selection of the senior civil servants and promote a new way to select civil servants. It is an important division since Jean-Marie Le Pen has been second in the 2002 presidential election which shows clearly that this elitist system is becoming less popular, increasing discontentment in the working-classes thus reducing stability.

Chinese Elites promote a national interest too, but not for the same reasons: since Elites are often members of the CCP, they often share the common point to develop China. Chinese bureaucratic system has been described as an inefficient gerontocracy. Lack of administrative competence, lack of responsiveness to the public, problem of the links between informal connections was the main problems, mainly coming from the lack of diplomas of the bureaucrats. The effects of increasing diplomas achieve to build a merit system with an increased efficiency. However, the social selection didn’t increase greatly, thus drawbacks experienced by the French example are greatly reduced.

Conclusion: Toward an Educational Dilemma

The first conclusion of this comparison is that it is harder to make a non-selective system more elitist than to reform a selective-system into a less-selective system.

The second conclusion is that civil servants selection leads to what I called an educational dilemma. I define the education dilemma as the search of an optimum point, obviously located differently for every country, where education selection in the civil servant system is enough to increase significantly the efficiency of the bureaucracy and insufficient to develop side effects.

Increasing the educational selection in the civil servant selection system increases the efficiency of the administrative system at a certain point. However, it increases at the same time the social selection of the civil servants, provoking multiple effects. Change coefficients can vary and be modified. For example, in the Chinese reform, a high increase of educational election did provoke only a low increase of social selection and a high increase in efficiency. When education selection is based on mathematics, social selection is decreased since it is more equalitarian than selection based on art or rhetoric. Cultural values, norms, current state of the country, etc. can make every coefficients vary as well.

 They are two extreme points: The first one is reached when a bureaucracy is so uneducated that it is impossible to lead a policy to increase the education selection. The second one is reached when a bureaucracy and Elites in a society are so coalesced and elitist that it is impossible to lead reforms to come back at an early point without revolutionizing the system (start from zero). Has France reached this point? Probably, Yes. Will China reach it? Probably not, at least in the short-run.




Pierre Bourdieu, La Noblesse d’État. Grandes écoles et esprit de corps, Minuit, 1989 

Usher, The dynastic cycle and the stationary State, American Economic Review 79(5), 1989

Kenneth G. Lieberthal, . Bureaucracy, Politics, and Decision Making in Post-Mao China

A. Doak Barnett, Cadres, bureaucracy and political power

Kenneth Lieberthal, Governing China, From Revolution through Reform, Chapter 7

N. Pieke, The Good Communist: Elite Training and State Building in Today's China

Figure 1 : Comparing Father’s occupation of civil servant cadres




Father’s occupation in China of current ganbu in 2005

Father’s occupation in France of category A civil servant in 2007



Less than 1%



Less than 1%

Civil Servant



Management / manager

6% (private sector)

37% (public and private sector)

Professional / senior manager

10,4% (private sector)

49,5% (public and private sector)







Source: a Yunnan Party School student survey 2005 (N. Pieke, The Good Communist: Elite Training and State Building in Today's China)

Source: Insee, 2007


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