China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Which positions in the historical or contemporary Chinese bureaucracy convey power? Is a reassignment to a similar position in a different province or ministry indeed a lateral move, or maybe a promotion or demotion in disguise? Researchers have tried to guess the hierarchy of official positions by gauging push and pull factors. They assume that individuals who held high positions will usually continue to hold such jobs (push factor), and positions that serve as stepping stones for important positions are themselves important (pull factor). This paper combines these insights by constructing a network of positions, in which directed ties indicate a bureaucrat’s job move from one position to the next, and calculating the position’s ranking using several different ranking and network centrality algorithms. It applies the most appropriate ranking algorithm (“social rank algorithm”) to the career movements of high-level Chinese bureaucrats between 1978 and 2006, and to high-level appointments in the Qing dynasty. In all three cases, the position ranking based on the social rank algorithm correlates strongly with the official hierarchy, but is also able to distinguish between two positions of officially similar rank that most experts would regard as dissimilar: it places provincial party secretaries above governors in modern day China, for example. The paper thus provides additional tools for the research on promotions in the Chinese bureaucracy, but also on individual career paths, or on the rise and fall of departments and provinces in importance over time.