The Chinese Communist Party has been surprisingly successful in carrying out its plans in the face of various challenges in the post-Mao era. Compared to their central counterparts, the operating patterns of local institutions in tackling such difficulties have been less examined. This paper aims to fill this gap by exploring the party’s management of provincial standing committees (PSCs). As the highest level of local collective leadership, the PSC essentially sets the agenda for the province. Using a new database of PSC members from 1980 to 2016, this study provides a systematic illustration of the historical composition of provincial collective leadership. Instead of making drastic changes, the party has subtly shifted the roles of provincial leaders: it has redefined the role of the vice party secretary, adjusted the number of posts in the provincial government, and raised the level of professionalism.

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