Elite formation in state socialism is a key issue in both comparative mobility research and political sociology. Several perspectives have been proposed to explain the relative role of political loyalty and education in political mobility: a dual career path model, a party-sponsored mobility hypothesis, and a technocracy thesis. I propose an alternative approach, emphasizing the role of functional differentiation and its effect on elite recruitment in China. Using a data set on top Chinese leaders (n = 1588), I find that effects of political loyalty and technical training on elite recruitment are patterned by institutional arrangements. Data analysis supports my explanation of elite selection in China.

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