How to climb the greasy ladder to the top of the CCP

BBC News has a somewhat droll “how-to article” that provides step-by-step instructions for clawing your way to a high position in the CCP. Of course most of these steps are nearly impossible for the vast majority of those struggling to make it into the Standing Committee or the Politburo, as they call for lots of patronage and connections, though hard work and good luck can help as well, as it did for Hu Jintao, who spent four years working arduous hours in Tibet. Oh, and it also pays to be a male.

Only about a quarter of Party members are women. No woman has ever reached the Politburo’s standing committee, its highest decision-making body. In the wider, 24-strong Politburo, only one woman, Liu Yandong, has a seat.

The last rule of thumb might be the most important: Be ruthless.

Ambitious leaders are advised to first read Houheixue, or Thick Black Theory – a classic of political dark arts published in the last century. It says the weapons needed to succeed are a thick skin, which is immune to shame or guilt, and a black heart, hardened to hurting others for your own gain.

This somewhat tongue-in-cheek primer on how to succeed in the CCP is worth a look, if only for a smile. But behind the humor, all of it is probably true.

The Discussion: 19 Comments

Thick Black Theory
“Li Zongwu was a social philosopher and critic and his purpose in writing Thick Black Theory was to describe the symptoms of an illness, or, to be more precise, to bring into the light the cultural shadow which is known to all in Chinese society as “Thick face, black heart.”

A pdf down load of the text is also available online.

October 22, 2012 @ 5:05 am | Comment

Apol. To continue, this was obviously the precursor to today’s Officialdom Fiction.

October 22, 2012 @ 5:09 am | Comment

Say what you want from an ‘ethical’ standpoint (talking ethics in politics itself is of the utmost naivety), but the politcal scheming, backroom dealing, court intrigue that happens in the upper echelons, and to a proportionally lesser extend, all levels, of the current Communist Party bureaucracy represents the highest level of Oriental intelligence (Oriental intelligence meaning the skill of dealing with people, rather than the Western intelligence of the skill of dealing with things – two facets of human intelligence).

The Chinese civilization has 5000 years of inter-personal intrigue and scheming, and no other civilization comes even close to this art. And it’s in the Chinese people’s nature to enjoy such political sports. Just read the Romance of the 3 Kingdoms and you’ll understand. Mao himself famously said, ‘Jostling with people (in the political and scheming sense, not the physical sense), is full of pleasure’. And he himself is the utmost champion of ‘political jostling’.

To survive in the current Chinese political bureaucratic is a bloodsport, a sports for men, a sports for the daring, a sports for the shrewd and the brave rolled into one. The survivors of this game (aka Hu Jintao, Xi Jinpin, etc) are true paradigms of oriental political survival.

I admire and envy those men very much.

The ‘straight forward’ and ‘honest’ mind of a typical bumbling Westerner could not survive in that arena for a single day (without making use of his Western heritage).

October 23, 2012 @ 7:48 am | Comment

Richard, you should read (maybe blog about) Evan Osnos’ latest article about the epic, epic graft within the Railways Ministry.

October 23, 2012 @ 8:36 am | Comment

Clock, you’re insane if you think that corruption is somehow normatively “good”. At best corruption is orthogonal to the welfare of the Chinese people.

October 23, 2012 @ 8:37 am | Comment

t_co, want to write a guest post about it? I have my hands full. Saw the article earlier, it is superb (as Evan Osnos’ pieces always are).

October 23, 2012 @ 8:39 am | Comment

t_co, want to write a guest post about it? I have my hands full. Saw the article earlier, it is superb (as Evan Osnos’ pieces always are).

Mine are, too. Maybe next week?

October 23, 2012 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

@The Clock – Your neighbour called, they want to know if you’re coming over to play today. BTW – what happened to Math?

October 23, 2012 @ 1:43 pm | Comment

To the dunce clock,
the typical bumbling Chinese person wouldn’t survive well in the rat-infested confines of the CCP either. So maybe the problem isn’t with the typical Chinese person or westerner, but with the rat-infestation of the CCP itself.

It’s telling that you find the biggest rats to be admirable.

October 24, 2012 @ 1:51 pm | Comment

Rat is an intelligent animal, the master of survival. I’d rather be a rat than a pig.

October 24, 2012 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

Btw, 1/10 of the Chinese population are a member of hte CCP bureacracy, this includes fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts of ordinary Chinese citizens that you claim to love. How do you distinguish a CCP rat from an ordinary Chinese person? Is joining the CCP a genetic procedure that turns you into a non-Chinese. Is CCP today ruled by aliens distinctly different from the ‘Chinese’?

October 24, 2012 @ 10:59 pm | Comment

“Is CCP today ruled by aliens distinctly different from the ‘Chinese’?”
Yes, I’d wager.
My sister in law is a party member. Joined for the guanxi – she’s as far away from being a Communist as anyone I’ve ever met. Not many Communists would think of spending NZ$800 in a casino without even thinking about it…..

October 25, 2012 @ 5:04 am | Comment

Ex-girlfriend was a CCP member from a long line (well, as long as is possible) of CCP members, and was the graduate of a military school. Didn’t believe a single word of it. Gave speeches she admitted to being total garbage about approved topics like Lei Feng, but said it was OK because no-one was really listening to her.

@Mike – Doesn’t surprise me. Macau is one of the biggest centres for laundering the corrupt earnings of mainland officials.

October 25, 2012 @ 1:16 pm | Comment

“I’d rather be a rat than a pig.”
—LOL. That would be a most excellent answer to the question: as a human, would you rather be a rat or a pig? Of course, no one asked that question, so it is rather funny that you offered it up anyway. Most humans I know wouldn’t even contemplate such a question, so it’s probably best that I leave you to your profound thoughts. I would surmise that you would make an excellent rat…such as it were.

Sure, 80 to 100 million Chinese are nominally CCP members…but how many of them have any realistic (or heck, even wildly schizophrenically delusional) hope of reaching the top rungs, like those good rats like Hu and Xi that you seem to admire so dearly? Besides, as Mike and Gil point out, many people join just cuz it serves them well wrt the guanxi corruption game that one must play. Does it make them less Chinese? Of course not. But the problem lies in the fact that it is in fact so Chinese to have to do something like join the CCP in order to attain personal advancement even if your personal goal is non-political altogether. However, I doubt you have the capacity to grasp that concept.

October 25, 2012 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

1) Demand that he/she completes the following sentence: “党的最高理想和最终目标是实现____________________”
2) No. It is a series of cosmetic procedures that merely leave one looking and acting like Michael Jackson.
3) Sort of. It is ruled by exteriors that have the ability to internalize themselves only to other exteriors. They form a perfectly inverted model of communication.

October 25, 2012 @ 1:52 pm | Comment

FYI, one of the guys I was playing cards with the other day said his uncle (in the Central Committee) was joking about bugging all subsidiary CCP officials as a way to eradicate corruption

October 25, 2012 @ 3:41 pm | Comment


‘1/10 of the Chinese population are a member of the CCP bureacracy’


Calculate party membership as a percentage of population:


You need to brush up on your fractions.

October 25, 2012 @ 5:25 pm | Comment

@t_co – Bo Xilai already done-did that. How did that work out?

October 25, 2012 @ 5:58 pm | Comment

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