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This paper addresses the changes and continuities of political elite configuration in China's reform era based on a dataset for the top Chinese leaders who worked on province or ministry level positions (and above) within the party or the government from 1978 to 2008. By applying a series of trend analyses and quantitative modeling, this paper finds that even though a large number of technocrats were recruited for their professional background in response to the demand for economic modernization, the CCP was still selecting the party elites by way of screening elites' political credentials. Specifically, the findings show that (1) the government recruited technocrats earlier than the party did; (2) there has been a lasting gap in individual political credentials between the party elites and the government elites; (3) the CCP has constructed a systematic mode for elite selection and elite cultivation by means of’ party-position appointment. These patterns highlight the importance of political credentials, but can not be systematically explained by the previous literature, which was mostly derived from the social mobility analysis. Accordingly, the author provides a preliminary explanation of "limited renewal" for the empirical findings, and discusses its implications on the regime evolution and political future in China.
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