People’s Republic of China Elite Studies


This article focuses on the political changes that have occurred in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Scholars use various methods to explain the political changes in PRC. However, the political changes in the PRC defy explanation and prediction. Analysis of the people who manipulate power (elites) in China has been illuminating. Analyzing the elite is only illuminating in certain circumstances. If analysts aim at predicting succession or prevailing policies, the use of elite analysis is not fundamental. If an analyst is concerned with domestic or foreign policy, it is necessary to analyze the political process and the political environment. However, to achieve the desired results, it is essential to switch from using factional political model and adopt a bureaucratic model.

A functional model focuses its efforts on the elite in order to determine the characteristics of elite related policy changes. A bureaucratic model on the other hand focuses its efforts on institutions and their roles. In this paper, Bullard came up with four variables that he used to analyze elite. These variables include the environment, nature of the elites, issues and the results of elite conflicts (Bullard, 1979). Each of these variables has a sub-set that some of the scholars use in their studies. However, there are no combinations of sub-sets for the scholars to use in predicting political dynamism. Most of the approaches that analysts and scholars use are micro political analysis (Bullard, 1979).

Source Analysis

Bullard categorizes biographies as the least complex studies that are used to explain political influence of the elites (Bullard, 1979). According to Bullard, biographies assume that the person who is under an investigation has significant political influence. He uses the example of biographies on Lin Biao, Zhou Enla, Mao Zedong and Liu Shaoqi (Bullard, 1979). However, biographies fail to explain general political changes.

Studies that try to aggregate groups of elites with similar vision, attitude and interests are more complex than biographies. These studies search for a factor that is common in a group’s background. Analysts use the common factor in a group to predict political behaviors. The simplest of such studies include dichotomies and moderates. Bullard used Yao Meng-hsuan as the representative to this group of scholars (1979). The problem with the approach used by these scholars arises when the scholars need to identify the members who will make up a certain group. To prove this point, Bullard used the example of Hua Guo Feng.

Bullard also used Ralph Powells work to show how groups have been divided into simple dichotomous power relations (Bullard, 1979). Powell pitted Lin Biao and his party members against the others in order to gain necessary support. The author also showed how Richard Thornton used a model similar to that of Powell in order to support his review. However, according to Bullard’s paper, we are shown another dichotomy used by John Starr; a dichotomy based on eclecticism versus dialectic (Bullard, 1979). This dichotomy provided insight into how the underlying principles assisted in differentiating leadership (Bullard, 1979).


Models are important to scholars because they can be used to simplify the process of predicting political events. In political science, analysts use models to simplify the complex political systems and challenges. Strategic specialists need to predict forth-coming events in the political landscape. To predict these events, they use models. Prediction of changes in policy or changes in political ideologies is useful to many sectors in the economy. Therefore, use of models in this article, simplifies the political situation in PRC. Moreover, it provides insight into what to expect from PRC due to the changes in political environment and policies.

The author discusses two main models that political analysts and scholars use to analyze the political landscape of the People Republic of China. Factional models and bureaucratic models are the two models that the author discusses comprehensively. A factional model incorporates the focus of the elites within a given system (Bullard, 1979). Therefore, a factional model places emphasis on analyzing individual elites or groups of elites. It determines the characteristics of the members in the group. Moreover, analysts may use this model to determine the attitude of the group and their behavior (Bullard, 1979). Scholars use the factional model to correlate policy outcomes with the attitudes and behavior of the group.

The bureaucratic model, on the other hand, places its emphasis on institutions and their roles in politics. The information acquired from the institutions is used to determine if changes and characteristic of the institutions suggest a conclusion of adaptability in a dynamic political environment (Bullard, 1979). Moreover, the bureaucratic model is useful when organizing data that analysts and scholars want to compare with the ideal Weberian bureaucracy.

The author uses the metaphor of forest and trees to explain the complex nature of international issues. It is clearly stated that the bureaucratic model and the factional model can be used together to offer a better chance of predicting political occurrences. The use of this system, forces the analysts, and scholars to include more of macro analysis while basing it on microanalysis (Bullard, 1979). Due to this fact, analysts must examine the complex nature of international strategic issues before using this method of analysis. The author goes further to explain that even though the use of models may provide a means of keeping variables in perspective, the complex nature and lack of predictive power show that dependence on models should be minimal. This is because, the combination macro and microanalysis are not well noticed as explained in the article.

According to the article, the elites are the people who have the ability to manipulate power. The author assumes that the power that the elites command or manipulate should be the essence of political process (Bullard, 1979). Once the analysts or scholars complete the selection of the elites, major methodological question are still required to be answered. These questions have to be answered depending on the scope and the purpose of the study.

Various factors influence an analyst’s selection of variable in a political study. To begin with, the purpose of the study determines the variable that an analyst uses. If the purpose of the study is to predict succession, then, the analyst is likely to choose a narrow range of variables. In cases where the analysis is critical, and the analyst is willing to predict a number of political outcomes, then, the use of a narrow range of variable may not work. In such a case, the political analyst may use a number of variables that will ensure he or she can predict all the possible outcomes. Micro politics will generally require use of a narrow range of variables. On the other hand, macro politics require a wider range of variables to accomplish the task. Analysts are hoping that a day would come where they can apply the use of all the variables to come up with a general theory. However, as it stands there is no general theory that is applicable in political studies.


Bullard, M. R. (1979). People’s Republic of China Elite Studies: A Review of the Literature. Asian Survey, 19 (8), 789-799.

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DemoEssays. "People’s Republic of China Elite Studies." February 9, 2022.