Elite Selection in Single-Party Autocracies: Minimizing Protests and Counterproductive State Violence to Maintain Social Stability

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Political Research Quarterly


Sage Publications, Inc.

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Why are some but not other officials selected for promotion in single-party regimes? Understanding inner-elite dynamics of these regimes is important for explaining their resilience. Recent evidence suggests that these polities prioritize patronage connections over competence, when deciding who receives advancement at the top echelons of power hierarchy. By contrast, this paper proposes that, besides patronage, competence (demonstrated as an official’s ability to maintain social stability) also contributes to the promotion of top officials. While it is widely acknowledged that social stability is a key concern for autocracies, prior quantitative research on career outcomes of single-party elites has largely ignored this criterion for promotion. We argue that evaluating officials based on their ability to minimize protests demonstrates another dimension of competence (in addition to economic growth) that is designed to address the problem of authoritarian control, that is, managing popular discontent. We test this argument in the context of China, using a sample of 116 party secretaries in 2003–2017 who faced a total of 10,085 labor protests. Our findings are consistent with this argument.

This document is currently not available here.