China’s Meritocratic Examinations and the Ideal of Virtuous Talents
Date of Issue2013
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Emphasis on both moral character and talent in selecting government officials has been an intrinsic part of China’s meritocratic tradition. From early on, mainstream Chinese political philosophy, particularly of the Confucian heritage, has promoted such an ideal. This quest, however, has also encountered perennial challenges in practice. In this chapter, we examine in historic context the ideal and the practice of integrating moral character with talent in selecting government officials. We will show that, despite difficulties, searching for virtuous talents in China today has evolved into the most comprehensive and most sophisticated form in history. The first section of this chapter retrieves the history of China’s civil examinations and its problems. The second section investigates recent evolutions of China’s public servant recruitment as a stepping stone into officialdom. The third section focuses on China’s recent reform on selecting government officials. Finally, we examine to what extent the reformed system causes corruption in China.
© 2013 Cambridge University Press.