How does one explore and explain the interactions of Chinese top elites at a crucial juncture, such as the fourth plenum of the 16th CCP Central Committee in September 2004, with limited information? The purpose of this paper is to show the primary sources of information regarding the interactions of Chinese top leaders, and to illustrate the process of deconstructing and reconstructing available information. This paper claims that researchers can dig out valuable information from dry news reports in official Chinese mass media. Official documents, top leaders’ open speeches, and even photos indirectly reveal Chinese leaders’ attitude in policy debates and their power relationships.
Once available information is collected, researchers may adopt content analysis to filter out Chinese leaders’ position on several specific crucial issues. The results will demonstrate whether the leaders have formed a stable alignment. Additionally, researchers should develop their interpretation of history on Chinese elite politics of past decades. Once researchers identify the evolutional track of Chinese elite politics and its dynamics, they can better illustrate the implications of the leaders’ behavior in a specific conjuncture. However, due to the fact that available information is always limited, researchers must not exaggerate the conclusions.