One of the greatest concepts of Imperial China was that of the Civil Service Exam. Begun in a limited form in the Han Dynasty, it was formalized and improved by the Sui and fully implemented by the T'ang Dynasty. Originally intended to show the education level of the job candidate, the concept evolved into the current form where workers should be qualified to do the job.
The idea that a government employee should be qualified for the position that they held was in direct contrast to the traditional ideas of nepotism and favoritism where family and friends were given choice positions because of their "connections' rather than their ability to do the job. Simply put, Civil Service personnel have passed a test that shows they are qualified to complete the tasks of the government job they hold.