Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Politics of China
State power within the People's Republic of China (PRC) is divided among three bodies: the Party, the State, and the Army. The PRC is an oligarchy in which political power and advancement depends on gaining and retaining the support of an informal body of people numbering one to two thousand who constitute the leadership of these organs. The PRC's population, geographical vastness, and social diversity frustrate attempts to rule from Beijing. Central government leaders must increasingly build consensus for new policies among party members, local and regional leaders, influential non-party members, and the population at large.
Communist Party of China
The more than 63 million-member Communist Party of China (CPC) continues to dominate government. In periods of relative liberalization, the influence of people and organizations outside the formal party structure has tended to increase, particularly in the economic realm. Under the command economy system, every state owned enterprise was required to have a party committee. The introduction of the market economy means that economic institutions now exist in which the party has limited or no power.
Nevertheless, in all governmental institutions in the PRC, the party committees maintain an important role. Party control is tightest in government offices and in urban economic, industrial, and cultural settings; it is considerably looser in the rural areas, where the majority of the people live. Their most important role comes in the selection and promotion of personnel. They also see that party and state policy guidance is followed and that non-party members do not create autonomous organizations that could challenge party rule. Particularly important are the leading small groups which coordinate activities of different agencies. Although there is a convention that government committees contain at least one non-party member, a party membership is a definite aid in promotion and in being in crucial policy setting meetings.
Theoretically, the party's highest body is the Party Congress, which is supposed to meet at least once every 5 years. Meetings became irregular during the Cultural Revolution but have been periodic since then. The party elects the Central Committee and the primary organs of power are formally parts of the central committee.
The primary organs of power in the Communist Party include:
- The Politburo Standing Committee, which currently consists of nine members;
- The Politburo, consisting of 22 full members (including the members of the Politburo Standing Committee);
- The Secretariat, the principal administrative mechanism of the CPC, headed by the General Secretary;
- The Central Military Commission;
- The Discipline Inspection Commission, which is charged with rooting out corruption and malfeasance among party cadres.
The primary organs of state power are the National People's Congress (NPC), the President, and the State Council. Members of the State Council include the Premier, a variable number of vice premiers (now four), five state councilors (protocol equal of vice premiers but with narrower portfolios), and 29 ministers and heads of State Council commissions. During the 1980s there was an attempt made to separating party and state functions with the party deciding general policy and the state carrying out those policy. That effort at separating party and state functions at the central government level was abandoned in the 1990s with the result that the political leadership within the state are also the leaders of the party, thereby creating a single centralized locus of power.
At the same time, there has been a convention that party and state offices be separated at levels other than the central government, and it is unheard of for a sub-national executive to also be party secretary. This frequently causes conflict between the chief executive and the party secretary, and this conflict is widely seen as intentional to prevent either from becoming too powerful. Some special cases are the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau where the Communist Party does not function at all, and the autonomous regions where, following Soviet practice, the chief executive is typically a member of the local ethnic group while the party general secretary is non-local and usually Han Chinese.
Under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the NPC is the highest organ of state power in China. It meets annually for about 2 weeks to review and approve major new policy directions, laws, the budget, and major personnel changes. Most national legislation in the PRC is adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Most initiatives are presented to the NPCSC for consideration by the State Council after previous endorsement by the Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee. Although the NPC generally approves State Council policy and personnel recommendations, the NPC and its standing committee has increasingly assertive of its role as the national legislature and has been able to force revisions in some laws. For example, the State Council and the Party have been unable to secure passage of a fuel tax to finance the construction of freeways.
The People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is controlled not by the State Council but rather by the Central Military Commission, a body which consists mostly of military officers but is chaired by a civilian, since 2004 Hu Jintao. Unlike most national armies, the Ministry of National Defense which is in the State Council has very little power and exists mostly to coordinate liaison activities with other militaries.
In practice, the Central Military Commission follows the decisions of the Central Military Committee of the Communist Party. The Communist Party takes some elaborate procedures to ensure the loyalty of the military including the zampolit system by which each army unit has a political officer who is answerable not to the military but rather to the party. In addition, there has been a strong desire by the political elite to professionalize the PLA and decrease its political role. Nevertheless, the PLA has in the past been an important political force when the civilian leadership has been deadlock, and retains the potential to play such a role in the future.
Principal Government and Party Officials
Vice Premiers of the State Council
- Hu Jintao (General Secretary)
- Wu Bangguo
- Wen Jiabao
- Jia Qinglin
- Zeng Qinghong
- Huang Ju
- Wu Guanzheng
- Li Changchun
- Luo Gan
Full Politburo Members
Wang Lequan - Wang Zhaoguo - Hui Liangyu - Liu Qi - Liu Yunshan - Li Changchun - Wu Yi - Wu Bangguo - Wu Guanzheng - Zhang Lichang - Zhang Dejiang - Chen Liangyu - Luo Gan - Zhou Yongkang - Hu Jintao - Yu Zhengsheng - He Guoqiang - Jia Qinglin - Guo Boxiong - Huang Ju - Cao Gangchuan - Zeng Qinghong - Zeng Peiyan - Wen Jiabao -
Alternate Politburo Members
- Wang Gang
Minor political parties
The eight registered minor parties have existed since before 1950. These parties all formally accept the leadership of the Communist Party of China and their activities are directed by the United Front bureau of the Chinese communist party. The major role of these parties is to organize niches such as academics. Although these parties are tightly organized and do not challenge the Communist Party, members of the parties often individually are found in policy making state organizations, and there is a convention that state institutions generally have at least one member from a minor political party.
The minor parties include the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Guomindang, founded in 1948 by dissident members of the mainstream Kuomintang then under control of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek; China Democratic League, begun in 1941 by intellectuals in education and the arts; China Democratic National Construction Association , formed in 1945 by educators and national capitalists (industrialists and business people); China Association for Promoting Democracy , started in 1945 by intellectuals in cultural, education (primary and secondary schools), and publishing circles; Chinese Peasants' and Workers' Democratic Party , originated in 1930 by intellectuals in medicine, the arts, and education; China Zhi Gong Dang (Party for Public Interest), founded in 1925 to attract the support of overseas Chinese; Jiusan Society , founded in 1945 by a group of college professors and scientists to commemorate the victory of the "international war against fascism" on September 3; and Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League , created in 1947 by "patriotic supporters of democracy who originated in Taiwan and now reside on the mainland."
Coordination between the 8 registered minor parties and the Communist Party of China is done through the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Main article: Law of the People's Republic of China
The government's efforts to promote rule of law are significant and ongoing. After the Cultural Revolution, the PRC's leaders aimed to develop a legal system to restrain abuses of official authority and revolutionary excesses. In 1982, the National People's Congress adopted a new state constitution that emphasized the concept of rule of law by which party and state organizations are all subject to the law. (The importance of the rule of law was further elevated by a 1999 Constitutional amendment.) Many commentators have pointed out that the emphasis rule of law increases rather than decreases the power of the Communist Party of China because the party is in a better position to change the law.
Since 1979, when the drive to establish a functioning legal system began, more than 300 laws and regulations, most of them in the economic area, have been promulgated. (After China's entry into the WTO, many new economically-related laws have been put in place, while others have been amended.) The use of mediation committees--informed groups of citizens who resolve about 90% of the PRC's civil disputes and some minor criminal cases at no cost to the parties--is one innovative device. There are more than 800,000 such committees in both rural and urban areas.
Legal reform became a government priority in the 1990s. Legislation designed to modernize and professionalize the nation's lawyers, judges, and prisons was enacted. The 1994 Administrative Procedure Law allows citizens to sue officials for abuse of authority or malfeasance. In addition, the criminal law and the criminal procedures laws were amended to introduce significant reforms. The criminal law amendments abolished the crime of "counter-revolutionary" activity (and references to "counter-revolutionaries" disappeared with the passing of the 1999 Constitutional amendment), while criminal procedures reforms encouraged establishment of a more transparent, adversarial trial process. The PRC Constitution and laws provide for fundamental human rights, including due process, however those laws also provide for limitations of those rights.
Although the human rights situation in mainland China has improved markedly since the 1960s (the 2004 Constitutional amendments specifically stressed that the State protects human rights), the government remains authoritarian and determined to prevent any organized opposition to its rule such as Tibetan and Xinjiang separatists. Amnesty International estimates that the PRC holds several thousand political prisoners. Although illegal, there have been reports of torture by civil authorities.
- conventional long form: People's Republic of China
- conventional short form: China
- local long form: Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo
- local short form: Zhong Guo
- abbreviation: PRC
Data code: CH
Government type: Communist state (some debate)
22 provinces (sheng, singular and plural), 5 autonomous regions* (zizhiqu, singular and plural), and 4 municipalities** (shi, singular and plural) under the control of the PRC;
Anhui, Beijing**, Chongqing Municipality**, Fujian,
Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi*,
Guizhou, Hainan, Hebei, Heilongjiang,
Henan, Hubei, Hunan,
Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin,
Liaoning, Nei Mongol*, Ningxia*,
Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanghai**,
Shanxi, Sichuan, Tianjin**,
Xinjiang*, Xizang* (Tibet),
note: The PRC considers Taiwan, which is currently controlled by the Republic of China (ROC), its 23rd province; the ROC also controls Kinmen and part of Lienchiang counties of Fujian province.
See also: Political divisions of China
The PRC Constitution was first created on September 20, 1954. Before that, an interim Constitution-like document created by the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference was in force.
The 2nd and 3rd promulgations of the PRC Constitution took place against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution. The 2nd promulgation in 1975 shortened the Constitution to just about 30 articles, and contained Communist slogans and revolutionary language throughout. The role of courts was slashed, and the Presidency was gone. The 3rd promulgation in 1978 expanded the number of articles, but was still under the influence of the just-gone-by Cultural Revolution. It also, for the first time, mentioned the issue of Taiwan, but declared that the PRC would "liberate" it.
The current Constitution is the PRC's 4th promulgation. On December 4, 1982, it was promulgated and has served as a stable Constitution for over 20 years. The role of the Presidency and the courts were normalised, and under the Constitution, all citizens were equal. Amendments were made in 1988, 1993, 1999, and most recently, in 2004, which recognised private property, safeguarded human rights, and further promoted the non-public sector of the economy.
a complex amalgam of custom and statute, largely criminal law; rudimentary civil code in effect since January 1, 1987; new legal codes in effect since January 1, 1980; continuing efforts are being made to improve civil, administrative, criminal, and commercial law. According to Amnesty International between 1500 and 2000 people are reported executed in mainland China each year. However, some human rights activists believe that not all executions are reported with some estimates of the number of actual executions as high as 15,000. Public sentiment, however, appears to be overwhelmingly in support of the death penalty in response to a perception that crime is a serious problem.
18 years of age; universal
- Chief of state: President Hu Jintao (since March 15, 2003) and Vice President Zeng Qinghong
- Head of government: Premier Wen Jiabao; Vice Premiers Huang Ju, Wu Yi, Zeng Peiyan, Hui Liangyu
- Cabinet: State Council appointed by the National People's Congress (NPC)
- Elections: President and vice president elected by the National People's Congress for five-year terms; elections last held March 2003 (next to be held March 2008); premier nominated by the president, confirmed by the National People's Congress
- Election results: Hu Jintao elected president by the Tenth National People's Congress with a total of NA votes (NA delegates voted against him, NA abstained, and NA did not vote); Zeng Qinghong elected vice president by the Tenth National People's Congress with a total of NA votes (NA delegates voted against him, NA abstained, and NA did not vote)
Unicameral National People's Congress or Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui (2,979 seats; members elected by municipal, regional, and provincial people's congresses to serve five-year terms)
- Elections: Last held March 2003 (next to be held NA)
- Election results: Percent of vote - NA; seats - NA
Supreme People's Court, judges appointed by the National People's Congress
Political parties and leaders
- Chinese Communist Party or CPC (Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the Central Committee)
- Eight registered small parties controlled by CPC
Political pressure groups and leaders
No substantial political opposition groups exist, although the government has identified the Falun Gong sect and the China Democracy Party as potential rivals
International organization participation
AfDB, APEC, AsDB, BIS, CCC, CDB (non-regional), ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, LAIA (observer), MINURSO, NAM (observer), OPCW, PCA, United Nations, UN Security Council, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNITAR, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee
National flag description
red with a large yellow five-pointed star and four smaller yellow five-pointed stars (arranged in a vertical arc toward the middle of the flag) in the upper hoist-side corner
In general, naturalisation or the obtainance of PRC nationality is difficult or very difficult. The Nationality Law prescribes only three conditions for the obtainance of PRC nationality (marriage to a PRC national is one, permanent residence is another).
Citizens of the People's Republic of China, according to law, are not permitted to hold dual nationalities, as the nation is a unitary state. If foreign nationality is granted to the PRC citizen, he or she loses Chinese nationality automatically. If the citizen then wishes to resume PRC nationality, the foreign nationality is no longer recognised.
External links and references
- Inside China's Ruling Party (BBC)
- Is China really a Communist state? (CNN)
- New York Times article of September 5, 2002 on Succession of Rule in China
- China's New Rulers: The Secret Files, Andrew J. Nathan and Bruce Gilley, New York Review of Books Press, 2002, hardcover, 150 pages, ISBN 1590170466
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