Politics of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
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Politics and government of
the People's Republic of China
The politics of the People's Republic of China take place in a framework of a single-party socialist republic. The leadership of the Communist Party is stated in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. State power within the People's Republic of China (PRC) is exercised through the Communist Party of China, the Central People's Government and their provincial and local counterparts. Under the dual leadership system, each local bureau or office is under the coequal authority of the local leader and the leader of the corresponding office, bureau or ministry at the next higher level. People's Congress members at the county level are elected by voters. These county level People's Congresses have the responsibility of oversight of local government, and elect members to the Provincial (or Municipal in the case of independent municipalities) People's Congress. The Provincial People's Congress in turn elects members to the National People's Congress that meets each year in March in Beijing. The ruling Communist Party committee at each level plays a large role in the selection of appropriate candidates for election to the local congress and to the higher levels.
The PRC's population, geographical vastness, and social diversity frustrate attempts to rule from Beijing. Economic reform during the 1980s and the devolution of much central government decision making, combined with the strong interest of local Communist Party officials in enriching themselves, has made it increasingly difficult for the central government to assert its authority. Political power has become much less personal and more institutionally based than it was during the first forty years of the PRC. For example, Deng Xiaoping was never the General-Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party or President, Premier of China, yet he was for a decade the leader of China. Today the authority of China's leaders is much more tied to their institutional base.
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. However, control is often maintained over the larger group through control of information. The Chinese Communist Party considers China to be in the initial stages of socialism. Many Chinese and foreign observers see the PRC as in transition from a system of public ownership to one in which private ownership plays an increasingly important role. Privatization of housing and increasing freedom to make choices about education and employment severely weakened the work unit system that was once the basic cell of Communist Party control over society. China's complex political, ethnic and ideological mosaic, much less uniform beneath the surface than in the idealized story of the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, resist simple categorization.
As the social, cultural and political as well as economic consequences of market reform become increasingly manifest, tensions between the old—the way of the comrade—and the new—the way of the citizen—are sharpening. Some Chinese scholars such as Zhou Tianyong, the vice director of research of the Central Party School, argue that gradual political reform as well as repression of those pushing for overly rapid change over the next thirty years will be essential if China is to avoid an overly turbulent transition to a middle class dominated polity. Some Chinese look back to the Cultural Revolution and fear chaos if the Communist Party should lose control due to domestic upheavals and so a robust system of monitoring and control is in place to counter the growing pressure for political change.
The more than 80 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 at all levels maintain an important role.
Central party control is tightest in central government offices and in urban economic, industrial, and cultural settings; it is considerably looser over government and party organizations in rural areas, where the majority of China's people live. Their most important responsibility 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.
Constitutionally, the party's highest body is the Party Congress, which is supposed to meet at least once every 5 years. Meetings were irregular before 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 General Secretary, which is the highest ranking official within the Party and usually the Chinese Paramount leader.
- The Politburo, consisting of 22 full members (including the members of the Politburo Standing Committee);
- The Politburo Standing Committee, which currently consists of nine members;
- The Secretariat, the principal administrative mechanism of the CPC, headed by the General Secretary;
- The Central Military Commission;
- The Central 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 separate party and state functions, with the party deciding general policy and the state carrying it out. The attempt 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. Conflict has been often known to develop between the chief executive and the party secretary, and this conflict is widely seen as intentional to prevent either from becoming too dominant. Some special cases are the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau where the Communist Party does not function at all as part of the governmental system, 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 China 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 asserted 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.
Political divisions of the PRC Provinces (省) †Taiwan is claimed by the PRC but governed by the Republic of China Autonomous regions (自治区) Municipalities (直辖市) Special Administrative
Currently, local government in the People's Republic of China is structured in a hierarchy on four different levels. With the village being the grassroots (usually a hundred or so families), and not considered part of the hierarchy, local government advances through the township, county, prefecture or municipality, and the province as the geographical area of jurisdiction increases. Each level in the hierarchy is responsible for overseeing the work carried out by lower levels on the administrative strata. At each level are two important officials. A figure that represents the Communist Party of China, colloquially termed the Party chief or the Party Secretary, acts as the policy maker. This figure is appointed by their superiors. The head of the local People's Government, is, in theory, elected by the people. Usually called a governor, mayor, or magistrate, depending on the level, this figure acts to carry out the policies and most ceremonial duties. The distinction has evolved into a system where the Party Secretary is always in precedence above the leader of the People's Government.
After Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978 greater autonomy has been given to provinces in terms of economic policy implementation as well as other areas of policy such as education and transportation. As a result, some provincial authorities have evolved tendencies of operating on a de facto federal system with Beijing. Prominent examples of greater autonomy are seen in the provinces of Guangdong and Zhejiang, where local leaders do little to adhere to the strict standards issued by the Central Government, especially economic policy. In addition, conflicts have arisen in the relations of the central Party leaders with the few provincial-level Municipalities, most notably the municipal government of Shanghai and the rivalry of former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong with Jiang Zemin. The removal of Shanghai Municipality Party Secretary Chen Liangyu in September 2006 is the latest example.
China's system of autonomous regions and autonomous prefectures within provinces are formally intended to provide for greater autonomy by the ethnic group majority that inhabits the region. In practice, however, Beijing will often appoint loyal party cadres to oversee the local work as Party secretary, while the local Chairman of the region's government is regarded as its nominal head. Power rests with the Party secretary. To avoid the solidification of local loyalties during a cadre's term in office, the central government freely and frequently transfers party cadres around different regions of the country, so a high ranking cadre's career might include service as governor or party secretary of several different provinces.
People's Liberation Army
The Communist Party of China created and leads the People’s Liberation Army. After the PRC was established in 1949, the PLA also became a state military. The state military system inherited and upholds the principle of the Communist Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces. The Party and the State jointly established the Central Military Commission that carries out the task of supreme military leadership over the armed forces.
The 1954 PRC Constitution provides that the State President directs the armed forces and made the State President the chair of the Defense Commission (the Defense Commission is an advisory body, it does not lead the armed forces). On September 28, 1954, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party re-established the Central Military Commission as the leader of the PLA and the people’s armed forces. From that time onwards, the system of joint Party and state military leadership was established. The Central Committee of the Communist Party leads in all military affairs. The State President directs the state military forces and the development of the military forces managed by the State Council.
In December 1982, the fifth National People’s Congress revised the State Constitution to provide that the State Central Military Commission leads all the armed forces of the state. The chair of the State CMC is chosen and removed by the full NPC while the other members are chosen by the NPC Standing Committee. However, the CMC of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China remained the Party organization that directly leads the military and all the other armed forces. In actual practice, the Party CMC, after consultation with the democratic parties, proposes the names of the State CMC members of the NPC so that these people after going through the legal processes can be elected by the NPC to the State Central Military Commission. That is to say, that the CMC of the Central Committee and the CMC of the State are one group and one organization. However, looking at it organizationally, these two CMCs are subordinate to two different systems – the Party system and the State system. Therefore the armed forces are under the absolute leadership of the Communist Party and are also the armed forces of the state. This is a uniquely Chinese system that ensures the joint leadership of the Communist Party and the state over the armed forces.
- The President and vice president are elected by the National People's Congress for five-year terms. The State Council is appointed by the National People's Congress (NPC).
Politburo Standing Committee
- Hu Jintao (General Secretary)
- Wu Bangguo
- Wen Jiabao
- Jia Qinglin
- Li Changchun
- Xi Jinping
- Li Keqiang
- He Guoqiang
- Zhou Yongkang
Full Politburo members
- Xi Jinping, Top-ranked Secretary of CPC Secretariat, Vice-President
- Wang Gang, Vice-Chair of CPPCC
- Wang Lequan, Party chief of Xinjiang Autonomous Region
- Wang Zhaoguo, Vice-Chairman of National People's Congress
- Wang Qishan, Vice-Premier
- Hui Liangyu, Vice-Premier
- Liu Qi, Party chief of Beijing, head of Beijing Olympics organizing committee
- Liu Yunshan, Secretary in CPC Central Secretariat, Media and Communications minister
- Liu Yandong, First State Councilor
- Li Changchun, Propaganda chief
- Li Keqiang, First Vice-Premier
- Li Yuanchao, Secretary in CPC Central Secretariat, CPC Organization Department head
- Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
- Wang Yang, Party chief of Guangdong
- Zhang Gaoli, Party chief of Tianjin
- Zhang Dejiang, Vice-Premier
- Zhou Yongkang, Head of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee
- Hu Jintao, General Secretary, President, Central Military Commission Chairman
- Yu Zhengsheng, Party chief of Shanghai
- He Guoqiang, Head of Central Commission for Discipline Inspection
- Jia Qinglin, head of the People's Political Consultative Conference
- Xu Caihou, Vice-Chairman of Central Military Commission
- Guo Boxiong, Vice-Chairman of Central Military Commission
- Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council
- Bo Xilai, Party chief of Chongqing
Elections in the People's Republic of China
No substantial legal political opposition groups exist, and the country is mainly run by the Communist Party of China (CPC), but there are other political parties in the PRC, called "democratic parties", which participate in the People's Political Consultative Conference but mostly serve to endorse CPC policies. While there have been some moves toward political liberalization, in that open contested People's Congress elections are now held at the village and town levels, and that legislatures have shown some assertiveness from time to time, the party retains effective control over governmental appointments. This is because the CPC wins by default in most electorates. The CPC has been enforcing its rule by clamping down on political dissidents while simultaneously attempting to reduce dissent by improving the economy and allowing public expression of people's personal grievances, provided that it is not within the agenda of any organization. Current political concerns in China include lessening the growing gap between rich and poor, and fighting corruption within the government leadership. The support that the Communist Party of China has among the Chinese population in general is unclear because national elections are mostly CPC dominated, as there are no opposition political parties and independent candidates elected into office are too scattered and disorganized to realistically challenge CPC rule. Also, private conversations and anecdotal information often reveal conflicting views. However, according to a survey conducted in Hong Kong, where a relatively high level of freedom is enjoyed, the current CPC leaders have received substantial votes of support when its residents were asked to rank their favourite Chinese leaders from Mainland and Taiwan.
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 Work Department of the Chinese communist party. Their original function was to create the impression that New China was ruled by a wide national front, not a one-party dictatorship. The major role of these parties is to attract and subsequently muzzle niches in society that have political tendencies, such as the academia. 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 sinecure 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 Party for Public Interest (China Zhi Gong Dang), 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 which meets annually in Beijing in March at about the same time that the National People's Congress meets. In addition, there are a few minor parties which are either unrecognized or actively suppressed by the government, such as the China Democracy Party and China New Democracy Party, which have their headquarters outside of the Chinese mainland.
The Chinese legal code is a complex amalgam of custom and statute, largely focused on criminal law, though a rudimentary civil code has been in effect since January 1, 1987 and new legal codes have been in effect since January 1, 1980. Continuing efforts are being made to improve civil, administrative, criminal, and commercial law.
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 on rule of law increases rather than decreases the power of the Communist Party of China because the party, in its position of power, is in a better position to change the law to suit its own needs.
Since 1979, when the drive to establish a functioning legal system began, more than 301 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, although 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 determined to prevent any organized opposition to its rule. Amnesty International estimates that the PRC holds several thousand political prisoners. Although illegal, there have been reports of torture by civil authorities.
Nationality and ethnicity
In general, naturalization or the obtainment of People's Republic of China nationality is difficult. The Nationality Law prescribes only three conditions for the obtainment 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 multiple citizenship. 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 recognized.
The PRC is officially a multi-ethnic state providing ethnic autonomy in the form of autonomous administrative entities in accordance with Section 6 of Chapter 3 (Articles 111-122) of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, and with more detail under the Law of the People's Republic of China on Regional National Autonomy. By law, ethnic minorities receive advantages in areas such as population control, school admissions, government employment, and military recruitment. The PRC refers to all 56 official nationalities as equal members of the Chinese nation. However, separatist sentiment has occasionally flared in Tibet and Xinjiang. As such, independence groups and foreign human rights groups are critical of the PRC's policies in ethnic areas, and have bemoaned the presence of Han Chinese (the main ethnic group of China) in Xinjiang and Tibet.
The PRC maintains diplomatic relations with most countries in the world. In 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China, commonly known as "Taiwan" since the 1970s, as the sole representative of China in the United Nations and as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. China was represented by the Republic of China at the time of the UN's founding in 1945. (See China and the United Nations).
Under the One-China policy, the PRC has made it a precondition to establishing diplomatic relations that the other country acknowledges its claim to all of China, including Taiwan, and severs any official ties with the Republic of China (ROC) government. The government actively opposes foreign government meetings with the 14th Dalai Lama in a political capacity, as the spokesperson of a separatist movement in Tibet.
The PRC has been playing a leading role in calling for free trade areas and security pacts amongst its Asia-Pacific neighbors. In 2004, the PRC proposed an entirely new East Asia Summit (EAS) framework as a forum for regional security issues that pointedly excluded the United States. The EAS, which includes ASEAN Plus Three, India, Australia and New Zealand, held its inaugural summit in 2005. China is also a founder and member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), alongside Russia and the Central Asian republics.
Much of the current foreign policy is based on the concept of China's peaceful development. Nonetheless, crises in relations with foreign countries have occurred at various times in its recent history, particularly with the United States; e.g., the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict in May 1999 and the Hainan Island incident in April 2001. China's foreign relations with many Western nations suffered for a time following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. A much troubled foreign relationship is that between China and Japan, which has been strained at times by Japan's refusal to acknowledge its war-time past to the satisfaction of the PRC, such as revisionistic comments made by prominent Japanese officials, and insufficient details given to the Nanjing Massacre and other atrocities committed during World War II in Japanese history textbooks. Another point of conflict between the two countries is the frequent visits by Japanese government officials to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors not only Japanese World War II dead but also many convicted World War II war criminals, including 14 Class A convictions.
The PRC is in a number of international territorial disputes, several of which involved the Sino-Russian border. Although the great majority of them are now resolved, China's territorial disputes have led to several localized wars in the last 50 years, including the Sino-Indian War in 1962, the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969 and the Sino-Vietnam War in 1979. In 2001, the PRC and Russia signed the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, which ended the conflict. Other territorial disputes include islands in the East and South China Seas, and undefined or disputed borders with India and North Korea.
The following territories are claimed by both China and one or more other countries:
- Suyan Rock (with South Korea)
- Taiwan (with Republic of China, which is also known as "Taiwan")
- Diaoyu Islands (with Japan and Republic of China)
- Nansha Archipelago (with Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and the Republic of China)
- Xisha Archipelago (with Republic of China and Vietnam)
- Huangyan Island (with the Philippines)
- South Tibet - parts of Arunachal Pradesh (with India)
- Aksai Chin - (with India; however Pakistan has accepted an unmarked boundary and recognised China's governance of the area).
International organization participation
AfDB, APEC, AsDB, BIS, CDB (non-regional), ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MINURSO, NAM (observer), OPCW, PCA, United Nations, UN Security Council, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNITAR, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee
- Chinese democracy movement
- Politics of the Republic of China
- Politics of Hong Kong
- Politics of Macau
- Chinese Socialist Democracy
- ^ http://www.china.org.cn/english/chuangye/55414.htm National People's Congress system overview on China.org.cn
- ^ Pitfalls of Modernization 现代化的陷阱 by He Qinglian published in PRC 1996, never translated.
- ^ Yang, Dali. Remaking the Chinese Leviathan, Stanford University Press, 2004.
- ^ Boum, Aomar (1999). Journal of Political Ecology: Case Studies in History and Society. Retrieved April 18, 2006.
- ^ Part I of summary of Zhou Tianyong's 2004 book Reform of the Chinese Political System Accessed February 7, 2007.
- ^ Part II of summary of Zhou Tianyong's 2004 book Reform of the Chinese Political System Accessed February 7, 2007.
- ^ "Backgrounder: The Communist Party of China". News of the Communist Party of China. http://english.cpc.people.com.cn/66102/7419939.html. Retrieved 2011-06-25.
- ^ a b Pu Xingzu, Chapter 11, The State Military System in "The Political System of the People's Republic of China",(Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Zhengzhi Zhidu) Chief Editor Pu Xingzu, Shanghai, 2005, Shanghai People’s Publishing House. ISBN 7-208-05566-1
- ^ "Beijingers get greater poll choices", China Daily, December 12, 2003
- ^ "Does China’s Land-Tenure System Discourage Structural Adjustment?", Lohmar & Somwaru, USDA Economic Research Service, 1 May 2006. Accessed 3 May 2006.
- ^ China sounds alarm over fast-growing gap between rich and poor. Retrieved April 16, 2006.
- ^ Beijingers get greater poll choices, China Daily, December 8, 2003
- ^ "HKU POP SITE releases the latest ratings of the top 10 political figures in Mainland China and Taiwan as well as people's appraisal of past Chinese leaders". 4 April 2006. HKU POP. Accessed 3 May 2006.
- ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html CIA - The World Factbook -- China, retrieved December 12, 2007.
- ^ Eddy Chang (Aug 22, 2004). Perseverance will pay off at the UN, The Taipei Times, August 22, 2004
- ^ Dillon, Dana and John Tkacik Jr, "China’s Quest for Asia", Policy Review, December 2005 and January 2006, Issue No. 134. Accessed 22 April 2006.
- ^ Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation (March 21, 2006). Retrieved April 16, 2006.
- China Politics Links
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- 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
- Chinese Officials Lighten Up Under Pressure (China Today)
- Primer on China's Leadership Transition
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