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Politics of China

This article is on the politics of Mainland China. See also: Politics of the Republic of China (on Taiwan), Politics of Hong Kong, and Politics of Macau.

State power within the 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 a 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), authoritarian in structure and ideology, 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. This phenomenon is apparent today in the rapidly developing coastal region. Nevertheless, in all important governmental institutions in the PRC, party committees work to see that party and state policy guidance is followed and that non-party members do not create autonomous organizations that could challenge party rule. 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.

Theoretically, the party's highest body is the Party Congress, which is supposed to meet at least once every 5 years. The primary organs of power in the Communist Party include:

  • The Politburo Standing Committee, which currently consists of seven 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.

State Structure
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 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.

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 Politiburo 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.

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, currently Jiang Zemin. 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 additional, 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
President: Hu Jintao
Vice President: Zeng Qinghong
Premier of the State Council: Wen Jiabao

Vice Premiers of the State Council
Huang Ju
Wu Yi[?]
Zeng Peiyan[?]
Hui Liangyu[?]

Politburo Standing Committee
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[?]

See also: Political position ranking of PRC

Political conditions

Legal System
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 rule of law under which even party leaders are theoretically held accountable.

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. 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, 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 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 thousands prisioners of conscience. Although illegal, there have been reports of torture by civil authorities.


see Chinese democracy movement

Country name:
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)

Capital: Beijing

Administrative divisions:

23 provinces (sheng, singular and plural), 5 autonomous regions* (zizhiqu, singular and plural), and 4 municipalities** (shi, singular and plural); 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), Yunnan, Zhejiang
note: The PRC considers Taiwan, which is currently controlled by the Republic of China (ROC), its 23rd province; see separate entries for the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau

Independence: October 1, 1949 establishment of the PRC following the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War

National holiday: National Day, October 1,(1949)

Constitution: most recent promulgation December 4, 1982

Legal system: 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.

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:

  • 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)

Legislative branch: 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

Judicial branch: 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 (applicant), Zangger Committee

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

See: Flag of the People's Republic of China

External links and references

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