Chinese Government Basics
By Lisong Liu, Staff Writer
Based on public documents, and serving as an objective description of Chinese political systems and state organs, this short article will outline the state organs and their functions including the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Presidency, the State Council, the Central Military Commission (CMC), the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). First, however, it is necessary to look at how the state organs are defined and related to the Constitution and the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Constitution and the Communist Party of China (CPC)
The existing Constitution of China was adopted at the fifth session of the 5th National People’s Congress on December 4, 1982 and was amended in 1988, 1993 and 1999. The Constitution defines the socialist system as the basic system of China, and establishes the goal of the leadership of CPC in China, which is to lead people to build socialism with Chinese characteristics. The Constitution defines the fundamental rights and duties of citizens, the National Flag, the National Emblem and the Capital, as well as the state structure at both central and local levels.
Communist Party of China (CPC)
The CPC is the sole party in power in China. Established in 1921, CPC now has a total membership of more than 60 million belonging to more than 3 million grassroots organizations. The central leading organ of the Party is the National Party Congress (NPC) and the Central Committee it elects. NPC is held once every five years. The leading organs of power in the Central Committee include the Politburo, its Standing Committee, and the general secretary of the Central Committee. The Secretariat is the principle administrative body of the Politburo and its Standing Committee. The central organs of the Party also include the Central Military Commission and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Structure of the State
National People’s Congress (NPC)
According to the Constitution, the NPC is the highest organ of state power. Deputies to the NPC are elected from the provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central committee and the armed forces. The NPC is elected for a term of five years, and meets in session once a year. Among NPC’s main functions and powers are formulations of laws, delegating authority, policy formulation, and supervision of other governing organs.
The Standing Committee
The Standing Committee of the NPC is convened once every two months. It is composed of the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary-general and other members, currently 153 in total. The terms of office of the Standing Committee corresponds with that of the NPC. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee shall not serve more than two consecutive terms. Currently there are eight permanent special committees representing the NPC.
The presidency of PRC exercises the power of the head of the state according to decisions of the NPC and its Standing Committee, and is the supreme representative of China both internally and externally. To be elected, the candidate must be citizen of the PRC and must have reached the age of 45. The power of the president includes promulgating statutes adopted by the NPC, appointing and removing members of the State Council, proclaiming martial law, declaring a state of war and issuing orders of mobilization, etc. There are six men that have held the office of presidency of the People’s Republic of China: Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Li Xiannian, Yang Shangkun, Jiang Zemin, and currently, Hu Jintao.
The State Council is the highest executive organ of state power. It is responsible for carrying out the principles and policies of the CPC, as well as the regulations and laws adopted by the NPC. It deals with a variety of affairs like China’s internal politics, finance, economy, culture, education, diplomacy and national defense. It is composed of a Premier, Vice-Premiers, State Councilors, ministers in charge of ministries and commissions, the Auditor-general and the Secretary-general. The term for the position in the State Council is five years, and the incumbents can not be reappointed after two successive terms.
The Central Military Commission (CMC)
The CMC is the highest state military organ, commanding the entire armed forces in the country. It is elected for a term of five years and can be reelected. The primary organs under the Commission include: Ministry of Defense, which is the organ for military affairs in the State Council; Headquarters of the General Staff; General Political Department; General Logistics Department; General Armament Department; headquarters of the various branches of the armed forces; and headquarters of the various area military commands, which is the highest commanding bodies of consolidated military forces in each strategic region. China now has a 3 million armed forces heading towards normalization and modernization.
Supreme People’s Court (SPC)
The SPC is the highest judicial organ in China. According to the Constitution, its responsibilities include trying cases that have the greatest influence in China, supervising the work of local courts and special courts at every level, and giving judicial explanations of the specific utilization of laws in the judicial process that must be carried out across the nation. The President of the SPC is elected by the NPC with each term of five years, and can not be reelected after two successive terms. The SPC is composed of a judicial committee (the highest judicial organization, consisting of the president, vice presidents, presiding judges, vice presiding judges and judges), and various courts. China’s trial system follows a two-hearing system in the trial process.
The Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP)
The people’s procuratorates in PRC are law supervision organs of the state, including the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), local people’s procuratorates and military procuratorates. The main tasks of the SPP are to exercise leadership and ensure the unity and correct implementation of state laws. There are 15 functional departments in the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
Under the Constitution, the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC is a basic system in China, and shall continue to exist and develop. The CPPCC is an organization of the patriotic united front of the Chinesepeople. It is composed of the CPC, other political parties, mass organizations, different ethnic groups and representatives from all walks of life, as well as representatives of compatriots of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao as well as returned overseas Chinese and other specially invited people. The National Committee of the CPPCC serves for a term of five years and holds a plenary session once every year. Its Standing Committee presides over the work of the National Committee, and is composed of the Chairman, Vice Chairmen, Secretary-general and members. There are 34 units including CPC and the other 8 parties that took part in the past 10th CPPCC National Committee.
Editor’s Note: Former China Insight staff writer Lisong Liu wrote a series of five articles about the government of China. The articles were first published in China Insight from September 2003 to January 2004. All of the articles appear in this issue of China Insight. Statistics mentioned throughout the articles were current as of the date of the initial publication.