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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 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.

Table of contents
1 Communist Party of China
2 State Structure
3 The People's Liberation Army
4 Principal Government and Party Officials
5 Minor political parties
6 Political conditions
7 Opposition
8 Miscellaneous
9 External links and references

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:

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 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.

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

Vice Premiers of the State Council

Politburo Standing Committee

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

See also: Political position ranking of PRC

Minor political parties

The eight registered minor parties have existed since before 1950. They 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.

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 concept of rule of law by which party and state organizations are all subject to the law. 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. 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 thousand political prisoners. Although illegal, there have been reports of torture by civil authorities.


See Chinese democracy movement.


Country name Data code: CH

Government type: Communist state (some debate)

Capital: Beijing

Administrative divisions

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), Yunnan, Zhejiang
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


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

National holiday

National Day, October 1,(1949)


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.


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

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)

Judicial branch

Supreme People's Court, judges appointed by the National People's Congress

Political parties and leaders

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

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

See: Flag of the People's Republic of China

External links and references