People's Republic of China - Government
The Chinese government is organized around a complicated inner network of personal relationships that do not correspond to a standard organizational chart or Western bureaucracy. In theory the Communist Party controls the government, yet no individual or committee rules in a predictable top-down fashion. Decisions are the product of continuous and complex two-way negotiations between individuals in different ministries (horizontally) and levels (vertically) of government. These internal debates remain inaccessible to all but select insiders.
The formal structure of government in 1987 was based on the State Constitution adopted on December 4, 1982, by the National People's Congress (NPC), China's highest legislative body. Three previous state constitutions--those of 1954, 1975, and 1978--had been superseded in turn. The 1982 document reflects Deng Xiaoping's determination to lay a lasting institutional foundation for domestic stability and modernization. The new State Constitution provides a legal basis for the broad changes in China's social and economic institutions and significantly revises government structure and procedures.
The 1982 State Constitution is a lengthy, hybrid document with 138 articles. Large sections were adapted directly from the 1978 constitution, but many of its changes derive from the 1954 constitution. Specifically, the new Constitution deemphasizes class struggle and places top priority on development and on incorporating the contributions and interests of nonparty groups that can play a central role in modernization. Accordingly, Article 1 of the State Constitution describes China as a "people's democratic dictatorship," meaning that the system is based on an alliance of the working classes--in communist terminology, the workers and peasants--and is led by the Communist Party, the vanguard of the working class. Elsewhere, the Constitution provides for a renewed and vital role for the groups that make up that basic alliance--the CPPCC, democratic parties, and mass organizations.
The 1982 Constitution expunges almost all of the rhetoric associated with the Cultural Revolution incorporated in the 1978 version. In fact, the Constitution omits all references to the Cultural Revolution and restates Mao Zedong's contributions in accordance with a major historical reassessment produced in June 1981 at the Sixth Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee, the "Resolution on Some Historical Issues of the Party since the Founding of the People's Republic."
There also is emphasis throughout the 1982 State Constitution on socialist law as a regulator of political behavior. Thus, the rights and obligations of citizens are set out in detail far exceeding that provided in the 1978 constitution. Probably because of the excesses that filled the years of the Cultural Revolution, the 1982 Constitution gives even greater attention to clarifying citizens' "fundamental rights and duties" than the 1954 constitution did. The right to vote and to run for election begins at the age of eighteen except for those disenfranchised by law. The Constitution guarantees the freedom of religious worship as well as the "freedom not to believe in any religion" and affirms that "religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination."
Article 35 of the 1982 State Constitution proclaims that "citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration." In the 1978 constitution, these rights were guaranteed, but so were the right to strike and the "four big rights," often called the "four bigs": to speak out freely, air views fully, hold great debates, and write big-character posters. In February 1980, following the Democracy Wall period (see Glossary), the four bigs were abolished in response to a party decision ratified by the National People's Congress. The right to strike was also dropped from the 1982 Constitution. The widespread expression of the four big rights during the student protests of late 1986 elicited the regime's strong censure because of their illegality. The official response cited Article 53 of the 1982 Constitution, which states that citizens must abide by the law and observe labor discipline and public order. Besides being illegal, practicing the four big rights offered the possibility of straying into criticism of the CCP, which was in fact what appeared in student wall posters. In a new era that strove for political stability and economic development, party leaders considered the four big rights politically destabilizing.
The new State Constitution is also more specific about the responsibilities and functions of offices and organs in the state structure. There are clear admonitions against familiar Chinese practices that the reformers have labeled abuses, such as concentrating power in the hands of a few leaders and permitting lifelong tenure in leadership positions. In addition, the 1982 Constitution provides an extensive legal framework for the liberalizing economic policies of the 1980s. It allows the collective economic sector not owned by the state a broader role and provides for limited private economic activity. Members of the expanded rural collectives have the right "to farm private plots, engage in household sideline production, and raise privately owned livestock."
The primary emphasis is given to expanding the national economy, which is to be accomplished by balancing centralized economic planning with supplementary regulation by the market. Another key difference between the 1978 and 1982 state constitutions is the latter's approach to outside help for the modernization program. Whereas the 1978 constitution stressed "self-reliance" in modernization efforts, the 1982 document provides the constitutional basis for the considerable body of laws passed by the NPC in subsequent years permitting and encouraging extensive foreign participation in all aspects of the economy. In addition, the 1982 document reflects the more flexible and less ideological orientation of foreign policy since 1978. Such phrases as "proletarian internationalism" and "social imperialism" have been dropped.
The National People's Congress (NPC) of the PRC is the highest organ of state power. It decides on the questions of war and peace, and exercises other defense-related functions and powers provided for in the Constitution. The Standing Committee of the NPC is the NPC's permanent body. It decides on the proclamation of a state of war, decides on general or partial mobilization, and exercises other defense-related functions and powers provided for in the Constitution. The president of the state, in accordance with decisions of the NPC and its Standing Committee, proclaims a state of war, issues mobilization orders and exercises other defense-related functions and powers provided for in the Constitution. The State Council directs and administrates national defense work, and the Central Military Commission (CMC) directs and assumes unified command of the nation's armed forces.
The nearly 100 million member CCP, authoritarian in structure and ideology, continues to dominate government. Nevertheless, China's population, geographical vastness, and social diversity frustrate attempts to rule by fiat from Beijing. Central leaders must increasingly build consensus for new policies among party members, local and regional leaders, influential non-party members, and the population at large.
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 most apparent today in the rapidly developing coastal region. Nevertheless, in all important government, economic, and cultural institutions in China, 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 Chinese Government has always been subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP); its role is to implement party policies. The primary organs of state power are the National People's Congress (NPC), the President (the head of state), and the State Council. Members of the State Council include Premier Wen Jiabao (the head of government), a variable number of vice premiers (now four), five state councilors (protocol equivalents of vice premiers but with narrower portfolios), and 22 ministers and four State Council commission directors.
Under the Chinese constitution, 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. These initiatives are presented to the NPC for consideration by the State Council after previous endorsement by the Communist Party's Central Committee. Although the NPC generally approves State Council policy and personnel recommendations, various NPC committees hold active debate in closed sessions, and changes may be made to accommodate alternate views.
When the NPC is not in session, its permanent organ, the Standing Committee, exercises state power.
By the end of 1998, five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties (banners) had been established, as well as 1,256 ethnic townships. Among the 55 ethnic minorities, 44 have their own autonomous areas, with a population of 75 percent of the total of the ethnic minorities and an area of 64 percent of the area of the whole country. The number and distribution of the autonomous areas are basically the same as the distribution and composition of the ethnic groups nationwide.
Autonomous areas for ethnic minorities in China include autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties (banners). 1) Autonomous areas are established where people of one ethnic minority live in concentrated communities, such as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; 2) autonomous areas are established where two ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities, such as the Haixi Mongolian-Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province; 3) autonomous areas are established where several ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities, such as the Longsheng Ethnic Minorities Autonomous County in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; 4) autonomous areas are established within a larger autonomous area where people of an ethnic minority with a smaller population live in concentrated communities, such as the Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; 5) autonomous areas are established for people of one ethnic minority who live in concentrated communities in different places, such as the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province and the Dachang Hui Autonomous County in Hebei Province.
For places where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities but where autonomous areas and organs of self-government are not fit to be established because the areas and populations of the ethnic minorities are too small, ethnic townships are established so that the minority peoples there can also exercise their rights as masters of their homelands. Ethnic townships are a supplement to the system of regional autonomy.
The system of regional autonomy in China has two distinguishing features. First, regional autonomy is under the unified leadership of the state, and the autonomous areas are inseparable parts of China. The organs of self-government of the autonomous areas are local governments under the leadership of the Central Government, and they must be subordinated to the centralized and unified leadership of the Central Government.
According to Ministry of Civil Affairs statistics, almost all of the country’s more than 600,000 villages had implemented direct elections for members of local subgovernmental organizations known as village committees. The direct election of officials by ordinary citizens remained narrow in scope and strictly confined to the local level. The government estimated that serious procedural flaws marred one-third of all elections. Corruption, vote buying, and interference by township-level and CCP officials continued to be problems. The law permits each voter to cast proxy votes for up to three other voters.
In 2012 the local governments kept most independent candidates – those without official government backing – off the ballots despite their meeting nomination criteria. No declared independent candidates won election in 2012. Election officials pressured independent candidates to renounce their candidacies, manipulated the ballot to exclude independent candidates, refused to disclose electorate information to independent candidates, and sometimes adjusted electoral districts to dilute voter support for independent candidates.
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