Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2



  1.  China is in practice a one party state. The National People's Congress (NPC) is indirectly elected. Direct elections for village leaders have also been conducted since 1988. They take place every three years, although it is unclear how genuine and effective they are. The legislature remains subject to Party leadership.

  2.  The Communist Party gives direction to and appoints all the key personnel for government organisations. China's political system is highly centralised and hierarchical, and the decisions and attitudes of the leadership are crucial. Communist Party membership reached 69.6 million by the end of 2004, an increase of 1.37 million year-on-year. Women make up only 18.6% of the total and members of China's 56 national minorities 6.3% (below the 8-9% of the total population they represent). The figures show that 66.2% joined after the Cultural Revolution, with the largest single group (36.7%) joining after 1992. 55.6% of members have a senior high-school education or higher. Nearly 23% are 60 or over, with a similar number aged 35 or below. The majority, 54.5%, are aged between 36 and 59.


  3.  The State Council is China's central government. Its bodies administer and implement central policies and decisions. The work of the State Council is presided over by an Executive Board made up of the 29 heads of the Ministries and Commissions, who are in turn are overseen by the Premier, the four Vice Premiers and the five State Councillors, as well as the State Council Secretary General.


  4.  The National People's Congress is China's legislative body and approves appointments to leading state and government positions including the offices of President, Premier, Supreme People's Court President, Supreme People's Procuratorate Chief Procurator and State Central Military Commission members. It supervises the work of these offices through voting on the annual reports it receives from them. As well as its supervisory role, the NPC scrutinises and passes legislation: a role it is becoming more capable and professional at executing. In reality however, the NPC is subject to control by the Party, and takes no major decisions that do not have Party approval. The current NPC Chairman Wu Bangguo is also ranked second on the Politburo Standing Committee, and senior Vice Chairman Wang Zhaoguo is also on the Party's Politburo. The NPC is elected for a term every five years, and meets annually (usually in March in Beijing). When the NPC isn't sitting a Standing Committee scrutinises laws. NPC delegates are chosen by indirect election and are deliberately chosen from all walks of life. In March 2003 the new NPC included 133 heads of private companies, out of a total of 2,951 delegates.


  5.  The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference is China's top advisory body. Many of its members are not Communist Party members, although it (too) comes under the leadership of the Party. The body is a vehicle for the Party's policy of consultation with experts and communities outside the Party: otherwise known as the United Front strategy. As an advisory body the CPPCC has no real power although its Chairman Jia Qinglin is ranked fourth on the Party's Politburo Standing Committee. The CPPCC meets each year at the same time as the NPC. In March 2003 a total of 2,150 delegates attended, bringing together members of China's eight "democratic" parties, religious, academic and business figures, and members of China's various ethnic minorities.


  6.  China's present State Constitution (not to be confused with the Communist Party's Constitution) was promulgated in 1982. It plays no significant role in day to day governance in China, but rather serves as barometer of China's changing social, economic and political ideological climate. For example, as the non-state sector has become increasingly tolerated by the Party leadership, so the State Constitution has been amended to recognise the role of the non-state sector. So far there have been four amendments to the current 1982 Constitution, the latest of which was passed in March 2004 and further reinforced private property rights, and for the first time a brief reference to the protection of human rights. The Constitution is not enforceable in any court of law in China, and the preamble of the Constitution acknowledges the leading role of the Communist Party.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2006
Prepared 13 August 2006