State power within the the People's Republic of China 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. 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.
Chinese Communist Party
The more than 63 million-member CCP, 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 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 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 CCP, headed by the General Secretary;
- The Military Commission;
- The Discipline Inspection Commission, which is charged with rooting out corruption and malfeasance among party cadres.
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 Premier Zhu Rongji, 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 1980's 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 1990's 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 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. 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 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 liason 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 insure 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 furture.
Principal Government and Party Officials
Vice President--Hu Jintao
Premier, State Council--Zhu Rongji
Politburo Standing Committee
Jiang Zemin (General Secretary)
Full Politburo Members
Alternate Politburo Members
The government's efforts to promote rule of law are significant and ongoing. After the Cultural Revolution, China'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 China'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 Chinese Constitution and laws provide for fundamental human rights, including due process, however those laws also provide for limitations of those rights.
conventional long form: People's Republic of China
conventional short form: China
local long form: Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo
local short form: Zhong Guo
Data code: CH
Government type: Communist state
23 provinces (sheng, singular and plural), 5 autonomous regions* (zizhiqu, singular and plural), and 4 municipalities** (shi, singular and plural); Anhui, Beijing**, Chongqing**, 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: China considers Taiwan its 23rd province; see separate entries for the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau
Independence: 221 BC (unification under the Qin or Ch'in Dynasty 221 BC; Qing or Ch'ing Dynasty replaced by the Republic on 12 February 1912; People's Republic established 1 October 1949)
National holiday: National Day, 1 October (1949)
Constitution: most recent promulgation 4 December 1982
Legal system: a complex amalgam of custom and statute, largely criminal law; rudimentary civil code in effect since 1 January 1987; new legal codes in effect since 1 January 1980; continuing efforts are being made to improve civil, administrative, criminal, and commercial law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: President JIANG Zemin (since 27 March 1993) and Vice President HU Jintao (since 16 March 1998)
head of government: Premier ZHU Rongji (since 18 March 1998); Vice Premiers QIAN Qichen (since 29 March 1993), LI Lanqing (29 March 1993), WU Bangguo (since 17 March 1995), and WEN Jiabao (since 18 March 1998)
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 16-18 March 1998 (next to be held NA March 2003); premier nominated by the president, confirmed by the National People's Congress
election results: JIANG Zemin reelected president by the Ninth National People's Congress with a total of 2,882 votes (36 delegates voted against him, 29 abstained, and 32 did not vote); HU Jintao elected vice president by the Ninth National People's Congress with a total of 2,841 votes (67 delegates voted against him, 39 abstained, and 32 did not vote)
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 NA December 1997-NA February 1998 (next to be held late 2002-NA March 2003)
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 CCP [JIANG Zemin, General Secretary of the Central Committee]; eight registered small parties controlled by CCP
Political pressure groups and leaders: no substantial political opposition groups exist, although the government has identified the Falungong 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, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, LAIA (observer), MINURSO, NAM (observer), OPCW, PCA, UN, UN Security Council, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNITAR, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (applicant), ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador LI Zhaoxing
chancery: 2300 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 328-2500
consulate(s) general: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Joseph W. PRUEHER
embassy: Xiu Shui Bei Jie 3, 100600 Beijing
mailing address: PSC 461, Box 50, FPO AP 96521-0002
telephone:  (10) 6532-3831
FAX:  (10) 6532-6422
consulate(s) general: Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang
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