Politics In 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. Under the command economy system, every state owned enterprise was required to have a party committee. The introduction of the market economy means that economic institutions now exist in which the party has limited or no power.
Nevertheless, in all governmental institutions in the PRC, the party committees maintain an important role. 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. Their most important role comes in the selection and promotion of personnel. They also see that party and state policy guidance is followed and that non-party members do not create autonomous organizations that could challenge party rule. Particularly important are the leading small groups which coordinate activities of different agencies. Although there is a convention that government committees contain at least one non-party member, a party membership is a definite aid in promotion and in being in crucial policy setting meetings.
Theoretically, the party's highest body is the Party Congress, which is supposed to meet at least once every 5 years. Meetings became irregular during the Cultural Revolution but have been periodic since then. The party elects the Central Committee and the primary organs of power are formally parts of the central committee.
The primary organs of power in the Communist Party include:
* The Politburo Standing Committee, which currently consists of nine
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 at the central government level 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.
At the same time, there has been a convention that party and state offices be separated at levels other than the central government, and it is unheard of for a sub-national executive to also be party secretary. This frequently causes conflict between the chief executive and the party secretary, and this conflict is widely seen as intentional to prevent either from becoming too powerful. Some special cases are the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau where the Communist Party does not function at all, and the autonomous regions where, following Soviet practice, the chief executive is typically a member of the local ethnic group while the party general secretary is non-local and usually Han Chinese.
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. For example, the State Council and the Party have been unable to secure passage of a fuel tax to finance the construction of freeways.
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 addition, 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.