THE CHINESE POLITICAL SYSTEM Major Resource: Understanding China’s Political System - Lawrence & Marti 2013
All notes in this powerpoint presentation are based on the above document published by the Congressional Research Service (USA) in 2013.
Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) • The most powerful policy and decision making entity. • 7 members, currently all men. • Each man has a rank from 1 to 7. • The highest ranked man is the current President of China – Xi Jinping.
Politburo • 25 members, including the 7 from the PSC. • Has 2 female members. • Due to its larger size and geographical diversity, the Politburo is not involved in day to day decision making. • In 2012, it met just 8 times. • Meetings often focus on one single policy issue.
The State Council & The Role of the Premier • The State Council is China’s cabinet. • It is headed by the Premier (zongli) and it is sometimes referred to in English as the Prime Minister. • The Premier serves concurrently on the Politburo Standing Committee. The Premier is the 2nd highest ranking official, only behind the President. • The current Premier is Li Keqiang.
The State Council & The Role of the Premier • As the State Council manages the economy on a day to day basis, the Premier is effectively China’s most senior economic official, although he does have other portfolios. • Below the Premier are four state council Vice Premiers. • Below the Vice Premiers are five state councilors.
China’s Most Senior Diplomat • The foreign affairs portfolio is not represented at the Vice Premier level. • Rather China’s most senior diplomat is a State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who oversees the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The State Council Legislative Affairs Office (SCLAO) • Plays a decisive role in the formulation of national regulations and laws. • Its drafts the government’s legislative agenda, on a year to year basis, and then works with relevant government ministries and agencies to implement the agenda.
The Chinese Communist Party • The Chinese Community Party assumed power in 1949. • There are about 86 million members of the Chinese communist party. • This represents about 6% of Chinas population of 1.34 billion. • Theoretically, anyone over 18 can join, but they must be an atheist. • However, in 2011, there were 21 million applicants and only 15% were accepted.
The Chinese Communist Party • The party is heavily male. • Females represents only ¼ of the total membership. • Every party member, must be organized into branch, cell or specific unit. • Party units exists in all official organizations including universities. • At the end of 2011, party units existed in nearly 1 million private businesses.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) • A total of 2.25 million personnel. • The PLA cannot be considered a national army belonging to the state instead… • It is an armed wing of the communist party, with the party’s exercise of “absolute leadership” over the military – thus providing a fundamental guarantee of communist party rule.
Collective Leadership • China has had no supreme leaders since the death of Deng Xiaoping in 1997 • The seven men who sit on the country’s supreme decision making body (The Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee) form a collective leadership, in which each man has a rank from 1 to 7 and shoulders primary responsibility for a specific portfolio.
Why a collective leadership team? • The collective leadership feature of the Chinese communist part is designed to guard against the excesses of Mao Zedong (the founding father) and to prevent the emergence of a reformer who may ultimately destroy the system, as was the case in the former Soviet Union with Gorbachev.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) • The NPC is the nations unicameral legislature. • There are nearly 3000 deputies. • It is strong on paper, but weak in practice. • Theoretically the NPC has the power to amend the constitution, supervise its enforcement, ratify treaties, approve the state budget and many other responsibilities… but. • One major reason for the NPCs weakness is the communist party’ insistence that it serve as little more than a rubber stamp for party decisions.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) • Every March, the NPC holds an annual conference. • It is a 10 day long event, with all 3000 deputies attending. • The full session in March 2013, marked the start of a new 5 year congress. The meeting approved, the new President, Vice President and Premier (but in reality this was just a formality)
The National People’s Congress (NPC) • Unlike the US Congress, the NPC does not pass spending bills. • Rather it votes to approve the budget, presented by the Ministry of Finance.
The NPC Standing Committee • Because the full session of the NPC is brief, most work is done by the NPC Standing Committee which meets every 2 months and has 161 members.
Independent Candidates for the NPC Congress • Since 2011, China has seen a wave of independent candidates contesting elections for the People’s Congress. • Such candidates have faced forms of official harassment, extra legal detention, imitation of their supports, censorships and election irregularities. • Despite these challenges, some independent candidates have succeeded at being elected.
The Minor Political Parties • China has 8 minor political parties. • Their role is strictly circumscribed but the Communist Party uses their existence to argue China’s operates a multi-party cooperation system and therefore is not a one party state. • Crucially the minor political parties are obligated to accept the permanent leadership of the communist party. • The new membership of minor political parties is controlled by the communist party, and is fewer than 1 million.
The Power of Provincial Governments • Provincial leaders are powerful players in the Chinese political system • Six of them (all party secretaries) sit on the Party’s Politburo making them among the 25 most powerful people in the country. • All provincial leaders share the same bureaucratic rank as central government ministers.
Levels of Administration in China • China has four levels of administration under the Central Government. First Level • 34 provincial level governments (23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, four super sized municipalities and 2 special administrative regions) Second Level • More than 300 prefecture administrative level governments, including prefecture level cities. Third Level • Nearly 3000 counties and county level cities. Fourth Level (Lowest Level) • Made up of approximately 40,000 townships and towns.
Fiscal Decentralization • Fiscal decentralization has been a major force empowering provincial governments. • Provinces have their own revenue streams. • Governments at the provincial level and below are responsible for the lions share of the country’s public expenditure, including almost all spending on education, health, unemployment insurance, social security and welfare. • Provinces have the right to pass their own laws, provided there is no conflict with national laws.
Who appoints leaders in the provinces? • Provinces don’t have the power to appoint their own leaders. • The party’s office in Beijing manages the appointments and promotions of all provincial party secretaries and governors. • It will move governors frequently between states to ensure no governor can build up a regional power base.
A Document Based Culture • Statements by individual leaders are less important than the documents approved by the collective leadership team. • China’s document based culture, includes a heavily reliance on paper documents even in a digital age.
Separation of Powers • China rejects the notion of the separation of powers.
The Importance of Ideology • In its constitution, the party still officially proclaims the “realization of communism” to be its highest ideal and the ultimate goal. • China still provides preferential treatment of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) • However, China has implemented many reforms Private Property • In 2007, China finally passed a law protecting private property rights.
The Ideal & Reality of Meritocracy (p11-12) • According to the communist manifesto, people rise within the party or state hierarchy based on “their moral integrity and their professional competence” and on their “merits without regard to their origin. • However, a 2012 study by US & Chinese experts found that the government awarded promotions based on factional ties, familial ties, and educational qualifications.
Family Ties Important for Political Promotion • The children of high level officials dubbed, “princelings” (taizi) in colloquial Chinese are particularly prominent at the highest levels of the Chinese political system, with 4 of the 7 members of the current politburo standing committee, meeting that description. • China’s most prominent “princeling” is the current President – Xi Jinping – the son of revered early revolutionary Xi Zhongxun.
Age & Term Limits for Official Positions (p12) • As general guide, no one older than 67 is appointed or reappointed to Politburo Standing Committee or the wider Politburo. • All top officials are limited to two five year terms in top posts.
Long Term Planning (p12-13) • A legacy of the central planned economic system of 1950s/1960s, the Chinese place heavy emphasis on long term planning. • China prepares “Five Year Plans” that set economic, social and demographic targets and identify priority industries for development. • Other plans layout roadmaps over a longer period of time. Eg: The roadmap for scientific development runs to 2050.
Emphasis on Political Stability (p13) • The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre undermined the communist part legitimacy and damaged its reputation worldwide. • Since then, the communist party has made the maintenance of social stability its top priority.
Police & Law Enforcement Personnel • The domestic security apparatus includes an 800,000 strong police force under the Ministry of Public Security. • There is an additional 1.5 million strong paramilitary force, called the Peoples Armed Police. • The 2.25 million military personnel in the PLA also have a domestic and national defense mandate.
Internal Security Agencies • The Party’s propaganda department plays an important role in censoring the media to prevent discussion of subjects that may call for political change. • The Ministry of State Security focuses on internal security threats as well as conducting intelligence gathering abroad. • The Ministry of Justice operates the prison system. • The 2013 national budget contained planned spending of $123 billion on internal security, compared to $119 billion on defense.
Stove Piping & Bureaucratic Competition (p14) • The Chinese face the difficulty of “stove piping” in which individual ministries and hierarchies share information up and down the chain of command, but not horizontally with each other. • Sometimes multiple agencies assert jurisdiction over an issue, competing with each other for scarce budget resources and power.
The Distorting Influence of Bureaucratic Rank • Chinese political culture features carefully observed systems of ranks that identify the relevant importance of people, official agencies, and public institutions. • Rank conscientious affects the way officials and agencies interact with each other. • This makes it difficult to achieve successful interagency coordination. • Eg: China’s Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) may have difficultly regulating banks in provinces, because the banks are seen as having equal status in the rank system.
Weak Rule of Law (p17) • Judicial authorities may not be independent when it comes to investigating the Chinese communist party. • The communist party holds itself above the law when it insists that judicial authorities cannot investigate party members without the Party’s consent.
Factionalism (p17) • Although China is one party state, multiple coalitions, factions and constituencies exist within the political system. • Political mentorship, place of birth, the affiliations of one’s parents, and common educational or work history may lead to people forming political alliances.
Corruption (p18-19) Types of Corruption China • Lavish gifts and expensive meals bestowed on officials by those seeking favors. • Bribes explicitly provided in exchange for permits and approvals. • Privileged opportunities offered to officials to acquire corporate shares. • Exceptions of friends, relatives and business associates from enforcement of the law.
Traditional Media & The New Media • The communist party’s “Peoples Daily” has led the propaganda machine for many years. • Its sister paper is the Global Times, which occasionally may appear to be more independent. • China Central Television (CCTV) which operates on multiple channels and multiple platforms has a critical role in conveying party approved messages.
The Power of the Internet • The most significant development in recent years has been the explosive growth of Twitter like services known as “weibo” literally micro blogs which have empowered citizens to share news and views. • As of January 2013, 41% of Chinese were online. • About 309 million Chinese are weibo users. • Authorities Police weibo posts.
Big Business • State owned enterprises (SOEs) in strategic industries, like electricity, finance and telecommunications have emerged as global powerhouses. • Three Chinese SOEs are among the top 10 firms in the Fortune 500 global business rankings.