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China’s Political System

2008-08-25

      People’s Congress System

      The people’s congress system is China’s fundamental political system. The Constitution of the PRC provides that state power belongs to the people. The NPC and local people’s congresses at all levels are organs representing the people in exercising state power. The First NPC in 1954 marked the establishment of the system.

      The people’s congresses have four main functions and powers: legislation, supervision, appointment and removal of officials, and making decisions on major issues. These functions are a major reflection of the way the Chinese people exercise their power as masters of the state through the people’s congress system. To persist, improve and develop the system is an important part of the building of political democracy in China. Since the Third Session of the 11th Plenary Session of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1978, the people’s congress system has seen constant improvement and development.

      The past 50 years have proved that the people’s congress system accords with the national conditions of China. It not only ensures that people exercise state power in a concerted way and gives full play to their enthusiasm and initiative as masters of the state, but also creates favorable conditions for state organs to share the work and help one another in organizing the socialist construction.

      Multi-Party Cooperation and Political Consultative System

      Multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC constitute the basic party system in China. It was jointly created and developed by the CPC and other democratic parties in the long-standing process of China’s revolution, construction and reform. The system, which was conceived in the democratic revolution period and was established after the founding of the PRC in 1949, has made great headway after the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee held in 1978.

      Multi-Party Cooperation

      China’s party system is distinct from the multi-party or two-party systems in Western capitalist countries, as well as the one-party system in a few countries. Its evident features are as follows: The CPC acts as the ruling party while, under the leadership of the CPC, other parties participate in the discussion and management of state affairs, in cooperation with the CPC. Cooperative relations between the CPC and other parties are based on the principle of “long-term coexistence and mutual supervision, treating each other with full sincerity and sharing weal or woe.”

      The Constitution of the PRC is the basic code of conduct for the CPC and the other parties. Within the scope of constitutional rights and obligations, these parties enjoy political freedom, organizational independence and equal legal status. The Constitution provides that the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC will long exist and develop.

      The multi-party cooperation in China is mainly carried out in six forms.

      First, political consultation between the CPC and other parties. Before the CPC Central Committee makes major decisions, it usually sponsors forums and symposiums where CPC leaders can introduce relevant situations to leaders of the other parties and representatives of personages without party affiliation, as well as discuss state affairs with them and listen to their opinions.

      Second, giving play to the role of representatives of democratic parties and personages without party affiliation in people’s congresses at all levels. Members of these parties and personages without party affiliation now take an appropriate percentage of seats in the NPC and its Standing Committee and special committees. Deputies to people’s congresses at different levels, who are elected from people outside the CPC, total 140,000. Through taking part in activities of people’s congresses, they convey people’s opinions, participate in formulation of major decisions and legislations, and supervise the government.

      Third, recommending qualified members of democratic parties and non-party personnel to assume leading posts in government and judicial organs at all levels. At present, more than 8,000 people outside the CPC hold leading posts at and above the county magistrate-rank in governments and law-enforcement organs at all levels. Invested with real power, they and their colleagues with CPC membership cooperate with each other closely and frankly, making important contribution at their respective posts.

      Fourth, strengthening the participation of democratic parties in the work of the CPPCC. These parties participate in the CPPCC in the name of political groups, and, on this basis, air opinions, raise proposals and participate in discussion and administration of state affairs. Members of these parties and non-party people are the majority in members of CPPCC committees at various levels.

      Fifth, encouraging non-CPC personnel to scrutinize the CPC and the government through multiple channels and in multiple forms. A complaint reporting system has been established within all democratic parties and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce. In addition, a lot of people outside the CPC have been invited to serve as supervisors, inspectors, auditors, education inspectors, taxation inspectors and land and resources inspectors, or to participate in the investigation of major crimes and taxation inspections.

      Sixth, supporting democratic parties to participate in practices of reform, opening up and socialist modernization.

      The political advantages of the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC lie in the fact that it can both achieve wide democratic participation, pool the wisdom of democratic parties, mass organizations and people of all walks of life and promote the scientific and democratic decision-making of the party in power and governments at all levels, and realize centralization and unity and draw up unified plans with due consideration given to the interests of different sections of the people. Moreover, it can avoid both the problem of insufficient supervision common under one-party rule, and political chaos and a lack of stability and unity that may be caused by disputes and strife of several parties.

      In February 2005, the CPC promulgated the Opinions of the CPC Central Committee on Further Strengthening the Building of the System of Multi-Party Cooperation and Political Consultation Under the Leadership of the CPC, which, on the basis of summing up historical experience and successful operations in multi-party cooperation and political consultation, further clarifies the principles, contents, ways and procedures of the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation, and points the direction for improving the socialist political party system with Chinese characteristics.

      The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference

      The First Session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was held in Beiping (now Beijing) on September 21-30, 1949. From then on, 11 CPPCC national committees have been installed. The CPPCC is an organization of the patriotic united front of the Chinese people. It is also an important organ of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, and an important instrument of democracy in the nation’s political life.

      According to its current statute, the CPPCC National Committee is composed of members of the CPC and other parties, personages without party affiliation, representatives of people’s organizations, ethnic minorities and all walks of life, representatives of compatriots of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macao Special Administrative Region and Taiwan, as well as of returned overseas Chinese and other specially invited people, who are divided into several circles. The CPPCC establishes a national committee, a standing committee and nine special committees at the central level and local committees in various localities. The nine central-level special committees include the Committee for Handling Proposals, the Economic Affairs Committee, the Population, Resources and Environment Committee, the Education, Science, Culture, Health and Sports Committee, the Social and Legal Affairs Committee, the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee, the Cultural and Historical Data Committee, the Committee for Liaison with Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Overseas Chinese and the Foreign Affairs Committee. The CPPCC National Committee, which has one chairperson, a number of vice chairpersons and one secretary general, is elected for a term of five years and holds a plenary session each year.

      The CPPCC exercises the functions of political consultation, democratic supervision, and participating in the administration and discussion of state affairs. The CPC and governments at all levels consult the CPPCC on fundamental policies and important issues in political, economic, cultural and social affairs before a decision is adopted and during the implementation of such decisions, so as to heed and canvass a wide range of opinions. This is a key link for the CPC and the governments at all levels to ensure that decision-making is scientific and democratic.

      Renmin Zhengxie Bao (The CPPCC News), created in 1983, is the organ of the CPPCC National Committee.

      System of Ethnic Regional Autonomy

      The system of ethnic regional autonomy is a basic political system of China. Ethnic autonomous areas in China are divided into three levels, namely, autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties. Now, China has established 155 ethnic autonomous areas, including five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties (banners). Of the 55 ethnic minorities, 44 have their own autonomous areas. The population of ethnic minorities implementing regional autonomy accounts for 71 percent of the total population of ethnic minorities. Meanwhile, China has established 1,173 autonomous townships in places equivalent to townships where ethnic minorities live in compact communities, as a supplement to autonomous areas. Of the 11 ethnic minorities for which regional autonomy is not implemented because their populations and habitats are relatively small, nine have set up autonomous townships.

      In accordance with the Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, the right of self-government of ethnic autonomous areas is fully guaranteed. They independently manage internal affairs of their ethnic groups in their autonomous areas, have the power to formulate regulations on the exercise of autonomy and separate regulations, and are allowed to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. The state respects and protects the freedom of religious belief of ethnic minorities. Regional autonomous areas also have the right to preserve or reform their own folk ways and customs, independently arrange, manage and develop the economic construction of the locality concerned, independently manage local revenues, and independently develop undertakings of education, science and technology, culture and sports.

      The Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy both stipulate that the state is legally obliged to assist ethnic autonomous areas in speeding up their economic and social development. The Central Government has consistently increased financial input and support to ethnic autonomous areas, attached importance to ecological and environmental protection in these areas, adopted special measures to help these areas develop education, science and technology, strengthened assistance to impoverished habitats of ethnic minorities, expanded appropriations in social undertakings in these areas, helped them open wider to the outside world, paired them up with more developed areas for support, and attended to special needs of ethnic minorities in their life and work.

      After more than five decades of unremitting efforts, the conditions of subsistence in China’s ethnic autonomous regions and local people’s living standards have achieved remarkable improvement, amid rapidly developing economic and social undertakings in these areas. People living in ethnic autonomous areas and in other parts of the country are sharing fruits of the national modernization process. The successful practice of the system of ethnic regional autonomy proves it is a correct solution to China’s ethnic issue, which conforms to national conditions and common interests of all ethnic groups.

      One Country, Two Systems

      The key points of the “one country, two systems” policy are that within the PRC, the main body (mainland) will continue with its socialist system, while Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan will maintain the capitalist system. The aim is to achieve peaceful reunification of the motherland and maintain stability and prosperity in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. One country is the premise and basis of the two systems, and recognition of the principle means recognition of the premise of “one country” that refers to the PRC, and that the main body of the nation will maintain the socialist system with Chinese characteristics. The policy is an important component of the socialism with Chinese characteristics.

      Taking into account the special status of Taiwan, the Chinese Government has pursued to solve the Taiwan issue with the basic principle of “peaceful reunification and one country, two systems.” That is, after the reunification of both sides across the Taiwan Straits, Taiwan’s current socio-economic system, its way of life, as well as economic and cultural ties with foreign countries will remain unchanged. As a special administrative region, Taiwan will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, including administrative and legislative powers, an independent judiciary and the power of final adjudication on the island. It will run its own party, political, military, economic and financial affairs, may conclude commercial and cultural agreements with foreign countries and enjoy certain rights in foreign affairs. It may retain its armed forces and the mainland will not dispatch troops or administrative personnel to the island. On the other hand, representatives of the government of the special administrative region and those from different circles of Taiwan may be appointed to senior posts in the Central Government and participate in the running of national affairs.

      The development ofHong Kong and Macao since their return to the mainland testifies to the fact that the policy of “one country, two systems” is correct and has strong vitality.

      Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

      On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong returned to the mainland after 150 years of British colonial rule. It entered into a new historical era of “one country, two systems” and “Hong Kong ruled by the Hong Kong people with a high degree of autonomy.”

      In the nine years since the handover, the Central Government has supported the chief executive and the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to administer the region in accordance with the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, and promoted its stability and prosperity. Hong Kong continues to maintain the characteristics of a free port and its status as a center of international trade, finance and shipping.

      The development in Hong Kong since its return testifies to the correctness of the policy of “one country, two systems,” shows that the Basic Law conforms to the reality of the region and is an important guarantee of its prosperity and stability, and that the people of Hong Kong are fully capable of ruling Hong Kong well.

      Macao Special Administrative Region

      Macao, a part of the Chinese territory since ancient times, fell into the hands of Portuguese colonialists in the late 19th century. It returned to the motherland on December 20, 1999.

      Since its return, the Central Government has supported the chief executive and the local government to administer Macao in accordance with the region’s Basic Law. The efforts provide strong guarantees for Macao’s prosperity and stability.

      Taiwan Province

      Taiwan has been part of Chinese territory since ancient times. In 1945, when the Chinese won the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), compatriots across the Taiwan Straits shared the joy of Taiwan’s return to the motherland. In 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded, the world saw a China enjoying complete sovereignty and towering in the East once again. Regretfully, Taiwan could not be reunified with the mainland because of the ongoing civil war and the armed intervention of foreign countries. The Chinese people had to continue their struggle for reunification across the Taiwan Straits. At the end of the 20th century, China made great progress in its reform and opening-up drive. Hong Kong and Macao successively returned to the motherland, ending the history of Western powers occupying Chinese territory. Chinese compatriots at home and abroad have since become even more concerned about the early settlement of the Taiwan issue and the complete reunification of the motherland.

      The mainland’s stance on developing cross-strait relations is consistent, firm and clear. This stance is to unswervingly adhere to the one-China principle; never give up efforts for peaceful reunification, nor change the principle of pinning hope on the Taiwan people; and never compromise on opposition to secessionist activities. Deliberate provocation by the Taiwan leader will not change the solemn commitment to utmost efforts to do everything that is conducive to the interests of Taiwan compatriots, cross-strait exchanges, peace across the Taiwan Straits and peaceful reunification of the motherland.

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