Constitution of the People’s Republic of China

The Constitution of the PRC was enacted into law on December 4, 1982. It has been amended three times: in 1988, 1993, and 1999.

The Constitution highlights these major goals of political structure:

  • That the only political party inherently permitted to hold power is the Communist Party of China (CPC); that the goal of the state is the realization of a socialist system; that the state affirms various rights for its people; that the fundamental task and goals of the state are the development of socialism and the advancement of a strong, modernized China; that the ideal political structure is democratic centralism following Marxist-Leninist principles and Maoist ideology; that the role of the armed forces is protection and service of the people; that the state must achieve its governing objectives through the rule of law; and that the state may provide some autonomy to ethnic minorities and shall seek to eliminate of ethnic conflict.

The Constitution highlights these principles for citizens in the state:

  • The right of all citizens to legal equality; the right to vote and/or run for office; the right to freedom of speech/press, thought, assembly, association and demonstration; the right to religious freedom;  the right to lawful search/seizure (arrests/searches must be authorized by a People’s Procuratorate court); the right to freedom of correspondence; the right to suggest improvements and/or petition for redress of grievances; the right to be compensated for injustice; the right (and duty) to work; the right to social assistance/welfare; the right (and duty) to receive an education; the right to academic and artistic expression; the right to legal equality between men and women; the duty of both husband and wife to practice family planning; the duty of citizens to pay taxes; and the duty of citizens to perform military service and join the militia in accordance with the law.

The Constitution also gives guidelines for its application or revision:

  • The National People’s Congress has the authority and duty to interpret, amend, and supervise the revision of the Constitution.

The Head of State System

The main Head of State and key executive official in the People’s Republic of China is the President of the People’s Republic of China. The President is elected by the NPC, and in international affairs is supposed to represent the citizens.

  • Domestically, the President is responsible for signing NPC legislation into law and issuing a variety of orders including war and martial law.
  • Internationally, the President is responsible for receiving foreign diplomats, appointing ambassadors, and treaty acceptance.

The Central Administrative System

The State Administrative System includes the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (the central organ of the State Administrative System, sometimes known as the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China), various central administrative organs under the National People’s Congress, and various central administrative organs under lower People’s Courts throughout the country.

  • Leadership of the State Council includes the Premier (executive authority over all State Council activity and signator of NPC legislation, among other duties), as well as a number of positions which directly report to its authority: these include the Vice Premiers, State Councillors, Secretary-General, Ministers of Commissions and of Ministries, and the Auditor-General.
  • Their broad array of duties includes: supervision and direction of administrative organs nationwide, implementation of NPC directives, supervision/auditing/investigations, and drafting budget and legislative proposals for approval by the NPC.
  • Local and township administrative systems act as lower-ranking extensions of the central administrative system.

The People’s Congress

China’s political system heavily relies on its core institution, the People’s Congresses. Established at the national level in the National People’s Congress (NPC), as well as local (provincial, regional) and township-level (local) People’s Congresses, these organizations are each responsible for a broad variety of affairs, appropriate to their power and rank.

The People’s Congresses are legislative, governing bodies of representatives. In the higher ranked Congresses, members are elected by lower-ranking Congresses, and at the lowest levels, members are selected directly by the electorate. Deputies to the People’s Congresses are elected from within by their peer-members to oversee the political process and conduct of in-session deliberations, as well as monitor and facilitate out-of-session proceedings. The Deputies to the People’s Congresses also preside over parliamentary procedure and the orderly and functional roles of the People’s Congresses, including upholding the ideals of the Constitution.

  • The National People’s Congress (NPC) is in charge of the election/dismissal of heads of state and other major officials, national planning and development, spending and budget, all matters concerning the Constitution, and decide questions of war and peace.
  • Locally, the People’s Congresses are in charge of the election/dismissal of local officials, the implementation and enforcement of the Constitution and the law within their regions of authority, the approving of local planning and development agendas, and the oversight to pass regulations and adopt/issue resolutions according to the needs of their localities.
  • At the township level, the People’s Congresses are in charge of the election/dismissal of local functionaries, as well as the approval and implementation of economic, cultural, and public undertakings including financial reporting and civil construction implementation.

The Communist Party of China

As declared by the Constitution, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the only political party inherently allowed to hold power in China. Since 1949, the Party has established political dominance and now operates in both formal and informal roles in governing China.

  • The purpose of the CPC is to: defend working class interests, promote the interests of China regardless of ethnic group, and to promote leadership in the socialist cause. It currently seeks to develop socialism in the Chinese social framework, but overall intends to create the ideal Communist social system. Using the goals of Marxism-Leninism, the thoughts of Mao Zedong, and the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, the CPC hopes to unite all ethnic groups to build “a prosperous, strong, democratic and highly civilized modern socialist state”. To achieve its goals, the CPC intends to use the Four Cardinal Principles (socialist ideology, the people’s democratic dictatorship, the leadership of the Communist Party, and Marxism-Leninism and Maoism), and to use economic development as its primary objective for China.
  • Four main principles guide Party action: following the Party line; truth and enlightenment; wholehearted public service; and the goal of democratic centralism.
  • According to Democratic Centralism, Party operating principles include duty on both lower and upper ranks to one another, highly moral and principled action, cooperation and mutual support, and a prohibition of cults of personality. Also, democratic principles regarding elections and political process are expected of all Party action, especially insisting on cooperative decision-making.
  • Chief Party governing institutions include the National Party Congress, the Political Bureau, the General Secretary, the Central Military Commission, and the Secretariat; it also includes local and grassroots Party organizations and individual Party members. Principled action and Party commitment are seen as duties of Party leadership, but also are expected of individual members.
  • Finally, national leadership is enacted in the following categories:legal and legislative leadership, military leadership, executive/official leadership and oversight, social leadership, and ideological and political leadership.

Multiparty Cooperation:

While only the CPC is permitted to hold power in China, the 8 other political parties are permitted to provide counsel and discourse with CPC leaders over leadership concerns. Their input is considered on major policy decisions through the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The 8 disenfranchised political parties are the China Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang, the China Democratic League, the China Democratic National Construction Association, the China Association for the Promotion of Democracy, the Chinese Peasants’ and Workers’ Democratic Party, the China Zhi Gong Dang, the Jiusan Society, and the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League. Members of these groups may be permitted to hold office by recommendation of the CPC. The CPPCC essentially is intended to promote multiparty cooperation and democratic policy-making. It is a forum for promoting and broadening cooperation between the empowered CPC and disenfranchised dissenters in the spirit of democratic centralization.