China Primers

How it Works: Today’s Government in China

Let’s take a dive into Chinese politics and get an understanding of what type of government is leading China and the government structure. Isn’t that the Communist Party, the CPC? Not exactly. Let’s explore.

The CPC (Chinese Communist Party) is the main political party and the ruling party and you can read my previous intro into the CPC here. Today let’s take an objective look at the governmental system in China today.


So what does China’s current government structure look like?

The government is effectively divided into 4 branches which are

  1. the legislative (via the NPC)
  2. the executive (via the State Council, the President, and the Premier)
  3. the judicial (via the Supreme Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate)
  4. the military (via the Central Military Commission)


The highest organ of power is the NPC or National Peoples Congress – it’s a body that possesses executive, legislative, and judicial power. It has the power to amend the constitution, amend basic laws on civil affairs and organization of the state. 

The NPC has a role in electing the President of the People’s Republic of China (currently Xi Jinping) and Vice President of the People’s Republic of China (currently Wang Qishan), Premier of the State Council (currently Li Keqiang) and elects the procurator general and president of the supreme court.

The NPC also has the right to veto provincial and state budgets, and major infrastructure works.

The NPC also has the right to decide on major state issues and the right to supervise administrative officials, the Procurator General, and the president of the Supreme Court.

OK, that’s a brief intro but I think you get the picture how powerful this body is, or at least suggested to be.

The NPC has five levels where their power and role is executed

  1. National Peoples Congress
  2. Provincial Peoples Congress
  3. Municipal Peoples Congress
  4. County Peoples Congress
  5. Township Peoples Congress


Who makes up the NPC?


It begins at the township & county level where deputies are elected directly by the people of that county and township. Those members then vote on who becomes deputies in the upper levels of congress. 


How does the NPC make decisions?


Most of the NPC’s work exists in consultation and amendment of laws, review of government work reports and plans, which are then presented at the annual NPC meeting where delegates of the NPC will vote on accepting and putting the proposals into law.

There is also another organ of governance we need to understand, it’s called the CPPCC.


What is the CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference)?


The CPPCC is another body which has the role of consulting with all the political parties, yes there are other parties and more about that later, civic organizations, ethnic groups, and the self-governed areas of Hong Kong and Macau.

They will consult on legislation, major issues, and social issues and in turn submit their suggestions to the NPC.

The CPPCC has four levels mirroring the NPC bar the township level.


Who makes up the CPPCC?


Members are nominated by the various contributing parties at the CPPCC and those nominated members will go through an examination process and lastly require the approval of the current members of the CPPCC who approve both the number of new delegates required and who will become a member. Members may sit more than one term.

CPPCC members may submit proposals for reforms, to the committee of the CPPCC who will then decide on whether to further investigate, make consultations, and prepare a formal proposal to the NPC. In 2017 5769 submissions were made, 4279 of those were recorded, and 42 became key proposals.


The Two Sessions or Lianghua


The CPPCC holds annual meetings at the same time as the NPC which are often referred to as the “National Lianghui” (The National Two Meetings or Two Sessions). At these meetings, delegates will discuss past policies and present future directions. In recent years it has become very open to the media also featuring celebrities invited to participate in the CPPCC. It’s the most publicly visible insight into the governance of China for both foreigners and Chinese with the NPC holding regular closely watched media conferences and interviews.


The relationship between the CPC and the NPC


The Chinese Communist Party as the ruling party submits policy proposals for approval by the NPC, it also submits budgets for approval, and submits work reports for review.

The NPC will also vote on who will become leaders of the country including the President of the People’s Republic of China, the Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, the Premier of the State Council and the NPC also has the power to remove those officials from the office. In practice, however, the post of President is reserved for the current General Secretary of the CPC and it is generally accepted that all nominees are presented by the CPC, and that elections are one name ballots.

The NPC consists of 2/3rds CPC members with the other third coming from the alternative parties under the umbrella of the United Front (more on that in a post to follow).

You could almost view the CPC as an institution rather than a party. An institution for the oversight and organization of officials. And that governance, democratic process, and power, lay in the mechanism and processes of the NPC and CPPCC.


So far we have looked at lawmaking, oversight, selection of leaders, and consultative process. How about the daily operation of governing?


The State Council – is effectively the Central Government. It overseas provincial governments and also directly manages 25 ministries and 38 government organizations. That includes foreign affairs, defense (but not the military), security, education, technology, and science, along with many more in a similar vein to western government ministries. It is the main administrative organ of government and is led by the Premier.

The President of China nominates who will lead the State Council, with other members then nominated by that leader of the State Council and appointed by the President. The NPC plays a review role here. Terms last for five years with a maximum of two consecutive terms.

As the center of state power, the State Councils functions include issuing directives to ministeries and monitoring their implementation, drafting legislative bills and the state budget for deliberation and approval by the NPC. 

The CMC – The Central Military Commision oversees the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) and PAP (People’s Armed Police Force). An extremely powerful body which is connected to the party, as it always has been historically, rather than being under the control of a ministry under the government.  Currently, it is led by the General Secretary of the Communist Party and President of China, Xi Jinping. 

The CCDI – Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is the top anti-corruption body in China and in recent years has increasing independence from the party.

Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate – Judges are appointed to the Supreme Court by the National People’s Congress (NPC).

United Front – is subservient to the CPC and oversee contributors to the government (via NPC or CPPCC) who exist outside the party. Such as the 

  1. Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang 
  2. China Democratic League
  3. China Democratic National Construction Association 
  4. China Association for Promoting Democracy
  5. Chinese Peasants’ and Workers’ Democratic Party
  6. China Party for Public Interest
  7. September 3 Society 
  8. Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League 

The United Front also consists of the United Front Work Department which works to reach out to key individuals, overseas Chinese, and Chinese students studying overseas to guide them and ensure acceptance of CPC rule and endorsement of such.


SO, what type of Government is used in China today?


Democratic centralism that is popularly known as Leninism employing a Socialist Market Economy model. Yet, many argue that is now very much unique and highly tailored to the Chinese nation under the current party rule.

From the CPC Constitution

The Communist Party of China uses Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a New Era as its guides to action. Marxism-Leninism reveals the laws governing the development of the history of human society. Its basic tenets are correct and have tremendous vitality. The highest ideal of communism pursued by Chinese Communists can be realized only when socialist society is fully developed and highly advanced. The development and improvement of the socialist system is a long historical process. By upholding the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism and following the path suited to China’s specific conditions as chosen by the Chinese people, China’s socialist cause will ultimately be victorious. 


A new political system?

Some argue that it has merit in its design as a partially democratic meritocratic system. From the outside, and within China, there are no arguments that there is a long road of reforms required in the creation of checks and balances, ending corruption, ending bribery, enabling transparency, and improving consultative processes at the public level. Many also question the power and supervising abilities of the NPC and as to whether the CPC has complete control of what should be a separate organ of power.


Useful Links

State Council –




CPC Constitution [PDF] –

Constitution of the People’s Republic of China –