All power within the government of the People's Republic of China is divided among three bodies: the People's Republic of China, State Council, and the People's Liberation Army (PLA). This article is concerned with the formal structure of the state, its departments and their responsibilities. Most, but not all, positions of significant power in the state structure and in the army are occupied by members of the Communist Party of China which is controlled by the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, a group of 4 to 9 people, usually all older men, who make all decisions of national significance. As the role of the Army is to enforce these decisions, the support of the PLA is important in maintaining Party rule.
Power is concentrated in the Paramount Leader, currently Hu Jintao, who heads all three bodies: He is General Secretary of the Communist Party and of the Central Committee, President of the People's Republic of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Recently, experts have observed growing limitations to the Paramount Leader's de facto control over the government.
The legal power of the Communist Party is guaranteed by the PRC constitution and its position as the supreme political authority in the PRC is realised through its comprehensive control of the state, military, and media. According to a prominent government spokesman:
We will never simply copy the system of Western countries or introduce a system of multiple parties holding office in rotation, although China’s state organs have different responsibilities, they all adhere to the line, principles and policies of the party.
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 separate party and state functions, with the party deciding general policy and the state carrying it out. The attempt 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 focus of power.
At the same time there has been a move for having party and state offices be separated at levels other than the central government. 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 Mainland Chinese national laws do not apply 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 two 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 asserted its role as the national legislature and has been able to force revisions in some laws.
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