China has had an organized government since the establishment of the Shang dynasty about 1726 bc, making it one of the oldest nations on Earth. Historically, the political control of the large Chinese population was administered by a series of strong local governments and by a central capital and court of varying political significance. Since the Chinese Communists came to power on October 1, 1949, a steady shift towards a centralized national government, based in Beijing, took place. This unity was achieved in large part through the personal authority and leadership of Mao and the governmental structure established by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This modern structure was initially given shape in China’s first constitution, promulgated in 1954, and revised in the constitution of 1975. A third constitution was issued in 1978 (becoming effective January 1, 1980); this constitution reflected the changes in government policies following Mao’s death. A new constitution was adopted in 1982.
This constitutional structure, however, is combined with a Communist Party apparatus effectively beyond constitutional or legal control, and a leadership style which operates through informal and hidden contacts and clientage rather than open and accountable channels. The bloody suppression of the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989 was in breach of the Chinese constitution, while Deng Xiaoping was for long the most powerful figure in the Chinese government without holding any official post.
By the 1982 constitution, the president is elected to a five-year term by the National People’s Congress.
The office of the president is largely ceremonial, though the current General Secretary of the CCP is also the president. Executive powers rest with the State Council, which is headed by the premier and is charged with administering various areas of state business. The command of the national military belongs to the Central Military Commission. Generally, the positions of greatest authority in the Chinese government are those of premier and general secretary of the Communist Party; authority relates very much to the individual personalities in such positions. However, Deng Xiaoping, who latterly did not hold any official post, was long the most powerful figure in the Chinese government.
The National People’s Congress is the highest organ of state power in China. Its members are chosen for five-year terms by a series of indirect elections; each province elects one representative (or deputy) to the congress for each 400,000 people, with at least ten deputies representing each province. All candidates are either members of the Chinese Communist Party or approved by it. The Fifth National People’s Congress, elected in 1978, consisted of 3,497 deputies, with workers and peasants accounting for nearly half the membership. The Sixth National People’s Congress, which convened in June 1983, had 2,978 delegates.
The seventh Congress convened in March 1988, the eighth in March 1993, the ninth in March 1998, and the tenth in March 2003. In 2003, the Congress had 2,946 delegates.
The National People’s Congress is empowered to pass laws, amend the constitution, and to approve the national budget and economic plans. It also has the power to appoint and remove members of the State Council (Cabinet), which is the highest component in the structure of the Chinese government.
In practice, however, the National People’s Congress has little real power. Because of its unwieldy size, the congress meets only irregularly to conduct required business. While the congress is not in session, a Standing Committee, elected from its membership, acts in its place. The Standing Committee also represents the congress in a variety of government functions, including receiving foreign envoys and ratifying or nullifying treaties with foreign governments. The State Council is the central governmental body of the National People’s Congress. It is led by the Chinese premier and vice-premiers. Various ministries, commissions, and agencies are responsible to the Council."China" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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