The People’s Republic of China is a socialist country led by the working class, based on the worker-peasant alliance and practicing people’s democratic centralism. The socialist system is the primary system in China.
The Constitution is the fundamental law of the state. It usually stipulates a country’s social system and basic principles of state system, the basic principles of activities and organizations of state departments, and the basic rights and obligations of its citizens. Some constitutions also legalize the national flag, anthem, emblem, capital, and other systems that the government believes touches the lives of its citizens. The constitution is entitled with the highest legislative power. All other laws and regulations have to subject to the constitution and shall be strictly consistent with it.
Prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Common Program of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference was adopted. It was not only a common program for the democratic united front of the Chinese people, but was also a temporary constitution for China prior to the adoption of the current Constitution.The Common Program was passed at the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference on September 29th 1949.
Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st 1949, four constitutions have been adopted and amended in 1954, 1975, 1978 and 1982. The fourth constitution, which is the existing constitution, was adopted on the fifth Plenary Session on the Fifth National People’s Congress on December 4th 1982. This constitution has followed and developed the basic principles set in the 1954 constitution. It narrates the experience of the development of Chinese socialism and summarizes the international history for socialist development.
This is a basic law: to serve and modernize Chinese socialism. It clearly stipulates the political system, economic system, the rights and obligations of citizens, setting up of state departments and their duties, and the basic tasks for future national development. The fundamental features for this constitution include: setting the fundamental system and tasks, establishing the Four Basic Principles, and laying the basic rationales for reform. The constitution also stipulates that all activities undertaken by its citizens and organizations shall be subject to the constitution. Any organization or individual can not surpass the constitution and law.
This constitution has five sections including preamble, general principles, the fundamental rights and duties of citizens, the structure of the state, the national flag, the national emblem and the capital. There are four chapters and 138 articles in total. Since its adoption, this constitution has been amended four times and will be continuously optimized.
The National People’s Congress
The people’s congress is an organizational arm for the state power in China. It is China’s fundamental political system. Different from the legislative council under the western system of “separation of three powers”, the Constitution has made the National People’s Congress the most powerful organ of the country. Any Chinese citizen who is over the age of 18 years has the right to elect or be elected as an NPC representative. In China, representatives of the local people’s congress are elected directly from the local population.
Above these levels, representatives are elected indirectly. The NPC is composed of representatives from provinces, autonomous regions, direct municipalities, and the military. The term for representatives in every level of the people’s congress is five years. The congress is held annually.
At the annual meeting of the NPC, the representatives will listen to the government reports and review other important documents. They will examine these reports and make relevant resolutions and decisions. During theclosing session of the People’s Congress the standing committee of the people’s congress of each level will execute the power granted by the congress. For example, the duties for the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress include interpreting the Constitution and supervising its enforcement, enacting and amending laws with the exception of those which should be enacted by the NPC, and report to the NPC on every piece relevant work.
The basic functions and powers of the NPC are to amend the Constitution, to supervise the enforcement of the Constitution, to enact and amend basic laws covering crucial matters, and to decide on the major national leaders. Strategic development plans for the national economy and social affairs have been vital towards advancing China’s social progress. But these plans are only in effect after approval from the NPC.
The law in China stipulates the major state leaders, such as the President and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC, must be nominated and elected by the NPC. The Premier of the State Council and Ministers of the government must also be appointed by the NPC. The NPC can also remove the elected Chairman of NPC Standing Committee, the President and the Premier through lawful procedures.
The System of Multi-Party Cooperation and Political Consultation
The multi-party cooperation and political consultation is a basic political system in China.
China is multi-party country. Apart from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CPC), there are other eight political parties. They were established long before the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Politically they support the leadership of CPC. This is the historic choice they made during the long-term cooperation and efforts with the CPC. All parties shall be based on the Constitution.
Every political party is independent in terms of organization. They enjoy the rights of political freedom, organizational independence, and equality within the scope of the Constitution. The basic principles for CPC’s cooperation with eight political parties are “long-term coexistence, mutual supervision, sincere treatment with each other and the sharing of weal or woe”.
Chinese political parties are not parties in opposition but parties participating in the discussion and management of state affairs in cooperation with the CPC. They are mainly taking part in the consultation on major political issues and the choice of leaders of the state, the running of state affairs, and the deliberation and implementation of major policies, laws and regulations of the country.
Before a decision is made on the country’s basic policies and important issues, the CPC will consult with the eight political parties and the non-party independent political personage for their suggestions and advice. The political parties and the non-party officials have their representatives in the state organs like the NPC, its Standing Committee, and its standing committee for special issue. This is the same in every level of the local People’s Congress. As such, they can better exercise their supervisory role in their participation and discussion of state affairs.
Political consultation takes the major organizational form of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). On the CPPCC, any political party member or independent official without political party affiliation can be recommended to take leadership in every level of government and legal bodies.
The major forms of the multi-party cooperation and political consultation system are indicated as follows. First, the CPPCC is the main organizational body for all parties, mass organizations and representatives to participate and discuss state affairs. Second, the Central Committee of the CPC and every level of CPC committee will hold yearly or monthly meetings with the non-communist parties and non-party officials to brief them on the key issues and basic policies, the nomination list for leaders of state and local governments, and the candidates for the NPC and the CPPCC representatives. The will also consult with them for suggestions, advice, and guidance.
Third, the political members elected as the NPC representatives can participate, discuss, and supervise the state affairs. Fourth, the political party members can be elected as the leaders in State Council, state departments, and local government above county levels. Fifth, the political party members can be nominated and elected as leaders in judiciary and procuratorate bodies.