Content

SEND US FEEDBACK


We're always looking for ways to make Geoba.se better. Have an idea? See something that needs fixing? Let us know!

COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Area: 9,956,960 sq km (3.7m sq miles)
Population: 1.3 bn
Capital City: Beijing
People: Han Chinese make up around 92% of the population. The remaining 8% is comprised of five minority ethnic groups.
Official Language: Mandarin (Putonghua) with many local dialects.
Religion(s): China is officially atheistic, but there are five State-Registered religions: Daoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholic and Protestant Christianity.
Currency: Yuan or Renminbi (RMB)
Major political parties: Chinese Communist Party
Government: There are major hierarchies in China: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the National People's Congress (China's legislature), the government and the military. The supreme decision-making body in China is the CCP Politburo and its 9-member Standing Committee, which acts as a kind of 'inner cabinet', and is headed by the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The National People's Congress (NPC) is China's legislative body. It has a 5-year membership and meets once a year in plenary session. However, in practice it is the CCP who takes all key decisions.
Head of State and General Secretary of the CCP: President Hu Jintao
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC: Wu Bangguo
Premier of the State Council: Wen Jiabao
State Councillor (Foreign Affairs): Dai Bingguo
Foreign Minister: Yang Jiechi
Membership of international groups/organisations: United Nations (including permanent membership of the UN Security Council), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF); Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC); Asian Development Bank (ADB); Shanghai Cooperation Organisation; World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Back to the Top



ECONOMY

Economic indicators

GDP: US $6.9trn (est.) (2011)
GDP per capita: Int’l $8,394 per capita (2011 – source: IMF)
Annual Growth: 9.2% (est.) (2011)
Consumer prices: 4.8% (est.) (2011)
Exchange rate: 10.4 Renminbi = £1 (2011 average exchange rate)
China has been one of the world's economic success stories since reforms began in 1978. China is the world's second biggest economy. Official figures show that GDP has grown on average by 10% a year over the past 30 years with an estimate of 9.2% recorded for 2011.

The current growth model, and policy underlying it, remains heavily skewed towards exports and investment, with little emphasis on private consumption. China has started to adjust its economic policies to better promote sustainable growth.

The Government has highlighted its intention to:
-- undertake more banking reform (and encourage banks to provide finance to rural areas and smaller firms)

-- develop the capital markets (so firms can more easily raise finance)

-- further reform of the insurance sector to expand the options available to consumers and

-- provide a sounder regulatory structure aimed at promoting financial integration.

A growing share of China's economic growth has been generated in the private sector as the government has opened up industries to domestic and foreign competition, though the role of the state in ownership and planning remains extensive. China's entry into the World Trade Organisation in December 2001 is further integrating China into the global economy.

Back to the Top



HISTORY

Longer Historical Perspective

The Chinese imperial system came to an end in 1911. The Qing (Manchu) dynasty was overthrown and China was proclaimed a republic, partly through the efforts of revolutionaries such as Sun Yat-sen. The country then entered a period of warlordism. In 1927 the Nationalist Party or 'Kuomintang' (KMT), under its leader Chiang Kai-shek, established a central government in Nanjing.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded in 1921. It broke with the KMT and was forced to flee into the interior in the Long March in 1934/35. Both KMT and CCP forces opposed Japan during World War Two but a civil war broke out from 1945-1949. CCP forces under Mao Zedong routed their KMT opponents. In 1949 Mao announced the establishment of the People's Republic of China. The government of the then Republic of China under President Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan, together with approximately 2 million supporters.

The period between 1949 and Mao's death in 1976 was characterised by an ambitious political and economic restructuring programme. This involved the collectivisation of industry, the establishment of communes and the redistribution of land. The Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976 brought enormous upheaval in the political system. Mao had to rely on the armed forces to maintain order and exercise control.

Recent History

In December 1978 the CCP, inspired by Deng Xiaoping, launched a wide-ranging programme of economic and social reform. This sought to modernise the economy, develop China's external relations (the 'open door policy') - especially with the West, and implement a gradual and limited liberalisation of Chinese society.

This period of 'reform and opening up' since 1978 is expected to be widely commemorated in China this autumn as the basis of its current economic success and these commemorations may also be used as the platform for further policy reforms. There are no details at this point, but there is much speculation that rural land ownership reform may be prominent.

Political opposition to the more liberal reforms forced periods of retrenchment. In June 1989, following the brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing, political control swung firmly into the hands of conservative elements within the CCP. The Chinese government labelled the demonstrations a 'counter-revolutionary rebellion' and clamped down on dissent. Prominent dissidents fled the country or went into hiding. Many activists were arrested. Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang was replaced by Jiang Zemin, former Mayor and Party Secretary of Shanghai. Jiang was appointed to the additional post of State President in March 1993. Jiang continued the policies of Deng Xiaoping, prioritising economic growth, particularly in China's coastal provinces.

Jiang retired as President in March 2003. Hu Jintao was named President and Wen Jiabao became Premier. Wu Bangguo replaced Li Peng as NPC Chairman. The leadership transition was completed in September 2004 with Jiang retiring from the Chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC). Hu assumed the post of CMC Chairman to add to his roles as State President and Party General Secretary.

Back to the Top



INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with the International Community

China has said that it wishes to pursue an independent foreign policy of peace in order to preserve its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The concept of ‘harmonious’ development, at the heart of China’s domestic policy, has been extended to its foreign policy as China aims to create a favourable international environment to continue its agenda of reform and opening up. To date, China has focused on developing close relations with its neighbours, major partners and international organisations.

In support of its desire to promote a foreign policy of peace, China is playing an increasingly active role in international affairs. It has supported the international war against terrorism, including in the UN Security Council (where it holds one of the five Permanent Seats) and voted in favour of limited sanctions on North Korea. China moved from more or less unconditional support of Sudan, supporting UNSCR 1769 which mandated a hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur, and has deployed 315 peacekeepers. China voted for UNSCR 1803, which mandated a third round of sanctions on Iran, and has begun to put the squeeze on financial transactions with Iran. However, China’s use of its veto over a UNSCR on Zimbabwe and Syria demonstrates its increasing confidence to protect its own interests.

See also the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/)

EU-China Relations

EU relations with China were established in 1975 and are currently governed by the 1985 EU-China Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The EU is important for China’s vision of a multipolar world and China is arguably the EU’s most important relationship outside its own neighbourhood and the US. In January 2007 the EU and China launched negotiations on a single and over-arching Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) to reflect the breadth and depth of today’s strategic partnership. The PCA will set a broad framework for the EU’s relationship with China across a wide range of areas and, in part, will replace the 1985 Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement.

The EU is China’s biggest trading partner, while China is the EU’s largest source of imports and second largest two-way trading partner. In 2010, to reflect the depth and breadth of their Strategic Partnership, the EU and China decided to upgrade their bilateral relations on foreign affairs, security matters and global challenges such as climate change and the recovery of the global economy. Annual summits and regular political, trade and economic dialogues are held, including over 50 sectoral dialogues and agreements, ranging from environmental protection to industrial policy, education or culture. Human rights are discussed as part of regular political dialogue as well as during specific Human Rights dialogues held biannually since 1995.

EU-China trade has increased dramatically in recent years. The EU is China’s second largest trade partner and China is the EU’s largest partner. The EU's open market has been a large contributor to China's export-led growth. The EU has also benefited from the growth of the Chinese market and the EU is committed to open trading relations with China. The EU-China High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue, launched in Beijing in April 2008, strengthens the dialogue between the European Commission and the State Council of China, at Vice-Premier level. It provides a tool to address issues of mutual concern in the areas of investment, market access and intellectual property rights protection, as well as other issues related to trade. In addition to this, the other key dialogue is the EU-China Summit; the last on EU took place in Beijing on 14 February 2012.

The ‘Guidelines on the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy in East Asia’, published in December 2007, form the backbone of the EU’s policy towards China and the wider region. You can find a summary setting out the architecture of EU-China relations on the EU Commission website (http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/china/index_en.htm).

UK-CHINA BILATERAL RELATIONS

Our relations with China are broader and deeper than ever in our history, and growing with unprecedented speed. At their 2011 Summit the PM and Premier Wen agreed a number of initiatives to boost links between our two countries including a conference on Infrastructure Investment and a new high-level People to People Dialogue. We are allocating significant new resources to the China network - 50 additional staff and the opening of a new consulate - to expand UK’s reach, understanding, engagement and influence.

UK objectives

The UK’s relationship with China is a political priority, and the Government is strongly committed to the relationship. UK and China are Partners for Growth, and the economies of our two countries complement each other. We have a shared interest in promoting open global markets and working together to reduce threats to growth. China matters for Britain’s ongoing prosperity and security. It is a country with which we need a serious and mature relationship. China has a vital role to play in delivering strong sustainable and balanced global growth. As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China is critical to a global deal on climate change and a shift to a low carbon economy. It is a key foreign policy player, notably on Iran, the NPT, the DPRK, UNSC and international institutional reform and international development.

The main channels of communication / dialogue

-- Prime Ministerial Summit - dialogue between the Prime Minister and Premier Wen, reinforced by Ministers and senior officials forging closer links with their counterparts. Most recent was held in June 2011 in London.

-- Strategic Dialogue - this dialogue is between the Foreign Secretary and State Councillor Dai Bingguo.

-- UK-China Economic & Financial Dialogue - this high level strategic economic dialogue was agreed during the Prime Minister’s January 2008 visit to China. The first meeting of the Dialogue, chaired by the Chancellor and Vice Premier Wang Qishan was held in Beijing in April 2008.

-- Sector specific Ministerial level dialogues (e.g. Education Summits, the Sustainable Development Dialogue) and a public diplomacy strategy delivered through our China network are other key tools.

-- UK-China Human Rights Dialogue - provides an open channel of communication with the Chinese government about human rights concerns and allows issues to be discussed in greater depth. The 20th round of the Dialogue took place in Nanjing on 10 January 2012.

Back to the Top



GEOGRAPHY

China is twice the size of Western Europe. It is the third largest country in the world, after Russia and Canada. Its terrain varies from plains, deltas and hills in the east to mountains, high plateaux and deserts in the west. To the south its climate is tropical, whilst to the north it is sub-arctic. Less than one-sixth of China is suitable for agriculture. The most fertile areas lie in the eastern third of the country, which is economically the most developed region.

Back to the Top



TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade & Investment Country Profile: China (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/china)

Trade in goods and services

Bilateral trade between the UK and China is growing rapidly. China has been the largest export market in Asia for British goods since August 2007.

In 2010, UK imports of goods and services from China were worth £31.8 billion, up 23% from 2009. China was the second largest source of goods (at £30.6 billion) imported into the UK, after Germany.

In 2011, UK Imports of goods from China were worth £30.2 billion, an increase of 8.6% compared with 2010. UK exported goods worth £8.8 billion to China in 2011, up 22.5% on the previous year.

In 2010, the ratio of total bilateral trade in services (with the UK) is currently just over 2 to 1 in the UK's favour, reflecting the UK's comparative advantage in service industries. At present, the ratio of total bilateral trade in goods (with the UK) is currently 3.5 to 1 in China’s favour, reflecting China’s comparative advantage in low cost manufacturing.

The UK’s main exports to China in 2010 include road vehicles, power generating and industrial machinery, medical & pharmaceutical products, and financial services. However, it is certain that the UK’s advanced engineering exports to China are higher than the figures show. The reason is that exports in this sector include a significant components element, which is often exported to third countries to be included in finished items. For example, a large proportion of the components of Airbus aircraft – finally exported to China from France – are actually made in the UK, e.g. engines. Similarly, the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong are major sources of direct investment in China, but much of this investment originates in the UK.

Investment

The UK continues to rank alongside Germany as the two leading EU investors in China and recipient of Chinese investment into Europe. According to official Chinese statistics, UK was the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) provider to China from the EU in 2010, investing $1.6bn in China. The real figure for UK investment in China is higher, however, as investments in the banking, insurance and securities sectors, where the UK is particularly strong, are not included in these figures.

In 2010, UK was the fourth largest recipient of Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the EU, behind Luxembourg, Sweden and Germany. From January to November 2011 UK had slipped to sixth in the EU, behind Luxemburg, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands. There are more than 1,500 jobs in the UK associated with Chinese investment.

See also the CBBC website (http://www.cbbc.org/) and UKTI (http://www.ukti.gov.uk/home.html?guid=none) website.


Climate Change & Sustainable development

China’s energy consumption is increasing significantly in order to service its economic growth. Some studies suggest that China overtook the US as the world’s largest emitter of Greenhouse Gases in 2007. It is currently the world’s second largest energy consumer (around 15% of global consumption). While continued rapid economic growth remains the Chinese Government’s top priority, tackling climate change, the development of green industries and the need to reduce emissions feature prominently in the 12th five year plan. China has set aggressive targets to reduce the energy intensity of its economy as it continues to expand e.g. 40-45% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005; increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15% by 2020; and increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares in the same timeframe.

The UK is working with China (through the UK-China Working Group on Climate Change (http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/internat/devcountry/china.htm)the UK-China Energy Working Group (http://ukinchina.fco.gov.uk/en/working-with-china/environment)) and a number of Memoranda of Understanding between the UK and Chinese Governments) to mitigate the effects of China’s predicted increase in energy consumption and help it make the transition towards a low carbon economy. Following the 2008 signing of a Joint Declaration on Climate Change, new Memoranda of Understanding were signed in 2011 on Climate Change, Energy and on Low Carbon Cooperation. The UK continues to work with China to improve its energy efficiency and make the shift to low carbon investment. We are also working with China to achieve an ambitious international legally binding agreement through the UN climate negotiations on the ‘Durban Platform’ as agreed in Durban in 2011.

Education and Culture

The British Council (http://www.britishcouncil.org/china) , which operates as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Beijing and the British Consulates-General in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing, has a wide-ranging programme of activity covering areas such as the arts, education, science and technology and good governance.

It is also active in promoting UK education. There are over 100,000 Chinese students studying in the UK, making China the leading provider of overseas students in the UK. The British Council also conducts over 60,000 English language examinations in China annually from a network of 21 test centres throughout the country.
The British Chevening Scholarships (http://ukinchina.fco.gov.uk/en/working-with-china/chevening-scholarship-scheme/)Programme for China (including Hong Kong) is by some margin the largest in the world.

Back to the Top



HUMAN RIGHTS

There has been significant progress on social and economic rights in China over the past 25 years: ordinary people can now usually travel freely and choose who to marry and where to work. But problems remain, particularly on civil and political rights.

Despite signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1998, China has still not ratified it. China is making progress, but there remain a number of areas where it currently fails to meet ICCPR standards.

Rule of law is undermined by political interference in the judicial process. The system of Re-education through Labour and other forms of "administrative detention" remain in place, although its scope and the maximum length of sentences are being reduced. Torture is still a widespread problem. Senior leaders now appear to recognise it as such and are beginning to introduce measures that act as a bar on torture in practice (for example the tape recording of police interrogations).

The freedoms of expression, religion and association are severely restricted. However, China introduced on 1 January 2007 new regulations for foreign correspondents, who no longer have to seek case by case permission to conduct interviews. The regulations we made permanent on 17 October 2008. The development of civil society is limited, although the Chinese Government recognises the contribution NGOs have made to developing the market economy and social support services in China.

The use of the death penalty remains unacceptably high, although the Supreme People's Court now reviews all death sentences and there is some reason to believe that this has led to some reduction in its use. Tibet and Xinjiang are still subject to particularly repressive security regimes.

The UK takes a multi-layered approach to engaging China on human rights. We raise a broad range of human rights issues, together with certain individual cases, through our regular UK-China Human Rights Dialogue. The 20th round of the Dialogue took place in Nanjing on 10 January 2012. The UK side raised a series of important issues including freedom of expression and the rule of law. The agenda also included discussion on rights of detainees, reform of the Criminal Procedure Law, freedom of religion and gender discrimination. The Dialogue is just one strand of a much wider engagement that includes a growing portfolio of successful project work, ministerial and official exchanges. We also work through EU and international mechanisms, including the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue which last took place in Nanjing on 10 January 2012.

We regularly use our ministerial visits to raise human rights with the Chinese authorities at the highest levels. The Prime Minister discussed human rights issues during the June Summit in 2011. The Foreign Secretary has also raised the issue of human rights with State Counsellor Dai Bingguo at the Strategic Dialogue in London in September 2011. Minister of State, Jeremy Browne also raised the issue during his visit to China in November 2011.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also provides funding for the Great Britain China Centre (http://www.gbcc.org.uk/), founded in 1974, which promotes understanding between Britain and China, particularly in the areas of legal and labour reform. It manages exchange programmes with Chinese partners, provides information and advice about China, and publishes the quarterly magazine China Review (http://www.gbcc.org.uk/publications.htm) .

Tibet

The British Government does not support Tibetan independence, we regard Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. We regularly urge the Chinese Government to engage in serious negotiations with the Dalai Lama's representatives, without pre-conditions as we see this as the only lasting way to build a peaceful, sustainable and legitimate solution for Tibet. The 9th round of talks were held in January 2010, and ended without agreement. We expressed our disappointment and urged both sides return to the negotiating table.

The Dalai Lama visited the UK in May 2008. He met former Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Lambeth Palace and discussed the situation in Tibet as well as other issues.

More information on human rights in China, including Tibet, can be found in the Human Rights Annual Report (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/global-issues/human-rights/)

Migration

We want more Chinese to come to the UK legally to visit, study and work, and are working on ways to make it easier for them to do so. But we also need to deter illegal immigration, and we are working with China to agree a durable system for returning illegal immigrants.

Back to the Top



POLITICS

Recent Political Developments

President Hu's first term was spent consolidating his position and proceeding with economic reform. But he recognised the potential for instability caused by the previous strong focus on promoting high growth as the overriding policy priority. Examples of the imbalances this has caused in society include:

-- wide income imbalances between rich, eastern coastal cities, and poorer inland cities

-- income differences between urban and rural dwellers - the average urban resident of Beijing earns around RMB 2000 a month (around £130), but 135 million people in China still live below the international poverty line of US$ 1 a day, and up to 500 million on US$ 2 a day

-- a collapse of the health insurance scheme, which means that 80% of all healthcare costs have to be paid in cash at the time of consumption

-- inequalities between urban residents and migrant labourers who have moved to the cities. Unable to transfer their official place of residence, they cannot access public services, including education for their children

rampant corruption by those in public office

-- 87,000 incidents of mass violence which took place in 2005, often provoked by land expropriations or lay-offs from state-owned enterprises.

Under the slogan of a "harmonious society", he is therefore promoting a range of policies in the health, education, environment and other fields which will address social inequality. But these policies will not be allowed to compromise economic growth and reform.

The 17th Party Congress of October 2007 provided President Hu with an opportunity to put his own stamp on the ideological agenda, advance his preferred candidates to senior positions and secure a political succession consistent with that programme. Whilst the "harmonious society" remained pre-eminent, Hu's singular success was in having his theory of "scientific development" written into the Party Constitution.

This means that although economic development will remain the key goal, growth will be balanced and sustainable in order to address imbalances in society between the prosperous cities and the impoverished rural hinterland. Although this will require innovation in methodology, it will also be gradual and measured, not radical. This is indicative of Hu's consensus building style, following neither those advocating continued economic reform at all costs, nor the so-called 'new Left' who have called for more focus on social issues.

Although "democracy" was mentioned over 50 times in President Hu's speech, this was very much qualified as "democracy with Chinese characteristics" or "socialist democracy". He alluded to novel methods to increase popular participation in politics to effect electoral reforms at grass roots levels, and even allow direct elections of Party officials in limited circumstances at local levels. Yet the driving purpose is to ensure the long term stability of one-party rule under the CCP.

The senior Party hierarchy after the 17th Congress may similarly represent consensus rather than a definitive Hu Jintao 'stamp'. We have little doubt that the President has prevailed in placing his successor(s) at the peak of the Party to assume power in 2012, although this has been done in such a way to co-opt competing interests behind his overall programme.

Political Structure

China has all the structures a modern democratic state would expect to have, with in theory a separation of powers between the different functions of state similar to most western democracies. But all structures are subordinate to the leadership of the CCP.
-- The Legislature: Key laws are passed by the National People's Congress (http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/news/index.htm)(NPC) and its Standing Committee. The NPC has around two thousand members, and only meets in full session for a fortnight every March. Outside that time, a Standing Committee of around three hundred members carries out business. The Chairman is Wu Bangguo. Members are "elected" from Provincial and Municipal People's Congresses, who are in turn "elected" from People's Congresses below them. Only at the lowest level are members "elected" by the public, but from a very narrow slate of approved candidates. (NB see "Village elections" below). A handful of independents manage to get elected. The NPC also votes the executive into office.

-- The Executive: The Government is headed by Wen Jiabao, who is Premier. There are 4 Vice Premiers, 5 State Councillors, 28 Ministers, and 50 Offices, Institutions or Bureaux under the State Council or other Ministries. Between them they carry out all the functions of government, from health policy to water resources, to meteorology. Two bodies many would not expect to be part of government are Xinhua, the news agency, and the State Administration of Religious Affairs, which are directly under the State Council.

-- The Judiciary: there are several levels of People's Courts which hear both criminal and civil cases (though the majority of criminal cases are actually dealt with by the police as administrative cases). The People's Procuratorate acts as an investigator and public prosecutor. Officially, the courts continue to be instruments of the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', and there is provision for political involvement in their judgements.

In the next layer down from central government, China has 22 provinces ; 4 municipalities directly under the central government (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing); 5 autonomous regions (Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Guangxi); and 2 Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macao).

The full hierarchy of government is:

central government

-- province, municipality or autonomous region

prefecture or city

-- county or district

township

-- village (though see below).

A province may contain within it autonomous counties or towns where there is a large ethnic minority population. Each layer of government will have departments similar to those of central government; a Communist Party Committee; a People's Congress; and a Political Consultative Committee. The head of government in each province is the Governor, but in practice the provincial Party Secretary is more powerful.

Villages are now officially regarded as self-governing (and therefore not part of the formal government hierarchy). There are direct popular elections to village committees. They are responsible for providing some public services, and receive a budget from higher authorities to do so. They have no revenue-raising powers of their own. The quality of the elections varies, but they are more or less free and fair.

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (http://www.cppcc.gov.cn/English/)(and its provincial and local off-shoots) brings together all permitted strands of political opinion and activity in China. It is not the legislature, but its main annual meeting comes just ahead of the NPC, and its views are officially fed into the NPC. Its Chairman is Jia Qinglin. Its main components are:

-- China's 8 political parties other than the Chinese Communist Party (known collectively as the 'United Front'). They include the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Guomindang; the China Democratic League; and the China Democratic National Construction Association. They are small, and all accept in their constitutions the dominant position of the Communist Party.

-- Representatives of China's "mass organisations": the Communist Youth League, The All-China Federation of Trade Unions; the All China Women's Federation; and 50 other organisations covering everything from film artists to religious organisations.

In the next layer down from central government, China claims 23 provinces (as it includes Taiwan); 4 municipalities directly under the central government (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing); 5 autonomous regions (Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Guangxi Zhuang); and 2 Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macao).

The full hierarchy of government is:

central government

-- province, municipality or autonomous region

prefecture or city

-- county or district

township

-- village (though see below).

A province may contain within it autonomous counties or towns where there is a large ethnic minority population. Each layer of government will have departments similar to those of central government; a People's Congress; a Political Consultative Committee (and a Communist Party Committee). The head of government in each province is the Governor, but in practice the provincial Party Secretary is more powerful.

Villages are now officially regarded as theoretically self-governing (and therefore not part of the formal government hierarchy). There are direct popular elections to village committees. They are responsible for providing some public services, and receive a budget from higher authorities to do so. They have no revenue-raising powers of their own. The quality of the elections varies, but they are more or less free and fair.

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (and its provincial and local off-shoots) brings together all permitted strands of political opinion and activity in China. It is not the legislature, but its main annual meeting comes just ahead of the NPC, and its views are officially fed into the NPC. Its Chairman is Jia Qinglin. Its main components are:

-- China's 8 political parties other than the Chinese Communist Party (known collectively as the 'United Front'). They include the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Guomindang; the China Democratic League; and the China Democratic National Construction Association. They are small, and all accept in their constitutions the dominant position of the Communist Party.

-- Representatives of China's "mass organisations": the Communist Youth League, The All-China Federation of Trade Unions; the All China Women's Federation; and 50 other organisations covering everything from film artists to religious organisations.

The Party

The real power in the land is the Chinese Communist Party. Founded in 1921 and now with around 70 million members, it has ruled China exclusively since 1949.

Party structures

Hu Jintao is General Secretary of the Communist Party. He heads the Politburo, which has 24 full and 1 alternate members. Nine members of the Politburo form a Politburo Standing Committee. They are the real government of China, and agree all major policies of the Party and government in the Standing Committee, using their positions elsewhere in government to implement them. Each member of the Politburo has a particular portfolio or government position, as follows (in order of precedence):

Hu Jintao - President of China, Chair of the Central Military Commission
Wu Bangguo - Chairman of the National People's Congress
Wen Jiabao - Premier
Jia Qinglin - Chair of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
Xi Jinping - Vice President of China
Li Keqiang, Hui Liangyu, Zhang Dejiang, Wang Qishan - Vice Premiers
He Guoqiang - in charge of Party discipline
Li Changchun - propaganda
Zhou Yongkang - law and order

The Party has a number of Departments, Committees and Leading Groups to formulate policy which often mirror government Ministries. Notable ones are:
-- Party Central Committee: the national Party committee, which meets once a year in the autumn, and has around 300 members
-- The Central Military Commission: which is in effect the same thing as the state Central Military Commission, and therefore runs the armed forces
-- The Commission for Discipline Inspection: responsible for fighting corruption among Party members
-- General Office and Central Bodyguards Bureau: which control access to the President
-- Organisation Department: in charge of personnel policy and appointments

Propaganda (or Publicity) Department


-- United Front Work Department: manages relations with other political parties, religious organisations and other non-Party organisations
-- International Liaison Department: manages relations with political parties in other countries.

Leadership

At the lowest levels there is a limited amount of democracy within the Party. Branch committees are elected from their members. At the highest level, the Party is effectively a self-perpetuating oligarchy. The outgoing Politburo Standing Committee selects its successor and members of the Politburo.

Officially the Politburo and its Standing Committee are appointed at the Party Congress every five years. The next Party Congress will take place in Autumn 2012.

Back to the Top




Last Updated: February 2012

China Main Page Country Profiles Main Page








IMAGES


Click any image to enlarge.


National Flag



(¥) Chinese Yuan (CNY)
Convert to Any Currency



Map



Locator Map