China: Political Institutions
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China: Political Institutions

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China: Political Institutions

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China: Political Institutions

AP Comparative government


Political Institutions

China’s political regime is best categorized as authoritarian

Decisions are made

by political

elites, or those that hold political power, without much input from the citizens

Leaders are

promoted through the ranks of government through informal ties with others and

through personal


In recent years there has been a push to go towards a more market based


which has put strain on the centralized control of the government

Because of these


there has been a push towards greater


within the government

There has been a greater push by local governments to defy or ignore the central government by setting their own tax rates or initiating building projects

As with the Soviet Union,

political elites

control government structures, but China also integrates the use of the military into the political hierarchy

The head of the Central Military Commission is often the most power leader in China


The Chinese Communist Part (CCP)


Chinese Communist Party

is the heart of the Chinese political system

The legitimacy of the government lies in the historical concept that the party knows what is best for the people

It is believed that society is best led by an elite


with superior understanding of the Chinese people


their needs (democratic centralism)


Organization of the CCP

The CCP is organized hierarchically by levels:

Village/township, county, province, and nation

Until 1976 Mao was the Chairman

The title chairman was abandoned after Mao’s death and the head of the party is now called the general secretary


Organization of the CCP

The party


a separate constitution from the constitution of the country. The party has separate central bodies which

are the:

National Party Congress:

This body consists of more than

2,000 delegates,

chosen primarily from congresses on lower levels

This body meets every 5 years, so

it is not important in policy making


main power

of this body is

to elect members to the Central Committee



The Central

Committee has about

350 members, who

meet annually for about a week.

Their meetings are called


and are important in that they are a gathering of the political



Politburo and the Standing Committee are chosen from these members

Politburo/Standing Committee:


are the most

powerful political organizations

and are

at the top of the CCP structure

They are chosen by the Central Committee and their decisions dictate government policies

There are


members in the

Central Committee. The seven members of the Politburo are chosen from among the 25 members of the Central Committee.

These organizations meet in private and the balance of power reflects the power among factions in the government


Non-Communist Parties

The CCP does allow the existence of eight “democratic” parties, even though China is a one party system

There are only about a half million members of these parties and they do not challenge the CCP for authority

Their main role is in giving advice to the CCP

Attempts to form democratic parties outside the control of the CCP have been

crushed, with reformers serving severe prison sentences



The PRC holds elections in order to legitimize the government and the CCP

The party controls the commissions that run elections, and it reviews draft lists of proposed candidates to weed out those it finds politically objectionable

Direct elections are only held at the local level, with voters choosing deputies to serve on the county people’s congress


Political Elite

The Long march helped create much of the political elite under Mao

These people networked with one another for many years under a system called


, also known as personal connections

These personal connections are still extremely important in Chinese culture

Like the USSR, China recruits is leaders through the use of


This is a system of choosing cadres from lower levels of the party hierarchy for advancement based on their loyalty and contributions to the well being of the party

These leaders communicate with each other through a

patron-client network



These systems work very similar to the patronage systems in the west



There are a variety of factions that exist throughout China. They are:


They fear that the power of the party and the central government has eroded too much.

They fear a move toward democracy and generally support crackdowns or organizations and individuals who act too


Chinese Communist Youth League:

This faction is led by former President Hu Jintao.

This party is supposed to recognized Chinese youth from ages 14-28.

It is also recognized as a advocate for the urban and rural poor.




This faction has been out of power since the Tiananmen Square

incident (1989)



more accepting of political liberties and democratic movements than are other factions


These leaders come from the aristocracy of families with revolutionary credentials

that date back to the days

of Mao Zedong

They are not always clear on their policy


Some princelings have benefited greatly from the move towards a more market based economy, while others think the move towards a market economy has been a betrayal of China’s socialist principles

The factions follow the process of




or a tightening

up and

loosening up

cycle of government power

The power structure of the parties change with the economy and the fortunes of the country


Interest Groups

Interest groups are not permitted to influence the political process unless they are under the party-state authority

In order to allow for people to display their displeasure the

government, the party


mass demonstrations where people are

allowed to voice their opinion according to very strict rules

Urban areas are socially controlled through


, or social units usually based on a person’s place of work.

People depend on danwei for food, income, jobs, promotion, medical care, housing, daycare, and


Citizen dependence on this welfare means that people are very unwilling to speak out against the state

NGO’s and other interest groups, even though they number close to 2 million, have little to no influence on policy decisions


Interest Groups


relationship between organizations

and the

state is characterized by a system of



Just as with Lenin in the USSR, organizations are created or approved by the state, and have government officials as their leaders

The state only allows one organization for any given profession or


The organization receives beneficial treatment in the government in exchange for absolute loyalty to the leader and the party



Between 1949 and 1980, almost all media were state run

There are a few independent media organizations in existence now, but they have very little power


is the official press agency of the government and they employ 10,000 people

Independent newspapers depend on Xinhua for many of their stories

The Central Committee of the CCP also depends on Xinhua for much of its information

China also has a closed caption television system called

Chinese Central Television





including the internet, are heavily censored by the government

This has been challenged as content has been harder to block