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Vijesh K.M. asked: How are political leaders especially the president and ministers chosen in the Chinese system? Are Communist Party and Government of China synonymous?

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  • Jagannath P. Panda replies: Competitive elections as a systemic practice are absent in China where rule of the Communist Party of China (CPC) prevails. The CPC, the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are the three prime segments of China’s political structure. The CPC controls the ideological segment, prepares strategic guidelines and makes top-level national decisions. The PRC government generally implements the policy instructions of the CPC and runs day-to-day administrative affairs. The PLA is under the control of the CPC and its primary mission is to protect the country’s political system and ensure national security.

    The organisational department of the CPC prepares a list of around 5000 official positions at the local, provincial and the national level. It generally reviews the work performance of leaders and officials holding these positions and recommends names for promotions and appointments. These recommendations are usually reviewed by the Politburo of the CPC before final decision is taken. However, the leadership including President is generally chosen through a complex process involving wide-ranging negotiations among senior members of the CPC. The selection not only depends on lobbying but also the support and goodwill a leader enjoys with the top leadership before his candidature is put through a process of representative election. The top leadership is thus chosen under an elaborate succession plan worked out by the CPC. In brief, China follows a “selection plus election” process for choosing its leaders.

    A top level political leader with the central government generally holds the distinction of being a delegate member of the National People’s Congress (NPC), which is the national legislature of the PRC. The NPC is a national constituent of around 3000 delegates elected from different provinces, municipalities, and autonomous as well as special administrative regions. Though the appointment of the President, Premier and the ministers requires customary approval of the NPC, but since the selection process is usually done before the NPC annual meeting there is hardly any scope for it to disapprove any candidate.

    The President is expected to possess remarkable administrative experience and, most importantly, a strong political portfolio. The President also holds the distinction of being a member of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), supposedly the most influential decision-making body in China, besides being the General Secretary of the CPC and Chairman of the Central Military Committee (CMC).

    CPC’s top leadership is generally groomed over the decades. Before assuming the position of a minister, they generally acquire a wealth of practical experience at the city/provincial level, possess the required managerial skills, and are conversant with various administrative aspects both within and outside the party structure. The ministers are generally selected or chosen by the CPC and approved by the Politburo.

    As founder of the PRC, the CPC remains the sole political and ideological force at the helm of both government and governance in China. Many scholars regard China as a “party-state” due to the CPC’s supremacy in both political and governmental affairs. Like the government, the party too has its own structures at both local and national levels. So, a parallel structure of administration – the government and the party – exists in China. The CPC has its members and representatives in every committee or department or branches of the government. It is, therefore, hard to draw a distinction between the CPC and the government of PRC. Though apparently synonymous, they operate on a dual parallel structure where the party and its ideology remains supreme.

    Posted on May 01, 2018