How does the CPC rule China? A technical look
Six ways the CPC exerts its power over the Chinese government
The Communist Party of China is the ruling party of China. That, everyone knows.
But how does the party of nearly 100 million people technically exerts power over the Chinese government is perhaps lesser known.
This newsletter borrows an excerpt from the Chinese college political science textbook Chinese Government and Politics （《中国政府与政治》）to offer you an explainer.
As a composite structure, the party-government system surpasses the logic of both party and government organizations. It uniquely integrates the two and self-generates a new logic. A practical way to understand this is to see how the party structure, as a bureaucracy, "embed in" and "restructures" the state/government structures. We can broadly distinguish the following six main approaches
Set up Party groups in leading bodies of non-Party units.
According to article 46 in Party Constitution, "A Party group may be formed in the leading bodies of a central or local state organ, civil organizations, economic or cultural institution or other non-Party units."
On Jan. 16, 2015, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee held a meeting to listen specifically to reports of Party groups from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the State Council, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the Supreme People's Court, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. General Secretary Xi Jinping said at the meeting that it was very important to establish Party groups in these institutions to be under the unified leadership of the Party Central Committee. The Party group is a system set in non-Party organizations by the Central Committee and Party committees at all levels as an important organizational form and system assurance for the Party to lead non-Party organizations.
The practice of creating a composite by putting a group of government agencies under the leadership of a Party organ, is called compartmentalization or compartmentalized management.
For example, the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee is a department directly under the CPC Central Committee. It leads the relevant government agencies or state-controlled institutions within the "publicity and culture compartment," such as the Ministry of Culture①, the Ministry of Education, the National News Publication Radio and Television Administration②, the State Council Information Office (SCIO), Xinhua News Agency, People's Daily and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
① Now the Ministry of Culture and Tourism
② Now the National News and Publication Administration and the National Radio and Television Administration
It is the same with the Committee of Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee, a functional organ of the Party Central Committee to lead and manage the "political and legal compartment," or a group of government agencies relevant to law enforcement, such as the court, the procuratorate, public security, national security, and justice ministries.
Set up high-level permanent or temporary leading groups.
These groups are directly subordinate to the Party Central Committee. Leaders of these groups are usually members of the Politburo or the Politburo Standing Committee. Members normally consist of party or government officials who hold posts at relevant agencies. Academia generally considers leading groups as deliberative and coordinative bodies with cross-departmental coordination authority. However, in practice, these leading groups have greater authority.
For example, the Propaganda and Ideological Work Directorate of the CPC Central Committee (a leading group) is responsible for leadership and decision-making relevant to publicity and ideological work. It sets the general guidelines and coordinates the unified actions of the relevant party and government departments. It is the nerve system of the publicity and culture compartment.
The Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs③ is the leading organ of the financial work of the Party Central Committee. Since 1987, the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs has been headed by the General Secretary of the Party Central Committee, with the Premier serving as deputy. It plays a vital role in formulating the five-year plan for national economic and social development, annual economic planning, economic situation research and analysis, and macro policy research.
③ Now the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs
The Central Leading group of Rural Work plays a similar role in rural work. After the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms④ was set up, which is responsible for the overall design, coordination, promotion, and supervision of reform implementation. It is worth noting that these leading groups partially transcend the existing political system, due to their political status and membership.
④ Now the Central Commission for Comprehensively Deepening Reform
Party leaders also serve in governmental roles
For example, the General Secretary and Chairman of the CPC Central Committee Military Commission also hold China’s Presidency and Chairmanship of the Central Military Commission of the PRC. Politburo Standing Committee members also hold the positions of Premier, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC, etc.
One institution with two names
"One institution with two names," more commonly known as “one group of people with two hats" . When a Party organ assumes a specific function of the state but comes short of becoming a government agency, that organ may need to work in the name of the state and the government, hence the necessity for two names.
Currently, there are a number of such pairs at the central level. The list below are coupled names of the same organization, including:
the Central Military Commission (of the CPC) and the Central Military Commission (of the PRC);
Taiwan Work Office of the CPC Central Committee and Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council;
Central Archives of the CPC and the National Archives Administration;
Office of the Central Secrecy Commission and the National Administration of State Secret Protection (NASSP);
Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission and the Cyberspace Administration of China
A more complex situation is “one group of people, one name, but two institutions.” For example, the State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform (SCOPSR) is both an institution of the CPC Central Committee and of the State Council.
Joint offices of the Party and government agencies
For example, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC and the Ministry of Supervision⑤ of the PRC. In this case, the party organization or institution is in the leading position.
⑤ Now absorbed into the National Supervisory Commission.
In these ways, the CPC has constructed a state power structure with itself as the core. This structure has two characteristics: On the one hand, the ruling party has fully entered the state system, occupying a central position and performing important political and administrative functions. The party and the government have become closely aligned in terms of structure and operational mechanisms. On the other hand, political parties have retained their relative independence when entering the state structure. The key political decision-making bodies of the CPC, such as the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee and its Standing Committee and the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, have not entered the state system. The CPC Central Committee also has independently established functional institutions (including directly subordinate institutions and institutional units).
This duality of the party-government system implies that the national judicial system cannot cover it entirely. There is no "compartmental management","party groups" or "leading groups" in the Constitution and other organizational laws.
Therefore, to understand Chinese politics, one needs to read not only the constitution but also the party charter, familiarize not only with laws and regulations and the party code and documents, and study not only governmental agencies but also party organs.
The party and the state are each governed by their own rules, and the two sets of rules do not conflict but complement each other.
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