specific portfolio. (See “Collective Leadership.”) To ensure Party control, the top-ranked members of the PSC serve concurrently as the heads of other parts of the political system. The top ranked PSC member, Party General Secretary Hu Jintao, for example, serves concurrently as head of the military, in his capacity as head of Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and as the head of State, in his capacity as State President. The second-ranked PSC member, Wu Bangguo, serves as Chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC), while the third-ranked PSC member, Wen Jiabao, serves as Premier of the State Council, and the fourth-ranked member,
Jia Qinglin, heads the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and oversees the Party’s relations with non-Communist groups. Portfolios for other PSC members include the propaganda system; management of the Party bureaucracy and Hong Kong and Macau; finance and economics; Party discipline; and the internal security system. 32 PSC members also head Party “Leading Small Groups” (LSGs) for their policy areas. LSGs are secretive bodies intended to facilitate cross-agency coordination in implementation of Politburo Standing Committee decisions. The National Security Leading Small Group and the Foreign Affairs Leading Small Group, for example, are both headed by Party General Secretary Hu Jintao.
The next highest decision-making body is the full Politburo, which, with the suspension of the disgraced former Chongqing Party Secretary, Bo Xilai, now comprises 24 officials. In addition to the nine members of the PSC, Politburo members include the heads of major departments of the Party bureaucracy, the two highest ranking officers in the Chinese military, State Council Vice Premiers, a State Councilor, and Party leaders from important cities and provinces. The current Politburo has only one female member. Because of its relatively unwieldy size and the geographic diversity of its members, the full Politburo is not involved in day-to-day decision-making. In 2011, it met eight times, with its meetings often focused on a single major policy area or on preparations for major national meetings.33
According to the Party’s constitution, the PSC and Politburo derive their power from the Central Committee, whose full and alternate members together “elect” the Politburo, Politburo Standing Committee, and Party General Secretary, and “decide” on the composition of the Party’s Central Military Commission.34 In practice, incumbent top officials provide a list of nominees to the Central Committee, which ratifies the leadership’s nominees.35 The current nearly 400-member Central Committee (including alternates) is made up of leaders from the provinces (41.5%), central ministries (22.6%), the military (17.5 %), central Party organizations (5.9%), and stateowned enterprises, educational institutions, “mass organizations” such as the Communist Youth League, and other constituencies (12.4%).36
The National People’s Congress (NPC)
The third major political institution in China is the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s unicameral national legislature. According to Article 57 of China’s constitution, the NPC is “the highest organ of state power.” The Constitution tasks the NPC with overseeing the Presidency, the State Council, the State Central Military Commission, the Supreme People’s Court, and China’s national level public prosecutor’s office, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. In practice, however, the NPC’s powers are severely limited, and the entire entity operates under the leadership of the Communist Party.
The public theater of the NPC’s work is centered around its ten-day-long annual full session, held every March and attended by all of the NPC’s nearly 3,000 deputies. The next full session, in March 2013, will mark the start of a new five-year Congress, and is expected to approve a major leadership transition, including a new President and Premier, and new Vice...
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