Improving China’s Fundamental Political System of People’s Congresses

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-08-20 16:07
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The report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC laid out important guidelines for adhering to the socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics and promoting the continuation of political reforms. Taking this as a basis, we must remain dedicated to the implementation and improvement of the system of people’s congresses, which constitutes China’s fundamental political system, and continue to maintain the close integration that exists between the leadership of the Party, the position of the people as masters of the country, and the rule of law. We need to fully exert the role of people’s congresses and their standing committees as the organs of state power, and ensure that they perform their lawful functions in legislation, government supervision, decision-making, and the appointment and dismissal of government personnel. By doing so, we will further demonstrate the superiority of the system of people’s congresses. 

I. Keeping to our own path

The political path that a country chooses to follow must be mapped out in accordance with the national situation and realities of that country. As China’s fundamental political system, the system of people’s congresses is guided by a scientific system of thought, made up of rigorous institutions, realized effectively in practice, and underpinned by a solid legal guarantee. These combined traits allow the system of people’s congresses to embody the features and advantages of socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics. Deng Xiaoping once said, “There are three important criteria for judging the soundness of a country’s political system, political structure, and policies. First, whether the country is politically stable; second, whether the system and policies help to strengthen unity among the people and to raise their living standards; and third, whether productive forces keep developing.” The historic changes that have taken place in our country since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and especially throughout more than 30 years of reform and opening up, offer ample proof that our path of political advancement not only conforms to China’s conditions, but also represents the nature of our country as a socialist state.

As China’s fundamental political system, the system of people’s congresses constitutes a major part of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics. As the product of the CPC’s efforts to integrate the basic tenets of Marxism with conditions in China, the system of people’s congresses represents an inevitable choice for China’s social development since modern times, and an important outcome of the long-term struggles of all ethnic groups in China under the leadership of the CPC. As such, this system is able to reflect the common interests and common wishes of all ethnic groups in China. Therefore, in our efforts to promote political development and political reform, we must remain firmly committed to the right political direction, resolutely adhere to the socialist path of political advancement with Chinese characteristics, maintain the close integration that exists between the leadership of the Party, the position of the people as masters of the country, and the rule of law, and work to uphold and improve the system of people’s congresses as our fundamental political system. China’s political system is neither a system of checks and balances between executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government nor a bicameral system. Under China’s political system, the people exercise state power in a unified manner through the people’s congresses. All administrative, judicial and procuratorial institutions of the state are created by, accountable to, and subject to the supervision of people’s congresses. Although the institutions of the state each perform their own duties, they share a common objective, and work in a coordinated manner under the leadership of the Party. People’s congresses are required to fulfill their obligations in the unified exercise of state power, but they do not exercise administrative, judicial, or procuratorial powers directly. In accordance with the standpoints of the Party and the will of the people, people’s congresses exercise state power through the passage of laws and resolutions, support and oversee people’s governments, people’s courts, and people’s procuratorates in carrying out lawful government administration and impartial judicial practice, and guarantee that the institutions of the state are able to operate in a coordinated and effective manner. By ensuring that the power granted by the people is genuinely used to serve the interests of the people, the system of people’s congresses is able to fully demonstrate its superiority. 

The evolution of China’s electoral law bears testament to the development of democracy in China. This photo was taken at the Twenty-Second Meeting of the Central People’s Government Council on February 11, 1953.  In the photo, Deng Xiaoping (first on the right) can be seen giving a briefing on the Electoral Law of the People’s Republic of China for the National People’s Congress and Local People’s Congresses. Also pictured on the rostrum (from left to right) are: Vice Chairperson Song Qingling, Chairman Mao Zedong, and Vice Chairmen Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Li Jishen, and Zhang Lan. / Xinhua (Archive photo)

II. Putting people first to ensure their position as masters of the country

The system of people’s congresses provides an important means for the people to fulfill their position as masters of the country. As the ultimate realization of this position in practice, the system of people’s congresses represents a major institutional manifestation of China’s socialist political civilization. China’s Constitution stipulates that all power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people. According to the Constitution, the National People’s Congress and the local people’s congresses at various levels are the organs through which the people exercise state power. The system of people’s congresses guarantees the position that the people enjoy as masters of their own country. It does so in the following three aspects. First, people’s congresses at all levels are chosen through a process of democratic election, which means that they are accountable to the people and subject to the oversight of the people. Second, people’s congresses and their standing committees at all levels perform their duties and make their decisions collectively. Through the converging of common will, they are able to represent the fundamental interests of the people. Third, all administrative, judicial and procuratorial institutions of the state are created by, accountable to, and subject to the supervision of people’s congresses. The system of people’s congresses allows people of all ethnic groups in China to grasp the destiny of both the state and the nation firmly in their own hands. Moreover, the further that socialism is developed, the more advanced democracy will be.

The system of people’s congresses is the most distinguishing feature of China’s socialist democracy. In our efforts to promote political development and political reform, and to make people’s democracy wider in scope, fuller in form, and sounder in practice, we need to lay emphasis on adhering to and improving the system of people’s congresses. In line with the fundamental requirement that the people remain masters of the country, and with a view to boosting both the vitality of the Party and the state as well as the initiative of the people, we need to continue to improve our democratic system, enrich the forms through which democracy is embodied, widen the orderly participation of citizens in political affairs, and constantly promote the self-improvement and development of our socialist political system. As organs of state power, the biggest advantage that people’s congresses and their standing committees have is their close ties with the public. Only by maintaining this close connection to the people, better representing the wishes of the people, and more conscientiously subjecting ourselves to the oversight of the people will we be able to guarantee the vitality of people’s congresses. Putting people first, the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people needs to be both the purpose and the ultimate goal that people’s congresses aspire towards in all their initiatives. On this basis, we must respect the role that the people play as the principal actor in national affairs, give full play to the creative spirit of the people, and ensure that their rights and interests are safeguarded. By adhering to the mass line, we must exert the advantage that people’s congresses have in ascertaining popular sentiment, reflecting public opinion, pooling the people’s wisdom, and cherishing their strength.

III. Committing to the rule of law and safeguarding the authority of the Constitution and laws

We will focus our legislative efforts on the improvement of the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics. The rule of law is our fundamental means of governance. However, for that to be realized, we must have laws to go by. Therefore, in line with overall requirements for improving the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics, we need to strengthen and make improvements to our lawmaking efforts, enhance the organization and coordination of our lawmaking initiatives, and give better play to the role that lawmaking plays as a spearhead and driving force for development. 

We will continue working to high standards in the formulation of laws and step up the intensity of legislation in key areas. Placing a special emphasis on legislation in connection to social programs, we will formulate laws on the promotion of social undertakings, the improvement of social safety nets, the standardization of non-government organizations, and on the strengthening of social management. At the same time, we will continue to improve legislation with regard to the market economy, and in particular taxation. When the necessary conditions are in place, administrative regulations on taxation made by the State Council under authorization will be upgraded as laws. In addition, we will make active efforts to strengthen legislation with regard to the development of socialist democracy, and place a stronger emphasis on the formulation of laws with regard to culture, science, and technology. Taking requirements for the building of a beautiful China into account, we will improve legislation concerning ecological protection.

We will lay a stronger emphasis on the revision and improvement of existing laws. We will make prompt changes to laws which are not accommodated to social and economic development, and replace general provisions with specific ones, so as to make laws more implementable. In order to promote scientific development and the transformation of the mode of economic development, we will prioritize the revision and improvement of laws pertaining to economic and social activities. In addition, we will establish permanent mechanisms for the streamlining of laws, whereby existing laws and regulations will be revised or revoked to coincide with the introduction of major new laws. This initiative will help to promote the development of a legal system that is scientific, harmonious, and unified.  

We will urge the relevant departments to promptly formulate supporting regulations for existing laws. Overall plans will be made so that supporting regulations can be drawn up as drafts for new or revised laws are being made. These supporting regulations can then be promulgated shortly after the laws in question are passed. In cases where supporting regulations cannot be issued promptly, we will follow up and supervise the drafting process to ensure their timely issuance.

We will widen the channels for orderly public participation in the legislative process. In this respect, we will make improvements to institutions that provide for the holding of seminars, debates, and hearings during the legislative process and for the public solicitation of opinions once draft laws are published. We will extensively solicit opinions and suggestions from all sectors of society, especially the grassroots level; develop sound mechanisms for the public to express their opinions and for feedback to be provided on the adoption of public suggestions; and make active efforts to respond to the concerns of the public, so as to ensure that our legislation is able to fully embody the wishes of the general public.

The formation of the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics means that we now have an essentially comprehensive set of laws to follow. Therefore, compared to the formulation of laws, ensuring that the laws we have are observed, that laws are strictly enforced, and that lawbreakers are held accountable stand out as more pressing issues. Therefore, in addition to enhancing our efforts in legislation, we also need to take effective measures to ensure that our Constitution and laws are effectively implemented and that the unity, dignity, and authority of our legal system are preserved. In our efforts to push forward the development of a socialist country based on the rule of law, we need to devote our energies to significantly raising awareness of the rule of law, place all initiatives of the state on a legal footing, and give full play to the role of the rule of law in state governance and social management. We must lawfully supervise the building of a law-based government, lawfully supervise impartial judicial practice, and lawfully safeguard the legal rights and interests of the general public.

We will enhance supervision with a view to promoting the implementation of the major decisions and arrangements of the central leadership. Supervision is an important function and power that has been granted to the organs of state power by China’s Constitution and laws. Therefore, as the organs of state power, people’s congresses and their standing committees conduct legally binding supervision on behalf of both the state and the people. Conducting supervision in accordance with the law represents an important channel for promoting the implementation of the major policies and arrangements of the central leadership and for restricting and monitoring the use of power by the government.

Prioritizing the effective implementation of the major policies and arrangements of the central leadership, people’s congresses should strengthen their supervision over people’s governments, people’s courts, and people’s procuratorates. Effective supervision by people’s congresses will urge these institutions to make improvements in their work. At the same time, by conscientiously subjecting themselves to the lawful supervision of people’s congresses, these three institutions will be better able to ensure law-based administration and impartiality in judicial practice. We need to strike a sound balance between supervision by people’s congresses and efforts by these three institutions to exercise their powers in accordance with the law, so that each may pursue the objectives and tasks outlined in their respective reports with the supervision and support of people’s congresses. 

In addition to stepping up supervision over economic work, the resolution of issues pertaining to the public wellbeing, as well as fiscal budgets, we must continue to make improvements to the approaches and methods we adopt in supervision. To do so, we need to better integrate various means of supervision, such as deliberating special reports, conducting dedicated studies, and holding dedicated inquiries, carry out in-depth follow-up activities, and make efforts to further raise the intensity and standard of supervision efforts. We must ensure the correct implementation of the Constitution and laws, ensure that administrative and judicial powers are exercised appropriately, and safeguard the lawful rights and interests of Chinese citizens, corporations, and other organizations.

The deputies to people’s congresses are broadly representative. This being the case, showing respect for the principal role that deputies play and offering support to ensure that deputies are able to perform their duties in accordance with the law represents an important aspect of our efforts to adhere to and improve the system of people’s congresses. In keeping with the guiding principles of the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC, we will continue to optimize the breakdown of deputies to people’s congresses by increasing the proportion of ordinary working people, farmers, and intellectuals whilst reducing the proportion of leading cadres from Party and government organizations. Moreover, in order to raise the capacity of deputies to people’s congresses and members of committees to perform their duties pursuant to law, we will optimize the structure of standing committees and special committees in terms of member age and specialist knowledge, and raise the proportion of full-time members in these committees. We will establish deputy liaison offices in people’s congresses and make improvements to institutions pertaining to liaisons with the public in an effort to foster closer ties between deputies and members of the public. In order to adhere to and improve the system of people’s congresses, we will develop vibrant organization systems and operation mechanisms that are geared towards the features of organs of state power. 


(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.5, 2013)

Author: Vice-Secretary-General of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress

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