The National People's Congress

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In the mid-1980s the NPC acquired heightened prominence. The NPC is defined in the 1982 Constitution as "the highest organ of state power" without being identified, as it was in the 1975 state constitution, as "under the leadership of the Communist Party of China." In addition, the Constitution states that "all power in the People's Republic of China belongs to the people." Although the preamble makes clear that the nation operates "under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought," the trend has been to enhance the role of the NPC.

The major functions of the NPC are to amend the state constitution and enact laws; to supervise the enforcement of the state constitution and the law; to elect the president and the vice president of the republic; to decide on the choice of premier of the State Council upon nomination by the president; to elect the major officials of government; to elect the chairman and other members of the state Central Military Commission; to elect the president of the Supreme People's Court and the procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate; to examine and approve the national economic plan, the state budget, and the final state accounts; to decide on questions of war and peace; and to approve the establishment of special administrative regions and the "systems to be instituted there."

The NPC may also remove key government leaders, including the president and vice president and members of the State Council and state Central Military Commission. The 1982 State Constitution established the state Central Military Commission as the key governmental body charged with "directing the armed forces." While the party Central Military Commission provided the political direction for military policy making, the state Central Military Commission oversaw key military personnel appointments, managed PLA financial and material resources, developed regulations, and implemented statutes to provide a more rational and professional organizational basis for the PLA. The chairman of the state Central Military Commission--in a departure from earlier practices that put either the state president or the party chairman in command--was designated as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The 3,000 members of the NPC meet once a year and serve 5-year terms. Delegates are elected by the people's congresses at the provincial level as well as by the PLA. Provincial delegations meet before each NPC session to discuss agenda items. There were 2,977 deputies at the First Session of the Sixth National People's Congress held from June 6 to 21, 1983. Because of the infrequent meetings, the NPC functions through a permanent body, the Standing Committee, whose members it elects (155 members in 1983). The Standing Committee's powers were enhanced in 1987 when it was given the ability to "enact and amend laws with the exception of those which should be enacted by the NPC," thus giving this body legislative powers. The Standing Committee presides over sessions of the NPC and determines the agenda, the routing of legislation, and nominations for offices. The NPC also has six permanent committees: one each for minorities, law, finance, foreign affairs, and overseas Chinese and one for education, science, culture, and health. Leaders of the NPC Standing Committee are invariably influential members of the CCP and leaders of major mass organizations. The Standing Committee has within it a smaller group that is led by the chairman of the Standing Committee (in 1987 Peng Zhen) and in 1987 included the vice chairmen and the secretary of the Standing Committee, comprising a total of twenty-one members.

In addition to the NPC's formal function, the Standing Committee is responsible, among other things, for conducting the election of NPC delegates; interpreting the State Constitution and laws; supervising the work of the executive, the state Central Military Commission, and judicial organs; deciding on the appointment and removal of State Council members on the recommendation of the premier; approving and removing senior judicial and diplomatic officials; ruling on the ratification and abrogation of treaties; and deciding on the proclamation of a state of war when the NPC is not in session.

Although in 1987 the NPC played a greater role than in earlier years, it did not determine the political course of the country. This remained the function of the CCP. Rather, the NPC played a consultative role. Another of its major functions was to serve as a symbol of the Communist regime's legitimacy and popular base. But with the emphasis in the mid-1980s on strengthening the democratic aspects of democratic centralism, the NPC may assume even more importance in decision making.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress