Chinese constitution: Features, Comparison with Indian + other constitutions

China is a socialist country. There is supremacy of socialist ideology in China.

The Chinese Constitution accepts the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Communist Party of China (CPC) is the largest political party in the world, having millions of local level members.

It works on the principle of Democratic Centralism. The full meeting of the party is called as National Party Congress (NPC), which is convened once in five years. Though theoretically all power lies with the people, but in practice, it is with the top leaders.

NPC members select the members of the Central Committee. The Central Committee selects the Polit Bureau (around 200 members). The Polit Bureau selects the Standing Committee of the Polit Bureau (at present 24 members; the most powerful members of the party).

Salient Features of the Constitution

  • Preamble

The paramount position of Marxism, Leninism and Mao’s teachings has been acknowledged in relation to ideological goals of the political system. Traditional principle of Democratic Centralism has also been given due place within the Constitutional setup. The old definition of China as a “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” has been replaced with “People’s Democratic Dictatorship.”

The Preamble clearly recognizes Taiwan as an integral part of China and its liberation is declared as a liability of Chinese People. Five points have been set as the underlying principles to be observed in the field of foreign relations. These include:

  1. Respect and Preservation of the territorial integrity of all nations
  2. Avoidance of aggression
  3. Non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries
  4. Promotion of international cooperation
  5. Peaceful coexistence
  • Nature of Constitution

It has close affinity in letter and spirit, with the constitution of the former Soviet Union. It is neither too rigid nor too flexible.

  • Basic Principles

Under the Constitution, People’s Republic of China is a Socialist State established in the name of People’s Democratic dictatorship, wherein Communist Party performs a leadership role to guide the people. People are declared as fountain of power and authority and they will exercise it through National People’s Congress.

  • Unitary System

The People’s Republic of China is a unitary multi-national state created jointly by the people of all its nationalities. In China, a strong central government exists while regional governments, as distinct entities, have not been created under the Constitution. Therefore, In order to encourage people’s participation in policy-making and preserve their interest in public affairs, decentralization has been introduced in the governmental affairs. The central government has delegated much authority and powers to the regional and local administrative units.

  • Democratic Centralism

Like the political system of former Soviet Union, the principle of “Democratic Centralism” prevails in People’s Republic of China as well. Keeping in view democratic norms, elective principle has been introduced at all levels not only within the governmental institutions but also within the Party organization. All the citizens have been secured the right to vote on the basis of adult suffrage.

  • One Party System
  1. The Communist Party enjoys almost dictatorial powers within the constitutional framework and has been regarded as the sole source of political authority for all practical purposes.
  2. Party organization runs parallel to that of the governmental institutions. Party elite hold all top-notch positions in the government.
  3. In practice, no other political party enjoys real freedom to act.

Certain youth organizations, loyal to the party and working groups affiliated with the Party, enjoy the right to participate in decision-making.

Legislature

  1. The National People’s Congress (NPC) comprises the legislative branch.
  2. It is a unicameral legislature with more than 3000 members.
  3. Theoretically, it is the top decision making body in China. It has the ultimate say on policies, amendments and appointment of ministers in the government.
  4. It has been declared as an organ through which the people exercise state power.
  5. Congressmen are elected by regional Congresses, by autonomous regions, by Municipalities working under the central government and by People’s Liberation Army, each according to its quota.
  6. The mode of election is based on secret ballot, while the constitution guarantees holding of free and fair elections.
  7. The real work of NPC is done by a smaller body known as Standing Committee of NPC, consisting around 150 members.
  • Duration

The Congressmen are elected for a period of five years but the Congress can be dissolved before the expiry of its term and it can be extended as well. The Standing Committee of the Congress is responsible for making proper arrangements for holding fresh elections prior to the completion of its term.

  • Sessions

Sessions of the Congress are held once a year in Beijing. The Standing Committee of the Congress normally summons its session. In addition to it, the Chairman of the Congress can also summon the session on the request of one fifth of its members.

  • Powers

The National People’s Congress is the supreme law-making body, which is fully authorized to enact laws, alter or repeal the existing ones. It also approves the administrative policy for the state.

Enactment of Laws

During its sessions, the Congress enacts new laws and makes necessary alterations in the existing ones, if circumstances so demand. The Constitution can be amended with the support of two-thirds majority of the members of the Congress, whereas ordinary laws are enacted by a simple majority. It is to be noted, that the acts of the Congress cannot be challenged in the Supreme Court.

Executive Powers

National People’s Congress is also empowered under the Constitution, to supervise the execution of constitutional laws and statutes. It can affect and control administrative policies through its choice regarding the appointment of superior public officials. All the administrative departments along with their ministers in charge are accountable to the Congress in respect of performing their official functions. Congress also exercises the power to approve National Economic Policy and the annual budget. Congress is fully authorized under the constitution to exercise all such powers as it thinks expedient and necessary within its sphere of action.

Elective functions

NPC holds a pivotal position within governmental structure by virtue of its power to elect the top-notch occupants of the governmental authority. Under the Constitution, it also elects the President and Vice President of the Republic and appoints Premier of the State Council on the recommendation of the President. On the advice of the Premier, it also appoints other ministers. Congress is also empowered to remove the ministers. It also exercises the power to appoint or remove the President of the Supreme Court and Chief Procurator of the Supreme Procurate.

Though the NPC is fully authorized by the Constitution to exercise all the foregoing powers, in practice, it is not an active body. Rather its position, as a free law-making body is merely in theory. Major reasons being:

  1. Its sessions are rarely held on a regular basis. It meets only once a year, that too for not more than a few days.
  2. The powers of Congress are virtually exercised by its Standing Committee.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee of the Congress is an effective and active body, as it exercises, in practice, most of the Congressional powers. It is outwardly a body subordinate to the Congress, as a matter of principle. It is accountable to the parent body and is bound to present regular reports of its working. All the members of the Committee are elected by the Congress and liable to be removed on its discretion.

Powers

  1. The Committee summons the sessions of the Congress, in addition to the issuance of orders to hold its fresh elections.
  2. It performs the function of interpreting the statutes as well as the laws of the Constitution. The performance of this judicial type of function enhances its importance and the scope of power.
  3. It supervises the functioning of the State Council, of superior courts and that of Procurator. These functions have been assigned to the Standing Committee by the Constitution.
  4. The Committee has the authority to alter or repeal any inappropriate decision of the official departments, autonomous regions, provinces and that of the Municipalities working under the Central government.
  5. It is actually the repository of real powers during the interval in which the Congress is out of session. During this period, it wields the authority to issue orders regarding the appointment of new ministers and removal of the previous ones, on the advice of the Premier. It can issue orders for the appointment or removal of the Vice President as well as the Deputy Chief Procurator.
  • Chairman

The Chairman of the Committee has been regarded as the most powerful person in the political setup. He presides over the meetings of the Standing Committee. He has also been endowed with the power to issue decrees and promulgate ordinances. His list of duties include:

  1. To receive the diplomatic envoys of other countries;
  2. Ratification of the treaties made with other countries; and
  3. Appointment of the members of diplomatic corps assigned to other countries.

Other Committees

The People’s Congress forms a number of Committees during its term, such as National Committee on fiscal and economic affairs, Committee on education, science, culture and health issues, Committee on foreign affairs, Committee on matters relating to Chinese settled abroad. All these committees work under the supervision of the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress during the period the latter is not in session.

Keeping in view the aforesaid functions and powers of the Standing Committee, it is apparent that it is a powerful and effective body. As the Congressional annual session lasts a few days only, its powers are virtually exercised by the Standing Committee for the remaining period the parent body is not in session. The Committee’s members, being the members of the Chinese Communist Party, perform important role in administrative affairs as well.

Executive

  • State Council

The State Council is the Cabinet or Executive of China. It is headed by the Premier, four Vice Premiers and State Councillors. Under the Constitution, State Council is the chief executive organ of the government. All its members are elected by the Congress and accountable to it. Enforcement of law, formation and execution of the administrative policy is the major function of the Council. The members of the State Council introduce the bills on the floor of the Congress in the form of proposals and later manage to get these translated into law on parliamentary lines.

  • Premier

The Premier performs a very important role as head of the administration and holds a pivotal position within the administrative set up.

  • President
  1. The President of the Republic is regarded as head of the state.
  2. He is elected by the Congress for a period of five years.
  • The President enjoys the most prestigious position in the administrative setup.

Judiciary

China has a committed Judiciary, i.e. committed to the goal of Socialism. The highest organ is the Supreme People’s Court. China also has a Court of Procuratorates – it deals with corruption cases of officials. Chinese law has never been codified in a systematic form. Most of the disputes and controversies are settled in quasi-judicial institutions. The Chinese judicial system has been held together more by conventions, rather than by laws.

  • Central Military Commission
  1. The party and the government maintain control on the military through the Central Military Commission
  2. Military is also described as the defenders of the Communist Party.

Rights and Duties

Rights

  1. The Chinese Constitution gives Fundamental Rights and prescribes certain duties for its citizens.
  2. All citizens at least18 years of age are secured the right to vote. They also enjoy the right to contest elections. Right to secrecy of all correspondence, freedom of speech and expression, freedom to join or form associations, and right to hold public meetings even to the extent of staging demonstration or resorting to strike for articulation of demands, have been secured under the Constitution.
  • According to the constitution, the government is under obligation to afford full protection to the preservation of family life in addition to the integrity of a person. All citizens have the right to personal security against illegal detention. The constitution also recognizes equal right of all citizens to education and cultural freedom. Equality of men and women has also been recognized in all areas of life.

Duties

The Chinese constitution explicitly prescribes certain duties of the citizens, which are justiciable. It is the first and foremost duty of the citizens to cooperate with the Socialist leadership in every respect, abide by the Constitution and all other state laws. They are required to protect public property and extend a helping hand in the maintenance of law and order. To defend the country against foreign aggression is also another duty of the citizens.

Communist Party of China

The Chinese Communist Party came into being in 1921. Lenin sent one representative to China to assist in organizing the newly established party. Cheng Tu-hisu was appointed as the first Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party and within a short period many branches of the Party were established in the towns and cities.

  • Ideological Foundations

Ideology of the Chinese Communist Party had been shaped by the teachings of Marx and Lenin right from its inception. It developed a deep linkage with the global Communist Movement in its early phase. Mao also played a pivotal role in the socialist struggle of the Chinese People.

  • Party Organization

The party operates on the principle of Democratic Centralism. Accordingly all office bearers of the Party are elected. Primary unit of the Party elects District Congress while District Congress elects the deputies of the Congress of the upper level. Party members enjoy right to criticize party leadership and may initiate proposals for framing party policies. On the same pattern, primary party branches may lodge complaints for the consideration of higher leadership.

On the other hand, strict party discipline is maintained and strong centralism operates in the decision-making process. It is obligatory on the lower ranked party members to abide by the decisions of the higher ranked party leadership. In practice, most of the decisions are thrust upon by the higher ranks within the central leadership.

  • Politburo

The Politburo has been regarded as the most powerful body in the decision-making process, as it makes all- important decisions; so much so that it summons the sessions of the Central Committee. It also has a Standing Committee consisting of seven members. Like its counterpart within the government, the Standing Committee of the Politburo exercises all the powers of the Central Committee when the latter is not in session.

  • National Congress of the Communist Party of Congress

National Congress of the Communist Party of Congress holds a pivotal position in the policy-making of the Party. Members of the Congress numbering in thousands with no fixed size are elected by the respective regional and local party congresses for a period of five years.

  • Central Committee

The National Congress of the Communist Party of Congress holds its sessions for a few days, once every five years. The Central Executive Committee, comprising limited membership, exercises the power of the Congress when the latter is not in session. The powers of the Central Executive Committee are also exercised in practice, by its Politburo, as the former rarely holds its meetings. The Central Committee elects the members of its Politburo, as well as its Chairman and Vice Chairman.

Other Parties and Groups

The single party system, on the lines of Soviet Union, has not been adopted in the People’s Republic of China; rather such smaller parties, as Kuomintang Revolutionary Committee, Democratic League, National Construction Association, and various Youth Organizations are allowed to function.

Hence, China is a multi-national and multi-party country. In China, the term democratic parties refer to the eight other parties apart from the Chinese Communist Party. These have developed cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party on different levels, since the inception of the new order.

But, the Communist Party enjoys a political monopoly in China, while other parties have merely dejure existence. Party Organization runs parallel to that of the government. A person holding an important position as a public official is also assigned office within the Party.

The Central leadership of the Party is mainly responsible for chalking out government policies. The importance of any government department can’t be assessed keeping in view merely its legal status, since its role within the Party matters.

The Central leadership of the Party is mainly responsible for chalking out government policies. The importance of any government department can’t be assessed keeping in view merely its legal status, since its role within the Party matters.

By B2B

Revisiting the Basics

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