Politics of China

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Politics of the People's Republic of China

Chinese: 中华人民共和国的政治
pinyin: Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó de zhèngzhì
National Emblem of the People's Republic of China (2).svg
Polity typeUnitary one-party socialist republic[1][non-primary source needed]
Constitution1982 Constitution of the People's Republic of China
Legislative branch
NameNational People's Congress
Meeting placeGreat Hall of the People, Beijing
Presiding officerLi Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
Executive branch
Head of State
TitleGeneral Secretary and President
CurrentlyXi Jinping
AppointerNational People's Congress
Head of Government
CurrentlyLi Keqiang
AppointerPresident, according to the decision of the National People's Congress
NameLi Keqiang Government
Current cabinet13th State Council
LeaderLi Keqiang
Deputy leaderHan Zheng
Judicial branch
NameJudicial system of China
Supreme People's Court
Chief judgeZhou Qiang (President)
Supreme People's Procuratorate
Chief judgeZhang Jun

The People's Republic of China is a socialist republic run by a single party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), headed by the CCP General Secretary who serves as the paramount leader of China.[2] State power within the People's Republic of China (PRC) is exercised through the CCP, the Central People's Government (State Council) and its provincial and local representation. The state uses Internal Reference [zh], secret documents produced by Xinhua News Agency, similar to the United States' President's Daily Brief. China's two special administrative regions (SARs), Hong Kong and Macau, have independent multi-party systems and are separate from the mainland's one-party system.

Aside from the SARs, the PRC consists of 22 provinces (excluding Taiwan Province and ROC-controlled Fujian), four directly administered municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing), and five autonomous regions (Guangxi, Tibet, Xinjiang, Ningxia, and Inner Mongolia).

The Chinese political system is authoritarian.[3][4][5][6][7][8] There are no freely elected national leaders, political opposition is suppressed, all religious activity is controlled by the CCP, dissent is not permitted and civil rights are curtailed.[9]


Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the government in Beijing officially asserts to be the sole legitimate government of all of China, which it defined as including mainland China and Taiwan. This is disputed by the Republic of China (ROC) government since the Kuomintang (KMT) fled to Taipei in 1949, which underwent political reforms since then.

Each local Bureau or office is under the coequal authority of the local leader and the leader of the corresponding office, bureau or ministry at the next higher level. People's Congress members at the county level are elected by voters. These county-level People's Congresses have the responsibility of oversight of local government and elect members to the Provincial (or Municipal in the case of independent municipalities) People's Congress. The Provincial People's Congress, in turn, elects members to the National People's Congress that meets each year in March in Beijing.[10][non-primary source needed] The ruling CCP committee at each level plays a large role in the selection of appropriate candidates for election to the local congress and to the higher levels.

The President of China is the head of state, serving as the ceremonial figurehead under National People's Congress.[note 1] The Premier of China is the head of government, presiding over the State Council composed of four vice premiers and the heads of ministries and commissions. As a one-party state, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party holds ultimate power and authority over state and government.[note 2] The offices of President, General Secretary, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission have been held simultaneously by one individual since 1993, granting the individual de jure and de facto power over the country.[note 3]

China's population, geographical vastness, and social diversity frustrate attempts to rule from Beijing. Economic reform during the 1980s and the devolution of much central government decision making, combined with the strong interest of local Communist Party officials in enriching themselves, has made it increasingly difficult for the central government to assert its authority.[26][ISBN missing] Political power has become much less personal and more institutionally based than it was during the first forty years of the PRC. For example, Deng Xiaoping was never the CCP General Secretary, President, or Premier of China, but was the leader of China for a decade. Currently, the authority of China's leaders is much more tied to their institutional base.[dubious ] The position of CCP General Secretary is the highest authority leading China's National People's Congress, State Council, Political Consultative Conference, Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate in Xi Jinping's administration.

The incident of Hong Kong’s Missing Booksellers had alarmed the public that political confrontation of different political cadre in the senior level of the Chinese Communist Party still dominates China's politics.[27]

Central government leaders must, in practice, build consensus for new policies among party members, local and regional leaders, influential non-party members, and the population at large.[28] However, control is often maintained over the larger group through control of information. The Chinese Communist Party considers China to be in the initial stages of socialism. Many Chinese and foreign observers[weasel words] see the PRC as in transition from a system of public ownership to one in which private ownership plays an increasingly important role. Privatization of housing and increasing freedom to make choices about education and employment severely weakened the work unit system that was once the basic cell of Communist Party control over society.[citation needed] China's vast social, cultural and economic diversity has led to heterogeneity in the policies applied at the local and regional level.[29]

The social, cultural, and political as well as economic consequences of market reform have created tensions in Chinese society. Some Chinese scholars[weasel words] such as Zhou Tianyong, the vice director of research of the Central Party School as of 5 April 2005, argue, as of September 2004, that gradual political reform, as well as repression of those pushing for overly rapid change over the next twenty years,[needs update?] will be essential if China is to avoid an overly turbulent transition to a middle class dominated polity.[30][31] Some Chinese[weasel words] look back to the Cultural Revolution and fear chaos if the Communist Party should lose control due to domestic upheavals and so a robust system of monitoring and control is in place to counter the growing pressure for political change.[citation needed]


Socialist consultative democracy[edit]

The Chinese Communist Party calls China's system a "socialist consultative democracy". According to an article in the Communist Party theoretical journal Qiushi[better source needed], "Consultative democracy was created by the CPC and the Chinese people as a form of socialist democracy. ... Not only representing a commitment to socialism, it carries forward China’s political and cultural traditions. Not only representing a commitment to the organizational principles and leadership mode of democratic centralism, it also affirms the role of the general public in a democracy. Not only representing a commitment to the leadership of the CPC, it also gives play to the role of all political parties and organizations as well as people of all ethnic groups and all sectors of society".[32][better source needed]

According to a China Today[better source needed] editorial, "Consultative democracy guarantees widespread and effective participation in politics through consultations carried out by political parties, peoples congresses, government departments, CPPCC committees, peoples organizations, communities, and social organizations".[33]

In 2012, Li Changjian, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body, said that consultative democracy should be made a greater priority in China's political reform.[34][better source needed] A significant feature of socialist consultative democracy is consulting with different sectors in order to achieve maximum consensus.[34][better source needed]

However, elections are also an element in socialist consultative democracy,[34] even though the People's Republic of China is often erroneously[a fact or an opinion? (See discussion.)] criticised for not having elections.[35] This error likely stems from a misunderstanding of the PRC's election system.[36][unreliable source?] However, no substantial legal political opposition groups are allowed to participate in the election.[citation needed]

Communist Party[edit]

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to dominate government. In periods of relative liberalization, the influence of people and groups outside the formal party structure has tended to increase, particularly in the economic realm. Under the command economy, every state-owned enterprise was required to have a party committee. The introduction of the market economy means that economic institutions now exist in which the party has either limited or much power.

Nevertheless, in all governmental institutions in the PRC, the party committees at all levels maintain a powerful and pivotal role in the administration. According to scholar Rush Doshi, "[t]he Party sits above the state, runs parallel to the state, and is enmeshed in every level of the state."[37] Central party control is tightest in central government offices and in urban economic, industrial, and cultural settings; it is considerably looser over the government and party establishments in rural areas, where the majority of Mainland Chinese people live. The CCP's most important responsibility comes in the selection and promotion of personnel. They also see that party and state policy guidance is followed and that non-party members do not create autonomous organizations that could challenge party rule. Particularly important are the leading small groups which coordinate activities of different agencies. There is no convention that government committees contain at least one non-party member, party membership is a definite aid in the promotion and in being included in crucial policy-setting meetings.

Constitutionally, the party's highest body is the Party Congress, which is supposed to meet at least once every five years. Meetings were irregular before the Cultural Revolution but have been periodic since then. The CCP elects the Central Committee and the primary organs of power are formally parts of the central committee.

The primary organs of power in the CCP include:


Political Consultative Conference

The primary organs of state power are the National People's Congress (NPC), the President, and the State Council. Members of the State Council include the Premier, a variable number of vice premiers (now four), five state councillors (protocol equal of vice premiers but with narrower portfolios), and 29 ministers and heads of State Council commissions. During the 1980s there was an attempt made to separate party and state functions, with the party deciding general policy and the state carrying it out. The attempt was abandoned in the 1990s with the result that the political leadership within the state are also the leaders of the party, thereby creating a single centralized locus of power.

At the same time, there has been a convention that party and state offices be separated at levels other than the central government, and it is unheard of for a sub-national executive to also be party secretary. The conflict has been often known to develop between the chief executive and the party secretary, and this conflict is widely seen as intentional to prevent either from becoming too dominant. Some special cases are the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau where the Communist Party does not function at all as part of the governmental system, and the autonomous regions where, following Soviet practice, the chief executive is typically a member of the local ethnic group while the party general secretary is non-local and usually Han Chinese.

Under the Constitution of China, the NPC is the highest organ of state power in China. It meets annually for about 2 weeks to review and approve major new policy directions, laws, the budget, and major personnel changes. Most national legislation in China is adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC). Most initiatives are presented to the NPCSC for consideration by the State Council after previous endorsement by the Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee. Although the NPC generally approves State Council policy and personnel recommendations, the NPC and its standing committee has increasingly asserted its role as the national legislature and has been able to force revisions in some laws.[39] For example, the State Council and the Party have been unable to secure passage of a fuel tax to finance the construction of freeways.

Local government[edit]

Currently,[when?] local government in China is structured in a hierarchy on four different levels. With the village being the grassroots (usually a hundred or so families), and not considered part of the hierarchy, local government advances through the township, county, prefecture or municipality, and the province as the geographical area of jurisdiction increases. Each level in the hierarchy is responsible for overseeing the work carried out by lower levels on the administrative strata. At each level are two important officials. A figure that represents the CCP, colloquially termed the Party chief or the Party Secretary, acts as the policy maker. This figure is appointed by their superiors. The head of the local People's Government, is, in theory, elected by the people. Usually called a governor, mayor, or magistrate, depending on the level, this figure acts to carry out the policies and most ceremonial duties. The distinction has evolved into a system where the Party Secretary is always in precedence above the leader of the People's Government.

After Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978 greater autonomy has been given to provinces in terms of economic policy implementation as well as other areas of policy such as education and transportation. As a result, some provincial authorities have evolved tendencies of operating on a de facto federal system with Beijing. Prominent examples of greater autonomy are seen in the provinces of Guangdong and Zhejiang, where local leaders do little to adhere to the strict standards issued by the Central Government, especially economic policy. In addition, conflicts have arisen in the relations of the central Party leaders with the few provincial-level Municipalities, most notably the municipal government of Shanghai and the rivalry between former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong and Jiang Zemin. The removal of Shanghai Municipality Party Secretary Chen Liangyu in September 2006 is the latest[when?] example.

China's system of autonomous regions and autonomous prefectures within provinces are formally intended to provide for greater autonomy by the ethnic group majority that inhabits the region. In practice, however, power rests with the Party secretary. Beijing will often appoint loyal party cadres to oversee the local work as Party secretary, while the local Chairman of the region's government is regarded as its nominal head. Power rests with the Party secretary. To avoid the solidification of local loyalties during a cadre's term in office, the central government freely and frequently transfers party cadres around different regions of the country, so a high ranking cadre's career might include service as governor or party secretary of several different provinces.[citation needed]

Administrative divisions[edit]

Click any region for more info. For a larger version of this map, see here.
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous RegionTibet Autonomous RegionQinghaiGansuSichuanYunnanNingxia Hui Autonomous RegionInner Mongolia Autonomous RegionShaanxiChongqing MunicipalityGuizhouGuangxi Zhuang Autonomous RegionShanxiHenanHubeiHunanGuangdongHainanHebeiHeilongjiangJilinLiaoningBeijing MunicipalityTianjin MunicipalityShandongJiangsuAnhuiShanghai MunicipalityZhejiangJiangxiFujianHong Kong Special Administrative RegionMacau Special Administrative RegionTaiwanChina administrative.gif
About this image

National armed forces[edit]

The Chinese Communist Party created and leads the People’s Liberation Army. After the PRC was established in 1949, the PLA also became a state military. The state military system inherited and upholds the principle of the Communist Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces. The Party and the State jointly established the Central Military Commission that carries out the task of supreme military leadership over the armed forces.

The 1954 PRC Constitution provides that the State Chairman (President) directs the armed forces and made the State Chairman the chair of the Defense Commission (the Defense Commission is an advisory body, it does not lead the armed forces). On September 28, 1954, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party re-established the Central Military Commission as the leader of the PLA and the people’s armed forces. From that time onwards, the system of joint Party and state military leadership was established. The Central Committee of the Communist Party leads in all military affairs. The State Chairman directs the state military forces and the development of the military forces managed by the State Council.[40]

In December 2004, the fifth National People’s Congress revised the State Constitution to provide that the State Central Military Commission leads all the armed forces of the state. The chair of the State CMC is chosen and removed by the full NPC while the other members are chosen by the NPC Standing Committee. However, the CMC of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party remained the Party organization that directly leads the military and all the other armed forces. In actual practice, the Party CMC, after consultation with the democratic parties, proposes the names of the State CMC members of the NPC so that these people after going through the legal processes can be elected by the NPC to the State Central Military Commission. That is to say, that the CMC of the Central Committee and the CMC of the State are one group and one organization. However, looking at it organizationally, these two CMCs are subordinate to two different systems – the Party system and the State system. Therefore, the armed forces are under the absolute leadership of the Communist Party and are also the armed forces of the state. This is a unique[peacock term] Chinese system that ensures the joint leadership of the Communist Party and the state over the armed forces.[40]

State leaders[edit]

Politburo Standing Committee[edit]

No. Portrait Information Party position(s) State position(s)
Xi Jinping
Name Xi Jinping General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of CCP
President of the People's Republic of China
Chairman of the Central Military Commission of PRC
Birthplace Beijing
NPC Constituency Inner Mongolia at-large
Member since 22 October 2007
Li Keqiang
Name Li Keqiang Party Secretary of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Premier of the People's Republic of China
Birthplace Hefei, Anhui
NPC Constituency Guangxi at-large
Member since 22 October 2007
Li Zhanshu
Name Li Zhanshu Party Secretary of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
Birthplace Pingshan County, Hebei
NPC Constituency Jiangxi at-large
Member since 25 October 2017
Wang Yang
Name Wang Yang Party Secretary of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
Birthplace Suzhou, Anhui
NPC Constituency Sichuan at-large
Member since 25 October 2017
Wang Huning
Name Wang Huning Top-ranked Secretary of the Central Secretariat of the CCP
Birthplace Shanghai
NPC Constituency Hebei at-large
Member since 25 October 2017
6th Name Zhao Leji Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection
Birthplace Xining, Qinghai
NPC Constituency Heilongjiang at-large
Member since 25 October 2017
Han Zheng
Name Han Zheng Deputy Party Secretary of the State Council of the People's Republic of China First Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
Birthplace Shanghai
NPC Constituency Shaanxi at-large
Member since 25 October 2017

Full Politburo members[edit]

Hanzi Name Year of birth Office(s)
习近平 Xi Jinping
General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party
President of the People's Republic of China
Chairman of the Central Military Commission
李克强 Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council
栗战书 Li Zhanshu
Chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee
汪洋 Wang Yang
Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
王沪宁 Wang Huning
Secretary of the Central Secretariat (first-ranked)
赵乐际 Zhao Leji
Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection
韩正 Han Zheng
Vice Premier of the State Council (first-ranked)
丁薛祥 Ding Xuexiang
Director of the General Office
王晨 Wang Chen
Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
刘鹤 Liu He
Vice Premier of the State Council
许其亮 Xu Qiliang
Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
孙春兰 Sun Chunlan
Vice Premier of the State Council
李希 Li Xi
Party Secretary of Guangdong
李强 Li Qiang
Party Secretary of Shanghai
李鸿忠 Li Hongzhong
Party Secretary of Tianjin
胡春华 Hu Chunhua
Vice Premier of the State Council
杨洁篪 Yang Jiechi
Director of the Office of Foreign Affairs
杨晓渡 Yang Xiaodu
Director of the National Supervisory Commission
张又侠 Zhang Youxia
Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
陈希 Chen Xi
Head of the Organization Department
陈全国 Chen Quanguo
Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
陈敏尔 Chen Min'er
Party Secretary of Chongqing
郭声琨 Guo Shengkun
Secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission
黄坤明 Huang Kunming
Head of the Propaganda Department
蔡奇 Cai Qi
Party Secretary of Beijing


No substantial legal political opposition groups exist, and the country is mainly run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but there are other political parties in the PRC, called "democratic parties", which participate in the People's Political Consultative Conference but mostly serve to endorse CCP policies. Even as there have been some moves in the direction of democratisation as far as the electoral system at least, in that openly contested People's Congress elections are now held at the village and town levels,[41] and that legislatures have shown some assertiveness from time to time, the party retains effective control over governmental appointments. This is because the CCP wins by default in most electorates.[42] The CCP has been enforcing its rule by clamping down on political dissidents as well as simultaneously attempting to reduce dissent by improving the economy and allowing public expression of people's personal grievances, provided that it is not within the agenda of any NGO or other groups openly or covertly opposing CCP ideals. The support that the CCP has among the Chinese population in general is unclear because national elections are mostly CCP dominated,[41][unreliable source?] as there are no opposition political parties and independent candidates elected into office aren't organised well enough to realistically challenge CCP rule. Also, private conversations and anecdotal information often reveal conflicting views.[from whom?] However, according to a survey conducted in Hong Kong, where a relatively high level of freedom is enjoyed, the current[when?] CCP leaders have received substantial votes of support when its residents were asked to rank their favourite Chinese leaders from Mainland and Taiwan.[43]

The eight registered minor parties have existed since before 1950. These parties all formally accept the leadership of the CCP and their activities are directed by the United Front Work Department of the CCP. Their original function was to create the impression that the PRC was being ruled by a diverse national front, not a one-party dictatorship. The major role of these parties is to attract and subsequently muzzle niches in society that have political tendencies, such as academia. Although these parties are tightly controlled and do not challenge the CCP, members of the parties often individually are found in policy-making national institutions, and there is a convention that state institutions generally have at least one sinecure from a minor political party.

The minor parties include the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang, founded in 1948 by leftist dissident members of the mainstream Kuomintang then under control of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek; China Democratic League, created in 1941 by intellectuals in education and the arts; China Democratic National Construction Association, formed in 1945 by educators and national capitalists (industrialists and business people); China Association for Promoting Democracy, started in 1945 by intellectuals in cultural, education (primary and secondary schools), and publishing circles; Chinese Peasants' and Workers' Democratic Party, originated in 1930 by intellectuals in medicine, the arts, and education; China Party for Public Interest (China Zhi Gong Dang), founded in 1925 to attract the support of overseas Chinese; Jiusan Society, founded in 1945 by a group of college professors and scientists to commemorate the victory of the "international war against fascism" on September 3; and Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, created in 1947 by "patriotic supporters of democracy who originated in Taiwan and now reside on the mainland."

Coordination between the eight registered minor parties and the CCP is done through the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference which meets annually in Beijing in March at about the same time that the National People's Congress meets. In addition, there are a few minor parties which either lack official recognition or are actively suppressed by the government, such as the Maoist Communist Party of China, China Democracy Party and China New Democracy Party, which have their headquarters outside of the Mainland China.[44]

Legal system[edit]

The Chinese legal code is a complex amalgam of custom and statute, largely focused on criminal law, though a rudimentary civil code has been in effect since January 1, 1987, and new legal codes have been in effect since January 1, 1980. Continuing efforts are being made to improve civil, administrative, criminal, and commercial law.

Although the current[when?] law of China cannot be categorised by arbitrary rule, it is over-simplifying to describe it as a system of rule of law. While personal freedom and right to private property is nominally guaranteed by law, officials maintain the right to trespass citizens before proving or suspecting them breaking the law through the use of Droit administration. In other words, the concept of Habeas corpus does not apply in China. Also, Party members are subjected to different sets of law, namely the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party, which authorises itself to use state apparatus to regulate behaviours of party members, sometimes overriding Law of the land. One of the most distinctive characteristics of Chinese law is the lack of a mechanism to verify the constitutionality of statute laws. This in effect allows the enactment of any administrative laws as long as circumstances justify.

The government's efforts to promote rule by law (not the same as rule of law) are significant and ongoing. After the Cultural Revolution, the PRC's leaders aimed to develop a legal system to restrain abuses of official authority and revolutionary excesses. In 1982, the National People's Congress adopted a new state constitution that emphasized the concept of rule by law by which party and state organizations are all subject to the law. (The importance of the rule by law was further elevated by a 1999 Constitutional amendment.) Many commentators[who?] have pointed out that the emphasis on rule by law increases rather than decreases the power of the Chinese Communist Party because the party, in its position of power, is in a better position to change the law to suit its own needs.

Since 1979, when the drive to establish a functioning legal system began, more than 301 laws and regulations, most of them in the economic area, have been promulgated. (After China's entry into the WTO, many new economically related laws have been put in place, while others have been amended.) The use of mediation committees - informed groups of citizens who resolve about 90% of the PRC's civil disputes and some minor criminal cases at no cost to the parties - is one innovative device. There are more than 800,000 such committees in both rural and urban areas.

Legal reform became a government priority in the 1990s. Legislation designed to modernize and professionalize the nation's lawyers, judges, and prisons was enacted. The 1994 Administrative Procedure Law allows citizens to sue officials for abuse of authority or malfeasance. In addition, the criminal law and the criminal procedures laws were amended to introduce significant reforms. The criminal law amendments abolished the crime of "counter-revolutionary" activity (and references to "counter-revolutionaries" disappeared with the passing of the 1999 Constitutional amendment), while criminal procedures reforms encouraged the establishment of a more transparent, adversarial trial process. The PRC Constitution and laws provide for fundamental human rights, including due process, although those laws also provide for limitations of those rights.

Although the human rights situation in mainland China has improved markedly since the 1960s (the 2004 Constitutional amendments specifically stressed that the State protects human rights), the government remains determined to prevent any organized opposition to its rule. Amnesty International estimates that the PRC holds several thousand political prisoners. Although illegal, there have been reports of torture by civil authorities.

Nationality and ethnicity[edit]

Nationality is granted at birth to children with at least one Chinese-national parent, with some exceptions. In general, naturalization or the obtainment of the People's Republic of China nationality is difficult. The Nationality Law prescribes only three conditions for the obtainment of PRC nationality (marriage to a PRC national is one, permanent residence is another). If a PRC citizen voluntarily obtains a foreign nationality, he or she loses Chinese nationality automatically (yet this regulation does not apply to party members or government officials[citation needed]). If the citizen then wishes to resume PRC nationality, foreign nationality is no longer recognized.

The PRC is officially a multi-ethnic state providing ethnic autonomy in the form of autonomous administrative entities.[45] By law, ethnic minorities receive advantages in areas such as population control, school admissions, government employment, and military recruitment. The PRC recognises 56 nationalities in China and simultaneously categorises them as one hegemonic Chinese nation. However, separatist sentiment has occasionally flared in Tibet and Xinjiang. As such, independence groups and foreign human rights groups are critical of the PRC's policies in ethnic areas and have bemoaned the presence of Han Chinese (the main ethnic group of China) in Xinjiang and Tibet.

Widespread public reporting details the Chinese government's pattern of human rights violations in its continuing maltreatment of Uyghurs.[46][47][48][49][50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57][58][59][60][excessive citations] These abuses include forced labor, arbitrary detainment, forced political indoctrination, destruction of cultural heritage, and forced abortions and sterilization.[61] Critics of the policy have described it as the sinicization of Xinjiang and called it an ethnocide or cultural genocide,[47][48][49][50][51][52][excessive citations] with many activists, NGOs, human rights experts, government officials, and the U.S. government calling it a genocide.[53][54][62][63][64][65][66][55][excessive citations] The Chinese government denies it is committing human rights violations in Xinjiang.[57]

Foreign relations[edit]

Chinese leader Hu Jintao and US president George W. Bush, with first ladies Liu Yongqing and Laura Bush, wave from the White House. The relationship between the world's sole superpower United States and the emerging superpower status of the PRC is closely watched by international observers.
The Karakoram Highway connecting China and Pakistan is an example of China's international development involvements.

The PRC maintains diplomatic relations with most countries in the world. In 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China, commonly known as "Taiwan" since the 1970s, as the sole representative of China in the United Nations and as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.[67] China had been represented by the Republic of China at the time of the UN's founding in 1945. (See also China and the United Nations.)

Under the One-China policy, the PRC has made it a precondition to establishing diplomatic relations that the other country acknowledges its claim to all of China, including Taiwan, and severs any official ties with the Republic of China (ROC) government. The government actively opposes foreign government meetings with the 14th Dalai Lama in a political capacity, as the spokesperson for a separatist movement in Tibet.

The PRC has been playing a leading role in calling for free trade areas and security pacts amongst its Asia-Pacific neighbours. In 2004, the PRC proposed an entirely new East Asia Summit (EAS) framework as a forum for regional security issues that pointedly excluded the United States.[68] The EAS, which includes ASEAN Plus Three, India, Australia and New Zealand, held its inaugural summit in 2005. China is also a founder and member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), alongside Russia and the Central Asian republics.

Much of the current[when?] foreign policy is based on the concept of "China's peaceful development".[needs update] Nonetheless, crises in relations with foreign countries have occurred at various times in its recent history, particularly with the United States; e.g., the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict in May 1999 and the Hainan Island incident in April 2001. China's foreign relations with many Western nations suffered for a time following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. A much troubled foreign relationship is that between China and Japan, which has been strained at times by Japan's refusal to acknowledge its wartime past to the satisfaction of the PRC, such as revisionistic comments made by prominent Japanese officials, and insufficient details given to the Nanjing Massacre and other atrocities committed during World War II in Japanese history textbooks. Another point of conflict between the two countries is the frequent visits by Japanese government officials to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours not only Japanese World War II dead but also many convicted World War II war criminals, including 14 Class A convictions.

Foreign aid[edit]

After the establishment of the People's Republic of China under the CCP in 1949, China joined the international community in providing foreign aid. In the past few decades, the international community has seen an increase in Chinese foreign aid. Specifically, a recent example is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an infrastructure project that was launched in 2013 by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.[69] The goal of the program is to expand maritime routes and land infrastructure networks connecting China with Asia, Africa, and Europe, boosting trade and economic growth.[70] As the program claims, the five main targets are “policy coordination, facilitating connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and establishing new bonds between people”.[71] More specifically, it involves a massive development of trade routes that will create a large expansion of land transportation infrastructure and new ports in the Pacific and Indian oceans to facilitate regional and intercontinental trade flow and increase oil and gas supply.[72]

BRI is also a controversial policy in the development industry. On the one hand, some believe the economic benefits from BRI will be extraordinary. For instance, several independent World Bank analyses and reports have demonstrated that the BRI would be largely beneficial. The Belt and Road Initiative: Economic, Poverty and Environmental Impacts working paper found that the BRI will increase global income by 0.7% by 2030, which is almost half a trillion dollars. The study also found that the program will “..lifting 7.6 million people from extreme poverty and 32 million from moderate poverty”.[73] Similarly, another study that examined the 71 countries potentially involved in the BRI highlights that the program increases trade flow by up to 4.1%; and with international cooperations, an increase in trade flow will be three times more on average.[74] In terms of economic growth measure by GDP, a quantitative trade model study, The Growth and Welfare Effects of the Belt and Road Initiative on East Asia Pacific Countries, indicates that the BRI will increase GDP between 2.6% and 3.9% for East Asia Pacific developing countries, “which is higher than the expected gains for the world as a whole”.[75] Lastly, according to another study that examined the completed and planned BRI projects on trade efficiency, BRI economies' shipment and trade costs will decrease by 1.5% and 2.8%; for the world, costs will decrease by 1.1% and 2.2%; for countries located most closely to the corridors where the projects are built, shipments and trade costs will decrease by 11.9% and 10.2%.[76]

On the other hand, BRI has also gotten immense economic and political criticisms due to the belief that the projects is a way for China to gain socioeconomic and geopolitical influence. For instance, BRI will lead to border openings with Central Asia, which in turn bring economic development to the west of China.[77] Not only will China benefit from economic development in the west, but the BRI also could serve as a long-term strategy for political stability by the Chinese government. The Western region of China Xinjiang Province, “...where separatist violence has been on the upswing...”, is a crucial security region.[69] Through securing economic stability and growth, the government could also further control the western region of China. In 2019, protests against Chinese factories construction work swept through Kazakhstan due to the concern over the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighurs in the Western region of China.[69] In addition, many countries have publicly criticized the BRI projects. For example, India has strongly opposed some of the BRI’s projects because they feel threatened by the activities in Pakistan. New Delhi feels BRI could lead to the possibility that the geopolitical influence “...will undermine the Indian claims in the contested Kashmir region”.[78] Indian government sees the Chinese expansion in the region as a de facto hostile act that must be controlled.[78] Lastly, critics of BRI has also suggested that the projects may be creating a debt trap. For example, China is Tajikistan’s single largest creditor, in which from 2007 to 2016, debt to China accounts for almost 80% of Tajikistan's total increase in international debt.[79] Specifically, China and Tajikistan have had a long-term territorial dispute, which in 2012, “Tajikistan handed over approximately 1000 square kilometers of land to China in exchange for certain economic benefits”.[80]

International disputes[edit]

The PRC is in a number of international territorial disputes, several of which involved the Sino-Russian border. Although the great majority of them are now resolved,[citation needed] China's territorial disputes have led to several localized wars in the last 50 years, including the Sino-Indian War in 1962, the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969 and the Sino-Vietnam War in 1979. In 2001, China and Russia signed the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation,[81][better source needed] which ended the conflict. Other territorial disputes include islands in the East and South China Seas, and undefined or disputed borders with India, Bhutan and North Korea.

Territorial disputes[edit]

The following territories are claimed by both China and one or more other countries:

International organizations[edit]

Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China under the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, China has a long history of participation with international organizations. China officially entered the global community on October 26, 1971, when the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2758 to transfer the seat from the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan to the People's Republic of China (PRC).[82] The period prior to 1990, China experienced tremendous instability, such as the Cultural Revolution; however, after Deng Xiaoping's economic reform, China's economy rapidly developed which allowed China to emerge as a country now that is highly influential in the international arena.[82]

United Nations[edit]

Today, not only is China apart of many UN organizations, it is also one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. A memo done by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission identified Chinese nationals serving in leadership position within international organizations signifies China's increasing involvement in the international arena.[83] For instance, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and so on are all organizations that Chinese nationals are currently in position of (The memo is updated on a semi-annual basis).[83]

List of International Organizations: AfDB, APEC, AsDB, BIS, CDB (non-regional), ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MINURSO, NAM (observer), OPCW, PCA, SCO, United Nations, UN Security Council, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNITAR, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee

Foreign media[edit]

 Additional information needed

Non-governmental organization (NGO)[edit]

Although NGO development in China is relatively slow compared to other countries, a Harvard University academic study reveals that China did have NGOs as early as during the Dynasties. Specifically in the forms of American missionaries, which assisted in rural reconstruction programs and ideological reforms locally.[84] After the establishment of The People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, Mao banned any NGOs that were related to counter revolutionary goals. During the reform era under Deng beginning the 1970s, NGOs although not completely banned, three laws were implemented to keep relatively tight control over them––the Regulations on the Registration and Management of Social Organizations, the Regulations on the Registration and Management of Foundations, and the Interim Provisions for the Administration of Foreign Chambers of Commerce in China.[85] The latter two were implemented after the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, and the general tone of all the regulations emphasized government control. For instance, the regulations require a two-tiered management system, in which before being legally registered by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, a government agency must sponsor the organization; thus, two governmental agencies must be monitoring the day-to-day operations of the NGO.[85] However, in the 1990s, NGOs began to regain momentum despite restrictions in place.[85] Today, the number of registered organizations in China has grown to over 700,000, “... including many professional and friendship associations, foundations working in the fields of education, science, and culture, and a large number of nonprofits engaged in poverty alleviation, social work with people with disabilities, children, and the elderly. The number of nonprofits and environmental education and climate action groups has also significantly grown”.[86]

A case study done by Jonathan Schwartz on “Environmental NGOs in China: Roles and Limits” examines the debate of the nature of state-civil society relations in authoritarian regimes through looking at environmental NGOs in China, in which two views are presented: 1. the relationship between NGOs and the state is zero-sum, in which the state comes out winning through control, and 2. the relationships between NGOs and the state is positive sum, in which both sides benefit from cooperation to achieve shared goals.[87] By evaluating environmental NGOs’ influence, impact, and potential in China, Schwartz argues that “...the Chinese central government is caught between the goal of environmental protection and continued control over the activities of potentially independent organizations”.[87]

Today, NGOs such as Give2Asia, the Asia Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and so on conduct work everywhere in China ranging from education to poverty alleviation. In 2017 a new policy, “Management of Overseas NGOs’ Activities in Mainland China Law” (FNGO Law), was enacted, which creates registration barriers that, for instance, require a Chinese partner organization to sign on. The reaction from the West has widely been that the space for NGOs to conduct work in may be shrinking.[88]

Civil society[edit]

Academic debates on whether China has a "civil society" is ongoing. The majority of research on Chinese civil society for the past two decades has been to examine “the organizational independence of civic associations from the state”.[89] More recently, researchers have argued that the western driven definition of “civil society” is too narrowly fixed, which does not allow for a full understanding of Chinese civil society. Taru Salmenkari, an associate professor specializing in contemporary China and issues of democracy and civil society in East Asia at Tallinn University, has argued in her “Theoretical Poverty in the Research on Chinese Civil Society” that to understand Chinese civil society, one must “...go beyond the question of the degree of autonomy from the state. It must address the nature of horizontal contacts through which civil society is constituted”.[89]


Chinese civil society has always had to “deal” with restricted spaces for advocacy. For instance, a study by Harvard University on “How Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression” demonstrates that while the censorship of information exists, the purpose of the censorship is not to silence all comments made about the state or any particular issues, but rather to prevent and reduce the probability of collective actions.[90] As the study illustrates, allowing social media to flourish also has allowed negative and positive comments about the state and its leaders to exist.[90] Civil society advocacy is relatively possible as long as it does not lead to collective action. Specifically, the development of technology and the internet has also allowed civil society advocacy to flourish.[91]

 Additional information needed

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The office of the President is largely powerless, with the powers and functions under the Constitution of 1982 comparable to that of a constitutional monarch or a head of state in a parliamentary republic.[11][better source needed]
  2. ^ Xi Jinping was elected President of the People's Republic of China on 14 March 2013.[12][13]
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Further reading[edit]