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China’s Basic System of Government

Updated : 2015-05-30

The Constitution states that the People's Republic of China is a socialist state under the people's democratic leadership led by the working class and based on an alliance of workers and farmers, with the socialist system as the basic system.

People's congress

The Constitution states that all power in the People's Republic resides in the people and that the National People's Congress and local people's congresses are the means by which the people exercise state power. The people's congresses are the basic political system in the following ways: the National People's Congress and local people's congresses are chosen through democratic elections and are responsible to the people and subject to their supervision; people's congresses are the means of state power and all administrative, legal, and procuratorate offices of the state are approved by people's congresses, to which they are responsible and by which they are supervised; and the separation of powers between the central and local state offices follows a principle of making full use of the initiative and enthusiasm of local authorities under the unified leadership of central authorities.

Electoral system

The following principles apply to the election of deputies to people's congresses:

1. All citizens of the People's Republic of China who are 18 years of age or older have the right to vote and to stand for election, according to universal suffrage, except for those whose political rights are denied in accordance with the law.

2. A person has the right to vote once in an election, and, to protect voters’ rights, the electoral districts are zoned to ensure that the number of voters represented by each deputy in that district is generally the same.

3. There are direct and indirect elections, with county and township people's congress deputies elected directly by their constituents, and the National People's Congress deputies and provincial, autonomous region, Central Government municipalities, cities with districts, and autonomous prefecture people's congress deputies are elected by the people's congresses at the next level down.

4. The people's congress deputies are elected by secret ballot.

5. To make the election more competitive, the number of candidates for people's congresses must be greater than the number of deputies to be elected.

Regional autonomy

China has a unitary state structure and a regional national autonomy system. The Constitution states that China is a unitary multi-ethnic state created by all its people who, in addition to the Han people, include 55 other ethnic groups that account for about 8 percent of the population. The communities they live in account for about 60 percent of China’s total area. To protect the rights and interests of the minority groups and uphold a relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China's people, the country has a system of regional autonomy in areas where people of different ethnic groups are concentrated.

National autonomous areas are classified regions, prefectures and counties, with five autonomous regions -- Inner Mongolia, the Xinjiang Uygur, Guangxi Zhuang, the Ningxia Hui and Tibet -- and 30 autonomous prefectures, 116 autonomous counties, and three autonomous banners. All the autonomous areas are an integral part of the People's Republic of China.

Self-governance is exercised by autonomous areas through people's congresses and people's governments. For chairmen and vice-chairmen of the people's congress standing committees of autonomous regions, prefectures, or counties there must be at least one member of an ethnic group exercising regional autonomy. The chairman of an autonomous region, prefect of an autonomous prefecture, or the head of an autonomous county must be a member of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy. In addition to the usual functions and powers of other local offices of the state, the governments of autonomous areas are to exercise their power of autonomy in accordance with the laws and policies of the state while local conditions are taken into consideration. The people's congresses of autonomous areas have the power to pass regulations to exercise their autonomy that reflect the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the ethnic group. If a resolution, decision, order or instruction from a higher state office does not fit the conditions of an autonomous area, the local government can either implement it with some alterations or cease implementing it after reporting it to the higher state office and getting approval. The government offices of autonomous areas can independently administer local economic development under the guidance of state plans. Local government offices of autonomous areas have the power of autonomy in administering the finances of the area. Local government offices of autonomous areas can independently administer educational, scientific, cultural, public health and physical culture affairs in their area. In the use of natural resources and enterprises in autonomous areas, the state takes into account the interests of those areas and provides financial, material and technical assistance to ethnic groups to accelerate their economic and cultural development. The state helps autonomous areas train government officers at various levels, specialized personnel and skilled workers who are members of ethnic groups in those areas.

Special administrative regions

In the matter of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, the Constitution recognizes special administrative regions that the State may establish if necessary with a related system prescribed by a law by the National People's Congress suited the specific conditions.

The 7th National People's Congress decided at its 3rd Session, on April 4, 1990, to establish a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, after it resumed sovereignty, on July 1, 1997, and adopted the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. On March 31, 1993, the 8th National People's Congress decided at its 1st Session to establish a Macao Special Administrative Region, when it resumed sovereignty, on Dec 20, 1999 and adopted the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region.

To maintain national unity and territorial integrity as well as prosperity, development and stability of Hong Kong and Macao, the People's Republic of China decided to follow a principle of "one country, two systems", whereby its socialist system and policies are not applied to Hong Kong and Macao, and to maintain the old capitalist system and way of life unchanged for 50 years. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Macao Special Administrative Region are inalienable parts of the People's Republic of China and are local administrative regions of the People's Republic of China, directly under the administration of the central government, but, at the same time, are special administrative regions that follow a different system and policies from those of the mainland, with a certain degree of autonomy.

The two special administrative regions exercise that autonomy through executive, legislative, and independent judicial and adjudicatory powers. They can conduct external affairs on their own with Central People's Government authorization. For the Central People's Government to maintain leadership and administration of the special administrative regions, it will be responsible for foreign affairs and the defense of the special administrative regions, and will appoint the chief executives and principal officials of the regions. Some national laws related to the defense, foreign affairs, and other matters outside the limits of the special administrative region autonomy will be applied locally by the regional legislators. Laws enacted by the special administrative region legislatures must be reported to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for the record. If the Standing Committee finds any law enacted by the special administrative regions legislatures that are not in conformity with the two regional Basic Laws as regards Central Government affairs or Central Government and special administrative region relations, the Standing Committee may reject the law in question. The power to amend the two regional Basic Laws rests with the National People's Congress and the power to interpret the two Basic Laws rests with the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

The Preamble to the Constitution states, "Taiwan is part of the territory of the People's Republic of China. It is the inviolable duty of all Chinese, including compatriots in Taiwan, to accomplish the task of reunifying the motherland." The Chinese government and people are working to develop cross-Straits relations and promote the peaceful reunification of the motherland under the "one country, two systems" principle.


Socialist ownership of the means of production, i.e. ownership by all the people or collective ownership by the working people, is the basis of China’s socialist economic system. In the primary stage of socialism, the State supports the basic economic system whereby public ownership predominates while diverse forms of ownership develop side-by-side, and maintains a predominant system whereby distribution is in accordance with work and diverse modes of distribution. The non-public areas of the economy, such as individual or private sectors, operating within the limits of the law, are an important component of the socialist market economy. China permits foreign enterprises, foreign economic organizations and individual foreigners to invest in China and enter the economic co-operation with Chinese enterprises and Chinese economic organizations in accordance with the law of the People's Republic of China.