China is a unitary and socialist state whose constitution calls on the nation to “concentrate on socialist modernization by following the road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics” all the while adhering to the “leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory” as well as “the important thought of the Three Represents,” which are attributed to former CCP general secretary and president of China Jiang Zemin. The political system is led by the 66.4- million-member CCP. Political processes are guided by the CCP constitution and, increasingly, by the state constitution, both promulgated in 1982. The CCP constitution was revised in 2002, and the state constitution was amended in 1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004.
Both constitutions stress the principle of democratic centralism, under which the representative organs of both party and state are elected by lower bodies and in turn elect their administrative arms at corresponding levels. Within representative and executive bodies, the minority must abide by decisions of the majority; lower bodies obey orders of higher-level organs. In theory, the National Party Congress ranks as the highest organ of party power, but actual power lies in the CCP Central Committee and its even more exclusive Political Bureau. At the apex of all political power are the members of the elite Standing Committee of the Political Bureau.
In September 2004 at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th CCP Congress, former party, state, and military leader Jiang Zemin completed his formal handover of responsibilities to Hu Jintao. At the plenum, Jiang gave up his last key position, chairmanship of the CCP Central Military Commission. With Hu holding that position, as well as those of general secretary of the CCP (since November 2002) and president of China (since March 2003), the succession ostensibly was complete. However, Jiang confidants and allies were still entrenched in key positions, and Jiang himself, through several high-profile public appearances, indicated that he would continue to be influential in central party and state policy making.
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