The head of state of China is the president (Hu Jintao, since March 2003, when he succeeded Jiang Zemin). The vice president is Zeng Qinghong (since March 2003; he succeeded Hu). Articles 79–80 of the constitution provide for a president and vice president elected by the National People’s Congress (NPC) for five-year terms and no more than two consecutive terms. The president “engages in activities involving State affairs and receives foreign diplomatic represents.” In pursuance of the decisions of the NPC Standing Committee, the president appoints and recalls plenipotentiary representatives abroad and ratifies and abrogates treaties and important agreements concluded with foreign states.
The vice president assists the president in his work, “may exercise such parts of the functions and powers of the President as the President may entrust to him,” and succeeds to the presidency should the office of president become vacant. Should both offices become vacant, the chairman of the NPC Standing Committee becomes acting president until the NPC elects a new president and vice president.
The government is led by the State Council, the equivalent of a cabinet. The State Council is headed by a premier (Wen Jiabao, since March 2003). There also are four vice premiers and five state councillors (one of whom is the secretary general of the State Council). One of the vice premiers and two of the state councillors double as ministers handling such key portfolios as national defense, public security, and public health. In 2006 there were 22 ministries and four commissions subordinate to the State Council.
In addition, the People’s Bank of China (China’s central bank) and the National Audit Office are part of the State Council system. The five-year terms of office run concurrently with those of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and are limited to no more than two consecutive terms. Executive meetings of the State Council are attended by the premier, vice premiers, state councillors, and secretary general of the State Council. The State Council reports on its work to the NPC and, when the NPC is not in session, to its Standing Committee.