According to the constitution, the National People’s Congress (NPC) is “the highest organ of state power” and exercises “the legislative power of the state.” Deputies to the NPC are elected from the provinces, autonomous regions, centrally administered municipalities, special administrative regions, and the armed forces. Elections are conducted by the permanent body of the NPC, the Standing Committee, and normally are held at least two months before the end of the current NPC. Deputies serve five-year terms and meet annually for two or three weeks, typically in March or April; 2,979 deputies were elected to the current 10th NPC.
The NPC is empowered to amend the constitution; supervise the enforcement of the constitution; and elect the president and vice president of the People’s Republic, chairman of the state Central Military Commission, president of the Supreme People’s Court, and procurator general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. It also has the authority “to decide on” the choice of the premier of the State Council upon nomination of the president and the members of the State Council upon nomination by the premier.
Among the other responsibilities of the NPC is to “examine and approve” national economic and social development plans and the state budget and to “decide on questions of war and peace.” The NPC also can alter or annul “inappropriate decisions” of the Standing Committee, approve the establishment of provincial-level units, and rule on the establishment of special administrative regions. The current chairman of the NPC Standing Committee since March 2003 is Wu Bangguo, a former vice premier and current member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Political Bureau.
When the full NPC is not in session, its Standing Committee meets and wields broad legislative powers. The NPC Standing Committee consists of a chairman, 15 vice chairmen, a secretary general, and 153 members, including the officers. Standing Committee members are not allowed to hold administrative, judicial, or procuratorial posts and, in practice, are often senior CCP and former state leaders and officials. As with the NPC membership, the chairman and vice chairmen may serve no more than two consecutive terms. Other committees, which work under the direction of the Standing Committee, include Nationalities; Law; Finance and Economic; Education, Science, Culture, and Public Health; Foreign Affairs; Overseas Chinese; and other special committees.
Another quasi-constitutional consultative body that provides an institutional framework for interaction among the CCP, state organizations, and other social and political organizations is the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Members are distinguished scholars, educators, and intellectuals, key representatives of religious and minority nationality groups, leading members of political parties loyal to the CCP during the anti-Guomindang years, and representatives of Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Chinese overseas. The CPPCC typically meets once a year and has a standing committee that convenes when needed between sessions. The current chairman of the CPPCC is Jia Qinglin, a member of the CCP Political Bureau Standing Committee and ally of former CCP secretary general Jiang Zemin.