The Central Government
China is a socialist state, controlled absolutely by the Communist
Party of China. The National People's Congress is the highest
organ of state power. It is composed of deputies elected by
the provinces, regions, municipalities and armed forces. Deputies
serve five-year terms.
The congress usually meets once a year in March in the Great
Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square. The
cavernous meeting chamber can accommodate 10,000 people.
Besides the Communist
Party, there are eight democratic parties, which provide a semblance
of an opposition, but pose virtually no threat to the status
quo. The congress elects the president and vice president, and
the constitution allows any citizen over the age of 45 to stand
for the office. Fat chance, unless one has enormous connections.
Like the U.S. system, the president and vice president can serve
no more than two consecutive terms.
The real authority resides in the State Council, the highest
organ of state administration. The council is responsible
to the National People's Congress or its standing committee,
and is composed of the premier, vice premiers, councillors,
ministers, auditor-general and secretary-general. The premier,
vice premiers and councillors cannot serve more than two consecutive
five-year terms. Under the General Affairs Office of the State
Council are 36 ministries or organizations with ministerial
status, nine commissions, an auditing administration, and
a number of subsidiary organs and working bodies. Among the
organizations with ministerial status are the Peoples Bank
of China, the Auditing Administration and Xinhua News Agency,
China's official news gathering body. Top
An organization called the Chinese People's Political Consultative
Conference assists the National People's Congress in making
its decisions by conducting political consultations on major
state policies and issues. Founded in 1949 shortly before
the founding of the People's Republic, its membership comes
from the Communist Party, eight other political parties, people's
organizations and prominent individuals, including even a
few Westerners who are long-time residents and citizens in
China, such as Israel Epstein, editor emeritus of China Today
magazine, and George Hatem. Top
The non-Communist parties, with dates of founding, are: China
Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang (1949), China Democratic
League (1944), China Democratic National Construction Association
(1945), China Association for Promoting Democracy (1945),
Chinese peasants' and Workers Democratic Party (1947), China
Zhi Gong Dang (1947), Jin San Society (1945), and the Taiwan
Democratic Self-Government League (1947)
China has 22 provinces (23 if Taiwan is included), four municipalities with the status of a province (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing), two special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau), and five autonomous regions (Tibet, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, and Guangxi Zhuang).
China has the largest standing armed forces in the world with
more than 3 million men and women in uniform. Millions more
belong to armed militia and the Chinese People's Armed Police
Force. The People's Liberation Army is the backbone of the armed
forces. Its birthday on Aug. 1, 1927, is commemorated each year
nationwide and marks the beginning of Chinese Communist Party's
long march to power. Top
China has relations with practically every country in the world.
Sweden was the first Western country to recognize the People's
Republic, on May 9, 1950, followed two days later by Denmark.
France established relations on Jan. 27, 1964, Canada on Oct.
13, 1970 (the first country in the Americas to do so), Mexico
on Feb. 14, 1972, Great Britain on March 13, 1972, Japan on
Sept. 29, 1972, and the United States on Jan. 1, 1979. Top
China's major exports are textiles, garments, telecommunications
and recording equipment, petroleum and minerals. Its major imports
include specialized industrial equipment, chemicals, manufactured
goods, steel, textile yarn and fertilizers. Its major industries
are iron and steel, coal, machine building, armaments, textiles,
petroleum, cement, chemical fertilizers, consumer durables and
About one-quarter of its Gross National Product is derived
from the agriculture sector. China is among the world's biggest
producers of rice, potatoes, sorghum, peanuts, millet, barley
and pork, and produces wheat, cotton, other fibers and oilseeds
and a variety of livestock products as well. It is basically
self-sufficient in food.
Most of its major products originated outside China.
Sorghum was brought to China from Ethiopia via Burma in the
16th century. Corn, potatoes, peanuts, pineapples and tobacco
all came from the Americas, introduced mostly by
the Portuguese from Macao and Dutch from Indonesia. Rice came
from Vietnam and was brought to Fujian is south China. The new crops enabled
the Chinese to bring additional land under cultivation, introduce
twice-yearly crops, and increase the yield. As a consequence
the population grew by leaps and bounds. Top