The existing salient features of China Constitution was adopted on December 4, 1982, by the 5th National People’s Congress as its 5th session. Besides, this is the 4th constitution of China, preceded by the 1954, 1975, and the 1978 constitution.

The 1982 constitution of China compound to the previous constitution is quite a comprehensive document. It contains 138 articles.

The new compulsion of the Chinese political system and the new need for reform made it essential for the communist leadership to adopt the new constitution. Therefore, the new salient features of China constitution of 1982 replaced the 1978 constitution of China. The national constitution revision committee immediately evolved in a position to prepare a draft handed by Pengzheno. Thus, the draft was submitted to the standing committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) for discussion after its approval.

THE SALIENT FEATURES OF THE CONSTITUTION OF CHINA

A Socialist Constitution

“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants”, as per article 1 of the constitution of China.

Continued Faith in Marxism, Leninism, & Maoism

This is the basis of the salient features of the China Constitution, also known as Moa Zedong Ideology.

While admitting past mistakes of the Cultural Revolution, the constitution expresses full faith in Marxism, Leninism, and Maoism. Hence, it created a new faith in the decentralization and liberalization of the new economy.

Faith Panchsheel & Opposition to Imperialism

China consistently opposed imperialism, hegemonism, and colonialism. It works to strengthen unity with the people of other countries. Besides, it also supports the oppressed nation and the developed countries in their struggle to win and preserve their national independence, and to develop their nation’s economies and strive to safeguard world peace and promotes the cause of human progress.

Written & Enacted Constitution of China

The 1982 constitution which contains 138 articles, stands divided into 4 chapters.

The 1st chapter has 32 articles i.e. article 1-32 describes the general principle of the constitution.

The 2nd chapter has 23 articles from articles 33 – 55 and it enumerates the rights and duties of the Chinese people.

The 3rd chapter has 79 articles from articles 56 – 135. It lays down the organization and powers of the organ of the government.

The 4th chapter has only 3 articles and it describes the national flag and national anthem.

A Rigid Constitution

In theory, the salient features of the constitution of China is a rigid constitution. It provides for a special method of amendment. Besides, the National People’s Congress (NPC) has the power to amend by a majority of two-thirds votes. The domination by the communist party of the entire system, the unitary character of the state, the lack of opposition by the communist party makes the constitution, in reality, a flexible constitution.

Restoration of the Republican Character of the State

The 1975 salient features of China constitution abolished the office of the President of Republic who used to work as the head of the state under the 1954 constitution. The 1982 constitution of China restore the office of the President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and provide for his election by the National People’s Congress (NPC) for a term of 5 years. However, while restoring this office the 1982 constitution has not restored all the powers which belonged to him under the 1954 constitution.

Unitary State

Despite being a big and multi-cultural SOCIETY,  the Chinese have decided to keep the state a unitary state. Regardless of accepting the need for democratization and decentralization, the 1982 constitution seeks to affect a balance between the central and local authorities. Therefore, the local authorities enjoy the right to take initiative under the unified leadership of the central authorities.

Provision Regarding Economic Policies

The salient features of the China Constitution reaffirm faith in the socialist economy but accept the emergence of the private sector walking within the socialist system.

Parliamentary System

The 1982 constitution of China lays down a form of government that resembles the parliamentary form of government. The state council is the real executive of the state and the highest organ of state administration. The premiere is chosen by the National People Congress upon the nomination of the president. Besides, the NCP appoints the members of the state council. Hence, the word Political democracy is very minute.

Unicameral Legislature

The Chinese legislature is unique. It is the highest organ of state power. therefore, it alone can amend the constitution.

A Multi-National State

The People’s Republic of China is a single multi-national state. There are 56 nationalities that have integrated to form the Chinese nation. Besides, article 4 declares that all Nationalists are equal.

Elected & Responsible Judiciary

There is a Supreme People’s Court whose president is elected by the NPC. The Standing Committee appoints both the Vice President and the judges of the Supreme Court.

No Judicial Review

The Supreme Court has no power to declare a law enacted by the NPC unconstitutional.

Democracy Centralism

The NPC and the local people congress are instituted through a democratic election. Therefore, they are responsible for them and subject to their supervision.

Economic Policies

Right from the beginning China adopted planning for the regulation and improvement for its economy, by launching a 5-year plan for agriculture and industrial development.

SUPREMACY OF THE CONSTITUTION:

The constitution of China is the supreme law of the land. No law or administrative or local rules and regulations shall contravene the constitution.

Therefore, all state organs, the armed force, all political parties, public organizations, and all enterprises must abide by the constitution of China.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL STRUCTURE OF CHINA

The salient features of the China constitutional structure consist of the National People’s Congress (NPC), a unicameral legislature, the standing committee of the National People’s Congress. Besides, they are the highest organ of the state power and all authority of the People’s Republic of China flows from it.

National People’s Congress Party

The National People’s Congress is the unicameral legislature. China opted for a unitary form of government. Hence,  a second chamber for the protection of units (States) was hardly required. According to the constitution of China, the NPC is the highest organ of the State power and the exclusive Legislative Authority of the country.

Composition of National People’s Congress

The Constitution of China is silent about the composition of the Congress and the mode of selection of its members. Before the adoption of the present Constitution, the (Fifth) National People’s Congress consists of 3456 members. In March 1998 its membership consisted of 2979.

The election of NPC does not cause excitement as is the case in India or the USA. It is quite a non-spectacular affair. The 11th NPC, in the year 2008 consisted of 3000 delegates.

Tenure of National People’s Congress

The tenure of the National People’s Congress is for a period of 5 years. The Standing Committee conducts the election. Election to the new NPC must take place within 2 months before the expiry of the tenure of old NPC. Under the exceptional circumstances, the Standing Committee by a 2/3rd majority can put off the elections.

However, the new NPC is to be elected within one year after the end of abnormal circumstances.

Session of National People’s Congress

The standing Committee has to organize at least one session of NPC in a year. The Committee can also organize more sessions on its own initiative or with the proposal from the membership of the NPC. However, 1/5th of the total membership should propose to organize a session. The President of the Republic does not have the power to summon or prorogue the sessions of the NPC.

The present NPC house meets more frequently than its predecessor did. For e.g. after the Cultural Revolution (in 1966) there was no session organize for nine long years. Just for comparison, it may be pointed out that the seventh NPC elected in 1988 held its first session in March 1988 and next in March 1989. The session of 10th NPC concluded on March 18, 2003, approving the country’s leadership.

The 11th National People’s Congress (the top legislature of the country) composed of nearly 3000 delegates held its session from March 5, 2008, to March 18, 2008, in Beijing. In this meeting, it endorsed the report of the Premier Wen Jiabao and also re-elected President Hu Jintao. It endorsed new cabinet comprising Premiers’Wen Jiabao, 4 Vice Premiers, 5 State Councillors and Wu Baugguo as the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC)

Members of NPC have to fulfill certain Privileges, Duties, and Immunities. They are:

  1. The members have the right to address questions to the (SC) State Council or the Ministries and also commission under the SC.
  2. The deputies to NPC may not be called to legal account for their speeches or votes at its meetings.
  3. They have to abide by the constitution and the law and maintains State secrets, assist in the enforcement of the Constitution and the Law.
  4. They must maintain close contact with the units which elected them and work hard with the people. However, they are subject to the supervision of the people (Units).

FUNCTIONS OF NATIONAL PEOPLE’S CONGRESS (NPC)

The functions of NPC have been enumerated in Article 62 of the Constitution of China. Its main functions are as under:

  1. Law-Making Body of the Country:

The NPC is the sole Law-Making body of the country. During its recess, the Standing Committee makes law. The NPC controls all laws concerning criminal offenses, civil affairs, and the state organs.

  1. Supervises the enforcement of the Constitution.
  2. Elects Important Official Bearers.

The NPC elects the President, the Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, the Prime Minister of China, and other members of the State Councils, the members of the Standing Committee, the Auditor General, and the Secretary-General of the Central  Military Commission.

The NPC also decides on the choice of all other members of the military commission on the recommendation of its Chairman. Besides, it elects the President of the Supreme People’s Court and also the Procurator General of the Supreme Court procuratorate. It reconfirmed the former Communist Party secretary for Tibet as the head of the Central Military Commission which controls the two million Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

  1. Amendment of the Constitution

Article 64 empowers the NPC to amend the salient features of the China Constitution by 2/3rd majority of the deputies of the NPC. The proposal is to be made by the standing committee of NPC or 1/5th of the deputies of NPC.

  1. NPC Controls the Economic and Social Planning

The NPC controls the economic and social planning of the country. So, the NPC approves and examines all the economic and social development plans. Thus, the public does not have the liberty to control economic and social planning.

  1. NPC Examines and Approves the Country’s Budget

The NPC examines and approves the budget prepared by the government. It also examines the reports on the implementation of the budget.

Besides, it also accords approval to the establishment of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government.

  1. NPC adopts Statuses and Resolution

The NPC adopts other statuses and resolutions by a majority vote of more than 2/3rd of all deputies.

  1. Change the boundaries of Provinces

The NPC can alter the boundaries of the provinces, regions, or municipalities. Besides, it can also take decisions regarding the establishment of special administrative regions.

  1. NPC takes the decision on War and Peace

The NPC takes the decision on the question of war and peace. Formal approval of NPC is necessary for the declaration of war and the conclusion of peace.

Thus, the NPC can exercise various functions and powers as the highest organ of the state power. In other words, the NPC has the free hand in respect of various power and functions and also all other matters not specified in the Constitution.

Besides, the powers enumerated above reflect that the NPC possesses multifarious powers. Thus, it is the highest organ and the executive Legislative authority of the country. All other organs function under its supervision and control. But in a Communist country what is a legal truth, is a political untruth.

The Standing Committee of NPC

The Standing Committee of NPC is the permanent body of NPC. It consists of a Chairman, the Vice-Chairman, the Secretary-General, and the members. There is no fixed number. The Constitution of China can increase or decrease the number of its members. Thus, the NPC decides the membership. For e.g. in 1978 it consists of 22 Vice-Chairmen and 144 members. The 5th National People’s Congress (February 1978) fixes to 175 members as the strength of the Standing Committee.

After the implementation of the 1982 Constitution of China, its member has been varying. In March 1998, its membership was reduced to 134 members. The Standing Committee is responsible to the NPC and is elected by it. Its meetings are presided over by Chairman. The 11th NPC appointed W Banuggu as the Chairman in its meeting in March 2008.

Tenure of the Standing Committee of NPC

The tenure Standing Committee of NPC is all the same as NPC. Thus, the committee continues to function until they elect a new Standing Committee. However, the NPC has the power to remove the Standing Committee even before the tenure is complete.

Functions of the Standing Committee of NPC

Elective Functions of the Standing Committee of NPC

It possesses the following elective functions which it exercises during the recess of and on behalf of the NPC:

  1. It decides on the choice of the ministers, the Auditor General, and the Secretary-General of the State Council on the recommendation of the Premier when NPC is not in session. But, it cannot choose the premier who is elected by the NPC on the recommendation of the President. Likewise, it does not make the choice of the Vice President and the State Councillors whose appointments are made by the NPC on the recommendation of the Premier.
  2. Also, it decides on the choice of the members of the military commission, on the recommendation of the Chairman of the Commission when NPC is not in session
  3. It appoints and removes the Vice Presidents and Judges of the Supreme People’s Court, members of its Judicial Committee, and the Chairman of the Military Court at the suggestion of the President of Supreme People’s Court.
  4. It appoints and removes deputy procurators General and Procurators of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, members of its Procuratorial Committee, and the Chief Procurator of the Military Procuratorate at the suggestion of the Procurator General of the People’s Republic of China. Besides, it also approves the appointment and removal of the Chief Procurators of the provinces and the autonomous regions.

Executive Functions of the Standing Committee of NPC

The Executive performs a number of executive functions. It includes diplomatic and military functions. The functions are:

  1. It decides on the appointment and recall of the Chinese ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives accredited abroad. The President appoints the Executive Members after the Standing Committee takes the decisions.
  2. It decides on the ratification and abrogation of treaties with foreign countries. The treaties are ratified or abrogated by the President in accordance with its decisions.
  3. It institutes titles and ranks for military and diplomatic personnel.
  4. It institutes state medals and titles of honor and decides on their conferment.
  5. As per the 1982 constitution of China, the Standing Committee decides the conferment of titles and medals and to pardon the criminals. But the President implements the decisions.
  1.  It takes decisions regarding the proclamation of war when NPC is not in session. Thus, the Executive Members can decide war if the country is attacked or in the fulfillment of international treaty obligations concerning common defense against aggression.
  2. It decides regarding general or partial mobilization.

Judicial Functions of the Standing Committee of NPC

  1. It interprets the laws – a function performed by the Supreme Court in the USA and India and Presidium of erstwhile the Soviet Union.  The interpretation of laws by the Standing Committee is unquestionable.
  2. It interprets the constitution as well. It supervises the enforcement of the constitution and the laws.
  3. Also, it can annul decisions, orders, and administrative rules framed by the State Council that contravene the laws and the constitution. In a way, it can reject any of the decisions of the Slate Council.

Financial Functions of the Standing Committee of NPC

In this field, its functions are rather insignificant. It is the NPC that approves the social and economic development plans and also the budget. Hence, the Standing Committee is left With examining and approving partial adjustments to the development plans and the state budget.

Amendment Powers of the Standing Committee of NPC

In fact, the NPC possesses the power of amending the constitution of China. Hence, either the Standing Committee or by at least 1/5th of the deputies of the NPC can propose the amendment of the Constitution.

For effecting amendment in the constitution, the NPC has to pass the amending bill by 2/3rd majority of all deputies of the NPC. Evidently, the Standing Committee’s role in this respect is limited-just to propose the amendment to the NPC.

Besides, the functions specified in the preceding paragraphs, the Standing Committee may also perform such other functions as are assigned to it from time to time by the NPC. This widens the jurisdiction of the Standing Committee to a great extent. Practically, all governmental activities can fall within the purview of the Standing Committee. In this respect, the Standing Committee takes precedence over the Soviet Presidium of erstwhile the Soviet Union.

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