The annual session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) opens with great fanfare in Beijing this week. Today, the country’s major Internet news sites have stacked their main news pages with NPC-related headlines, all in deep red. But as everyone knows, the real decision-making power at the national level in China is vested in the Chinese Communist Party and its elite Central Committee. So the perennial question returns — how relevant is the National People’s Congress?
Happily, we can refer this tough question to one of the CCP’s own leading theoretical lights, Cai Xia (蔡霞), a professor at the CCP’s Central Party School.

[ABOVE: Today’s news page at, with NPC-related headlines played up in bold red.]
In an article published in the February edition of Exploration and Free Views (探索与争鸣), a journal launched in 1985 by the Shanghai Social Sciences Association (SSSCI), Professor Cai outlined what she regards at the five major flaws in China’s National People’s Congress system.
Coming from a well-known Party insider like Professor Cai, this explication of the faults and foibles of the National People’s Congress is a rewarding read. For those of you who can’t or won’t bother, here is a brief summation of her five criticisms:

1. The durations of meetings are limited, so that delegates do not have time for
substantive and thorough discussion of issues.
2. Owing to limited knowledge, a portion of the delegates are not competent
enough to decide policy on major national matters.
3. Owing to the part-time, temporary nature of their positions, NPC delegates
find it difficult to actually serve a real representative function.
4. There are too many delegates, weakening the possibility for real decision-making.
5. The structure of the NPC is unreasonable, meaning it cannot play an effective monitoring role [of power generally].

The NPC is now on. Enjoy the show!
And by the way, here’s a great story from Bloomberg about billionaires in the NPC.
China Sets Up News Spokesman System,” China Daily, July 1, 2010
Chinese City Extends Direct Elections of CPC Cadres to Villages,”, May 31, 2010
‘Baptism’ Class for Cadres,” Global Times (English), November 30, 2010
[FRONTPAGE PHOTO: Great Hall of the People, site of the annual NPC (1996). Photo by OZinOH posted to under Creative Commons license.]

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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