Government, Political Parties
minor political parties, leader Deng Xiaoping, highest organ, Communist Youth League, Politburo
According to the country’s 1982 constitution, China is a socialist dictatorship of the proletariat (working class) led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in a united front with other parties. In practice, the CCP fully orchestrates national political activity because party members hold the most powerful government offices. Under the united front policy, the CCP permits several minor political parties to operate in China. These parties draw their members mainly from cultural, educational, and scientific circles. No truly independent political parties exist. The CCP supervises organizations serving the constituencies of youth, women, and labor. The most important of association is the Communist Youth League, which had about 68 million members in the late 1990s. This organization plays a major role in recruiting young people who wish to prepare for CCP membership, which may begin at age 18. Since the reforms of the late 1970s, the party has permitted the formation of hundreds of new associations, but all are sponsored officially or unofficially by a government or party organ.
The organization and functions of the CCP are set forth in the party constitution; the current party constitution was approved in 1997 at the 15th National Party Congress. The National Party Congress is the highest organ of the CCP, but in general, it convenes only once every few years. When the party congress is not in session, the Central Committee, a smaller organ that is elected by the full congress, serves as the party’s highest body. The Central Committee in turn elects two even smaller working groups: the Politburo and the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the latter containing the most influential party members. The Central Committee also elects the party general secretary. The outcomes of these elections are predetermined by negotiations among party leaders.
When the CCP held its first National Party Congress in 1921, it had only 57 members. By 1956 membership had grown to 10 million, and by the late 1990s there were 58 million members, making the CCP the world’s largest Communist party. Party members are found in all walks of life, but most hold positions of influence in the government, in government-run educational and cultural institutions, or in the economy. Since reforms began in 1978, the CCP has tried to recruit members who are younger, more educated, and more technically skilled than in the past.
Important CCP slogans include “building socialism with Chinese characteristics” and “holding high the banner of Deng Xiaoping theory,” referring to the economic principles of China’s former leader Deng Xiaoping. The CCP is concerned with maintaining political stability through a combination of patriotic indoctrination and police control. The party’s economic priorities include increasing China’s economic strength through a market economy that is closely guided by the government, and reforming inefficient state-run enterprises by giving them managerial autonomy and allowing many to become privately owned.
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