How China's National People's Congress Is Elected

NPC delegates line up to vote for the position of Chairman of the Military Commission in 2005. Cancan Chu/GettyImages

With a population of 1.3 billion people, direct elections of national leaders in China would likely be a task of Herculean proportions. That's why Chinese election procedures for its highest leaders are instead based on an elaborate series of representative elections. Here's what you should know about the National People's Congress and the election process in the People's Republic of China.

What Is the National People's Congress?

The National People's Congress, or NPC, is the supreme organ of state power in China.

It is composed of deputies who are elected from various provinces, regions, and government bodies across the country. Each congress is elected for a five-year term. 

The NPC is responsible for the following:

  • Amending the constitution and overseeing its enforcement.
  • Enacting and amending basic laws governing criminal offenses, civil affairs, state organs, and other matters.
  • Electing and appointing members to central state organs, including the chairman, vice chairmen, secretary-general, and other members of the NPC Standing Committee. The NPC also elects the President and Vice-President of the People's Republic of China.

In spite of these official powers, the 3,000-person NPC is largely a symbolic body, as members are not often willing to challenge leadership. Therefore, true political authority rests with the Chinese Communist Party, whose leaders ultimately set policy for the country. While the NPC's power is limited, there have been times in history when dissenting voices from the NPC have forced decision-making goals and policy reconsideration.

How the Elections Work

China's representative elections begin with a direct vote of the people in local and village elections operated by local election committees. In cities, the local elections are broken down by residential area or work units. Citizens 18 and older vote for their village and local people’s congresses, and those congresses, in turn, elect the representatives to provincial people’s congresses.

The provincial congresses in China’s 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities directly ruled by the Central Government, special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao, and armed forces then elect the roughly 3,000 delegates to the National People’s Congress (NPC).

The National People’s Congress is empowered to elect China’s president, premier, vice president, and Chair of the Central Military Commission as well as the president of the Supreme People’s Court and the procurator-general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

The NPC also elects the NPC Standing Committee, a 175-member body made up of NPC representatives that meets year-round to approve routine and administrative issues. The NPC also has the power to remove any of the above-listed positions.

On the first day of the Legislative Session, the NPC also elects the NPC Presidium, made up of 171 of its members. The Presidium determines the session’s agenda, voting procedures on bills, and a list of non-voting delegates that can attend the NPC session.

To better understand how the Chinese government works as a whole, check out these other helpful resources:

An Overview of the Chinese Communist Party​

The Power of the Chinese Military: History Shows Whoever Controls the Military, Controls China

What Is the Difference between Communism and Socialism?

Sources:

Ramzy, A. (2016). Q. and A.: How China’s National People’s Congress Works. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/05/world/asia/china-national-peoples-congress-npc.html

The National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China. (n.d.). Functions and Powers of the National People's Congress. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/Organization/2007-11/15/content_1373013.htm

The National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China. (n.d.). National People's Congress. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/Organization/node_2846.htm