(Still) Mostly Han Men: Demographics of the 14th NPC

Delegates clapping at the 2022 NPC session. Photo by CGTN.

On Friday, February 24, the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) concluded its final session, thus effectively bringing the 13th NPC’s five-year term to a close. As one of its last official acts, the outgoing NPCSC certified the elections of 2,977 delegates to the 14th NPC, which will first convene on March 5. In a rare move, the NPCSC Delegate Credentials Committee disqualified three delegates-elect (from Hebei, Guangdong, and Chongqing, respectively)[*] because they “lack the basic statutory requirements” for being a delegate, without further elaborating.

The NPCSC has since released the full list of delegates, along with each delegate’s gender and ethnicity. (The list, like all official Chinese personnel announcements, treats Han men as the default and indicates only women’s gender and minorities’ ethnicities.) We have uploaded an Excel version of the list to Google Drive—thanks to the tireless Wikipedians who converted the list into tables in the first place! Past NPCs also made publicly available additional demographic data on the delegates, including political affiliation and age, but sometime in 2019, the NPC scrapped such information from its website, leaving only a barebones list. The 14th NPC is likely to continue this practice, but we will present more analysis should it decide to embrace greater transparency.

The 13th NPCSC has also released the report by its Delegate Credentials Committee on the delegates’ qualifications and composition. The report (like its recent previous iterations) tracks the representation of six demographic groups: (1) women, (2) ethnic minorities, (3) returned overseas Chinese [归侨], (4) frontline workers and farmers [一线工人、农民], (5) professional technical personnel [专业技术人员], as well as (6) Party and government leading cadres [党政领导干部]. Since 2013, the reports have also been disclosing the percentage of reelected delegates each term. Such data on the latest four NPCs (as of the start of their terms) are compiled in the table below.

11th NPC
12th NPC
13th NPC
14th NPC
Women637 (21.3%)699 (23.4%)742 (24.9%)790 (26.5%)
Ethnic minorities411 (13.8%)409 (13.7%)438 (14.7%)442 (14.8%)
Returned overseas Chinese35353942
Frontline workers and farmers
[Rural migrant workers*]
246 (8.2%)**
401 (13.4%)
468 (15.7%)
497 (16.7%)
Professional technical personnel***574 (19.2%)**610 (20.4%)613 (20.6%)634 (21.3%)
Party and government leading cadres1249 (41.8%)**1042 (34.9%)1011 (33.9%)969 (32.5%)

* Included in “frontline workers and farmers.”
** Deduced from the group’s representation in the 12th NPC and officially reported change in representation from the 11th NPC.
*** Not defined in official election-related documents, but based on the National Catalog of Professional Qualifications [国家职业资格目录], refers to individuals whose occupations require certain professional skills and who generally must obtain an occupational license as required by law, such as attorneys and physicians.

It is no coincidence that the Delegate Credentials Committee reports on the share of seats held by those seven groups. Since 2012, each NPC has laid down either specific quotas or general guidelines on their representation in the next legislature. We have discussed the evolution of such seat-allocation rules as well as their latest version in the following post. The post also introduces the scope of three groups: returned overseas Chinese, frontline workers and farmers, and Party and government leading cadres.

The requirements for each group’s representation in the 14th NPC are reproduced in the table below, as well as the status of their fulfillment. In short, almost two-thirds (65.2%) of the delegates are Han men, an overwhelming majority (73.2%) are serving in the NPC for the first time, and grassroots delegates (38.0%) slightly outnumber Party and government elites (32.5%). Again, the limited data currently available do not allow for a more in-depth analysis. Hopefully that would soon change.

GroupQuota / GoalResult
WomenTheir percentage should be higher “in principle.”Goal met. With 26.5% of the seats, women’s representation in the NPC is at an all-time high, but is still nowhere near gender parity.
Ethnic minoritiesThey are given a rough quota of “approximately 12%” of all seats. Each ethnicity must have at least one delegate.Quota exceeded. Since the 6th NPC (1983–88), ethnic minority representation in the NPC has remained higher than their share of the Chinese population and the guideline value, hovering at 13–14%. In the 14th NPC, 29 (of 55 officially recognized minority ethnic groups) are each represented by single delegate.
Returned overseas ChineseThey are given a quota of 35 seats.Quota exceeded.
Grassroots delegates (i.e., frontline workers and farmers + professional technical personnel)
[Rural migrant workers]
Their percentage should be “somewhat higher.”
[Their number should be “somewhat greater.”]
Goals met. The representation of both subgroups of grassroots delegates rose slightly (by almost 1%). And there are 11 more delegates who are migrant workers in the 14th NPC than during the previous term.
Party and government leading cadresTheir percentage should “continue to be strictly controlled.”Goal met. Cadres’ share of seats has been declining, modestly but steadily, since 2013, now at 32.5%, down from a historical high of 41.8% during the 11th NPC (2008–13).
Reelected delegatesThere should be “a certain percentage” of them.A bit over a quarter of the delegates to the 13th NPC have been reelected, down from about a third in the 12th NPC. (Data for prior NPCs are not available.)

[*] They were Xue Linghu [薛灵虎], the former chairman of a state-owned machinery company in Hebei (his current position is unknown); Fu Zhenxiao [付振晓], reportedly the chief engineer of a high-tech company in Guangdong; and Xiong Xue [熊雪], a member of the Communist Party group of the Chongqing municipal government.

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