The number of agencies under the National People’s Congress (NPC) is about to grow by one. In the Party-state restructuring plan released on March 16, the Communist Party has decided to set up a new Delegates Affairs Commission [代表工作委员会] under the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) to take charge of “delegates work” [代表工作], an often overlooked part of the NPCSC’s duties. “Delegates work,” in sum, refers to a range of activities carried out by the NPCSC, NPC special committees, as well as their members and staff to facilitate (and, to a lesser extent, supervise) ordinary NPC delegates’ discharge of their duties. The last NPCSC (2018–23), led by Chairman Li Zhanshu, markedly elevated the importance of delegates work to the same level as lawmaking and oversight. The new Commission could thus be seen as an epilogue to the previous NPCSC’s reforms and an embodiment of its legacy.
Before introducing the new agency, we will first discuss the NPCSC’s “delegates work” in a bit more detail. Such work, for the most part, is about supporting the delegates in performing their duties, and has the following core components:
- helping the delegates prepare for the annual NPC session (e.g., organizing discussion sessions on any legislation slated for review) and providing services during the session (e.g., collecting the delegates’ opinions on the NPCSC’s work report in various means);
- keeping the delegates in direct and frequent contact with members of the NPCSC (including its leadership), NPC special committees, and the NPCSC’s subordinate bodies so that they can provide input on the relevant issues or tasks;
- engaging the delegates in the NPCSC’s and special committees’ work, including various stages of lawmaking, law enforcement inspections, as well as economic and fiscal oversight;
- helping the delegates stay in touch with their constituencies, such as by organizing research projects and group inspection tours and by building local outreach and liaison offices;
- properly handling the delegates’ bills and suggestions so that, for instance, the relevant governmental bodies carefully consider their proposals and address the issues raised, and provide them with status updates;
- helping improve the delegates’ capacity to engage in representative activities by offering various forms of on-the-job training; and
- providing a variety of other administrative and logistical support, such as publicizing the delegates’ activities.
At the same time, “delegates work” has some elements that place the NPCSC in a supervisory, rather than support, position vis-à-vis the delegates. They include tracking changes in the NPC’s membership and reviewing the qualifications of newly elected delegates; providing ideological and political education for the delegates; and keeping files on their performance (e.g., meeting attendance, participation in aforementioned delegate activities, and compliance with disciplinary rules).
As mentioned, the 13th NPCSC introduced a series of procedural reforms and laid new (digital) infrastructure to improve its delegates work. To give a few examples: In August 2018, the NPCSC started organizing the delegates invited to its meetings to have discussions with legislative leaders, including Chairman Li Zhanshu himself, on preselected topics. In July 2020, it established an NPC Online Academy to offer online training courses in response to the pandemic. Last year, it launched an online platform for the delegates to submit their proposals and track their status. Of note, in 2020, the Council of Chairpersons started adopting annual plans on the NPCSC’s delegates work, putting it on an equal footing with lawmaking and oversight as a matter of internal practice.
The Party-state restructuring plan describes the new Delegate Affairs Commission as follows:
(6) Establish the NPCSC Delegate Affairs Commission. [It will] take charge of work relating to the allocation of NPC delegate quotas, the review of their qualifications, and liaison services [for the delegates]; guide and coordinate work relating to the delegates’ group inspection tours, special research projects, and communications with the masses; assume overall management of work relating to NPC delegates’ bills and suggestions; supervise and manage NPC delegates’ performance of their duties; coordinate efforts to educate and train NPC delegates; guide the delegates work of the standing committees of provincial-level people’s congresses; and so forth. [It will also] undertake the specific work of the NPCSC Delegate Credentials Committee. [It will] serve as a working body of the NPCSC.
It thus appears that administrative responsibilities over most, if not all, aspects of the NPCSC’s delegates work will be centralized in the new Commission. Presumably, it will absorb the Liaison Bureau [联络局] of the NPCSC General Office and the administrative office of the NPCSC Delegate Credential Committee, and could take over some of the logistical tasks now handled by the special committees relating to the delegates’ participation in their activities. The restructuring plan did not provide further detail, however.
Because the Delegate Affairs Commission is designated as an NPCSC “working body,” it should have the same ministerial-level status as the two main existing working bodies, the Legislative Affairs Commission and the Budgetary Affairs Commission. (Working bodies are essentially bureaucratic organizations that serve and support the legislature.) Hence, at the organizational level, the new agency will place the NPCSC’s delegates work on a par with its lawmaking and oversight functions.
The new agency and the related reforms that preceded it underscore the important role played by the NPC delegates in China’s governance. They are able to convey citizen preferences on a broad range of nonsensitive issues to central authorities (who otherwise prefer that they remain reticent on politically sensitive ones). The authorities can then use the information brought forth by the delegates to formulate more responsive laws and policies and to uncover and address problems that generate grievances among citizens, hoping to gain legitimacy as a result.
We expect the NPCSC to formally establish the Delegate Affairs Commission at its next session in late April and to appoint its leadership, which will consist of a director (likely also an NPCSC member) and several deputy directors (who may or may not also serve on the NPCSC).
 The new agency’s name “代表工作委员会” literally means “delegates work[ing] commission [or committee]” (see the next note on the translation of “代表工作”). As we will discuss later in the post, it has the same legal status as two other similarly named NPCSC bodies: the Legislative Affairs Commission [法制工作委员会] and the Budgetary Affairs Commission [预算工作委员会]. We thus adopt the same formulation and render “工作” as “affairs” and “委员会” as “commission.” (The official translation will probably be “Deputy Affairs Commission,” however, as “deputy” has been the official translation of “代表.”)
 A less literal translation would be “work related to NPC deputies,” the one used by the Xinhua News Agency.
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