NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission Releases New Responses to Legal Inquiries

The NPC Standing Committee’s Legislative Affairs Commission (Commission) is a professional support body that is indispensable to the lawmaking process. We have previously written a profile of the Commission (now a bit outdated). Among its many functions is the relatively obscure authority to respond to “legal inquiries concerning specific questions” [有关具体问题的法律询问] (Legislation Law [立法法] art. 64). Few of the Commission’s responses to such inquiries have been made public. It has issued thousands of them,1 but had made public only about 200 by 2007. It had altogether stopped the release since then—until September 2020. Late that month, the Commission quietly posted a new batch of responses to legal inquiries online after a thirteen-year hiatus. Below, we first offer a more in-depth look at the Commission’s legal inquiry responses, before turning to the newly released responses themselves.

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Analysis of 13th NPCSC Legislative Plan Pt. 2: Statistics

Two years ago this month, the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) released its five-year legislative plan (Plan or 5YLP), a blueprint for its legislative agenda through 2023. This Plan, like its previous iterations, includes three categories of legislative projects. Category I projects are relatively ripe and should “in principle” be completed within the 13th NPCSC’s term (ending in March 2023), whereas Category II projects are less so and require additional work. Both Category I and Category II projects are numbered. By contrast, Category III includes a series of unnumbered topics for potential legislation, which was deemed not entirely feasible at the time.

Soon after this Plan was released, we published a mostly qualitative analysis, comparing it with previous Plans and distilling a few themes from it. In this long delayed second (and final) part of our analysis, we will take a primarily quantitative approach, examining the Plan and its five predecessors (the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th NPCSCs’ 5YLPs) from a few different angles.

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2020 NPC Session: NPC’s Decision on National Security in Hong Kong Explained (Updated)

UPDATE (May 28, 2020): The NPC adopted this Decision on Thursday with 2878 votes in favor, one against, and six abstentions. Its explanation is available here, and an unofficial English translation is available here. We have updated this explainer in accordance with the Decision’s final text. There are two main changes to the draft: (1) the preamble is longer; and (2) and the scope of authorization under article 6 has been extended to “activities” [活动]—in addition to “conduct” [行为]—that endanger national security. Without further evidence, we do not believe the latter change is significant, however.


Readers would probably know by now that the ongoing NPC session’s agenda includes a new draft Decision on Establishing and Improving the Legal Systems and Implementation Mechanisms for Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [关于建立健全香港特别行政区维护国家安全的法律制度和执行机制的决定]. This new bill was reviewed once by the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) on May 18 and had been kept a secret until Thursday night. We have studied the draft Decision and its accompanying explanation, and now offer the following explainer in Q&A format, focusing on the Decision’s contents and the legal questions it raises. We may add new Q&As in the coming days.

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A Survey of Legislative Responses to COVID-19 by Chinese Provinces

Five months after China first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause on December 31, 2019, that disease, now known as COVID-19, continues to ravage the world, causing public health emergencies of a scale unseen in recent history. In response, governments worldwide have resorted to extraordinary measures in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading: from shutting borders to locking down cities, from closing businesses to mandating social distancing.

In China, local (especially provincial) legislatures, like other governmental bodies, have played a part in epidemic response. Acting in an almost concerted fashion, over twenty provincial legislatures[1] adopted decisions dealing with COVID-19—which we will call “COVID Decisions”—in a twelve-day period in early February. These Decisions address the responsibilities of a range of parties: government entities, businesses, medical institutions, social groups, communities, individuals, etc. (All but Shaanxi’s require individuals to wear masks in public, for example). Equally important, the Decisions also grant emergency powers to local governments.

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Analysis of 13th NPCSC Legislative Plan Pt. 1: Relisted, Dropped & New Projects

Last week, the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) released its five-year legislative plan (“13th NPCSC Plan”), setting the contours of its legislative agenda through 2023. As a refresher, the Plan consists of three classes of projects, with 69 top-priority ones in Class I, 47 lower-priority ones in Class II, and a few potential subjects to legislate on in Class III. In this and the next post, we will take a deep dive into the new legislative plan, from both qualitative and quantitative angles. Below, we will compare the 13th NPCSC Plan with its predecessor, distill a few themes from the new plan, and highlight some new projects. The Plan is clear evidence that, unsurprisingly, the NPCSC, though the permanent body of China’s constitutionally “highest organ of State power,” does not have any independent policymaking authority but only serves to implement through legislation the Communist Party’s policy directives.

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Tracking China’s Progress Towards Law-Based Taxation

Last updated: June 10, 2021

TAX

China currently collects 18 types of taxes. They will generate an estimated total of 8 trillion RMB in revenue for the Central Government in 2018. But only six of them—providing only about a third of the central tax revenue—are imposed by laws [法律] enacted by the legislature, the NPC or its Standing Committee (NPCSC). The rest are governed only by interim regulations [暂行条例] adopted by the State Council—the Central Government itself. The enormous taxing power the State Council now wields was in fact granted by the NPC in 1984. Now, over three decades later, the NPC is reclaiming that power by gradually elevating the interim regulations into laws, with an eye to complete the process by 2020. In this post, we will explain why the NPC made the power grant in the first place and discuss what it has recently been doing to reassert its control over taxation.

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The NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission and Its “Invisible Legislators”

Updated on June 21, 2021 by Changhao Wei & Taige Hu.

Originally published on June 25, 2018. Written by Shuhao Fan. Edited by Changhao Wei & Xiaoyuan Zhang.

Zang Tiewei, head of the LAC’s Research Office and co-spokesperson, at the LAC’s first press conference on August 21, 2019.

The Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC) [法制工作委员会] under the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is such a unique institution that one can hardly find an equivalent in another legislature. Consisting primarily of unelected and unidentified members, the LAC works mostly behind closed doors, although recently it has become much more visible in the public eye. The LAC’s employees outnumber NPCSC members, and unlike the latter cohort, they all work full-time and include more legal experts than the staff of any other NPC body.[1] Their decisions play significant roles throughout the legislative process, from the agenda-setting stage to deliberations—and even after laws are enacted. One Chinese scholar thus aptly dubs the LAC staff “invisible legislators” [隐形立法者].[2] Some worry that they may have usurped the powers of elected NPCSC members, thus becoming de facto legislators.[3] Below, we provide an overview of the LAC—an essential yet peculiar institution under the NPCSC—and its roles in the legislative process.

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A Guide to 2018 State Council Institutional Reforms (FURTHER UPDATED)

NOTE to readers (July 20, 2018): An organizational chart of the reorganized State Council can be found here.

NOTE to readers (Mar. 21, 2018): The Communist Party on March 21 released the Plan to Deepen Reform of Party and State Institutions, the section of which concerning the State Council is summarized in this post. While some other parts of the plan also made changes to the State Council’s organizational structure, these changes are NOT reflected in the summary.

UPDATE (Mar. 17, 2018): The NPC has approved the State Council Institutional Reform Plan of 2018. We have accordingly updated our summary.


Details of the eighth round of State Council reorganization in the “Reform and Opening up” era were revealed to the delegates attending the ongoing 1st Session of the 13th NPC on Tuesday. Previous rounds took place in 1982, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, and 2013. In this post, we present our own summary of the 2018 State Council Institutional Reform Plan (国务院机构改革方案), along with information that we think would help our readers better understand the Plan. The NPC is scheduled to approve the Plan on Saturday (March 17).

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Demographics of the 13th NPC (Updated)

Editor’s Note: This post does not reflect the subsequent changes in the NPC’s membership.

UPDATE (Mar. 11, 2018): We have decided to make the data underlying this post available to the public. You can download the Excel file at this link. The first spreadsheet contains all the raw data automatically downloaded by a web crawler we designed; only the “年龄” (Age) column was added by us. Please also see below for a note on the discrepancies between these data and those provided by the Democratic Parties. The second spreadsheet contains data derived from the raw data. While we do not claim copyright to these data, we would appreciate if we are credited with making them available.


The 1st Session of the 13th NPC, the most consequential NPC session in recent memory, has entered its seventh day. The 2,980 delegates—roughly three-quarters of whom have never held such a position—are set to vote on the draft constitutional amendment in just a few hours. The amendment is widely expected to pass, of course. And all eyes are on the number of “no” votes and abstentions, if any. But who exactly are these delegates, allegedly “hand-picked” by President Xi Jinping and poised to reward him with indefinite tenure? We think now is as good a time as any to dissect the composition of this new NPC.

With the help of an old friend, we downloaded the publicly available information of all 2,980 delegates from the NPC’s website, including their gender, ethnicity, month of birth, jiguan [籍贯] (defined below), and political affiliation. (Unfortunately, information that used to be available, including educational background, is missing for the 13th NPC delegates.) We then analyzed the data and made some interesting findings that we present below.

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NPCSC to Prepare for Upcoming NPC Session & Revise Oath-taking Provisions

The 12th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) will convene its 33rd—and also the last—session from February 23 to 24, the Council of Chairmen decided on Saturday. Most items on the agenda concern the upcoming 1st Session of the 13th NPC starting on March 5—for example, a list of people invited to observe this NPC session. The 33rd session will also certify results of the elections of delegates to the 13th NPC. The full list of delegates, expected to include around 2,970 names (along with their genders and ethnicities), will be released on February 24. But the delegates’ other information, including political affiliation and educational background, most likely won’t be released until after this year’s NPC session.

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