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

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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Exclusive: Demographics of the 13th NPC (UPDATED)

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.

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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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NPCSC Now Researching Expansion of Constitutional Review

In a recent exclusive interview with the Legal Daily, LIANG Ying (梁鹰), director of the Office for Recording and Reviewing Regulations under the Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC) of the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC), revealed that authorities are now contemplating significant expansion of the scope of constitutional review (合宪性审查), following the Communist Party’s decision to “advance constitutional review” at its 19th Congress. The theoretical and practical feasibility of the reforms that Liang mentioned was still under research. And it is unknown at this point whether, or when, those proposed reforms would be implemented. But the fact that the authorities have chosen to disclose them indicates similar reforms will be eventually implemented. This interview is thus worth paying close attention to. Some unorganized thoughts follow the summary of the interview. All emphases below are ours.

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Recording & Review: An Introduction to Constitutional Review with Chinese Characteristics

On October 18, 2017, halfway through his mind-numbing three-hour report to the Communist Party’s 19th National Congress, President Xi Jinping called for “advancing the work of constitutional review” (推进合宪性审查工作). We then noted, and Chinese media later confirmed, that it was the first time such expression appeared in Party documents. While the expression might be novel, the concept of constitutional review is not—it has been an inherent part of “recording and review” (备案审查; “R&R”) since at least 1982. For purposes of our discussion,[1] R&R is a process whereby various governmental entities with lawmaking powers record the legislation they enact with the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC), and the NPCSC then, through several established mechanisms, review such legislation for potential violations of the Constitution and national laws and take appropriate actions. The primary goal is to ensure the uniformity in the hierarchical legal system.

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Explainer: China to Amend the Constitution for the Fifth Time (UPDATED)

UPDATE (Jan. 25, 2017): This post has been updated to reflect recent developments.


The official Xinhua News Agency reported on December 27 that the Politburo decided to convene the Second Plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party in January 2018. The main agenda of the Plenum is to “discuss and study proposals for amending part of [China’s current] Constitution,” which was adopted in 1982 and later amended four times in 1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004. Under Chinese law (and a key CPC policy document), the constitutional amendment process essentially includes three steps. In this post, we will explain each step in turn and point out the key events to watch during the next several months.

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Next Steps for the Supervision Law & Procedural Possibility of a Constitutional Amendment in 2018

Now that the draft Supervision Law has finally become public, many are probably wondering what the next steps for the Law would be. When will the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) consider the draft Law again, if at all? Will the NPCSC release a revised version of the draft for public comments? And, given the argument that the Law shouldn’t be enacted until after the Constitution is amended to grant supervision commissions constitutional status, is it procedurally possible for the NPC to consider (and pass) a constitutional amendment at next year’s session? To predict such developments, we surveyed the legislative history of the laws passed by the NPC since 2000 (when the Legislation Law was enacted) and of all constitutional amendments to the 1982 P.R.C. Constitution.

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A Guide to Supervision System Reform (Redux)

The NPCSC decided last Saturday to extend “pilot” reforms of the state supervision (or anti-corruption) system nationwide. The decision is nearly identical in substance to the NPCSC’s December 2016 decision to first implement supervision system reforms in Beijing, Shanxi, and Zhejiang. The decision on Saturday again prescribes the composition, duties, and powers of the supervision commissions, and lists the legal provisions that will no longer be enforced across China, effectively repealing them. The contents of the Saturday decision are described below, with additional details.

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Explainer: National Anthem Law, New Criminal Law Amendment, and Their Implications for Hong Kong

Reports on Tuesday that the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is considering an amendment to the Criminal Law to prescribe harsher punishment for disrespecting China’s national anthem seem to have taken many by surprise. (They wouldn’t have been if they had been reading our Blog!) Some question the necessity of such a move if the conduct was already criminalized by the National Anthem Law (it was not). Some wonder whether the amendment will be applied to Hong Kong and Macau (it won’t be). Here in this post, we answer a few of such questions on the National Anthem Law, the newest Criminal Law amendment, and their implications for Hong Kong.

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Likely Developments Surrounding the Draft National Anthem Law (with Translation)

Last month, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) conducted an initial review of a draft National Anthem Law (Draft) (an English translation of which is attached to this post). Much of the media coverage so far has focused on provisions that ban the use of the national anthem at “inappropriate occasions” such as funerals and provide for up to 15 days of detention for “distorted or derogatory” rendition of the anthem, titled “March of the Volunteers.” With only 15 articles, the Draft contains language that is fairly easy to understand. We therefore won’t spend time scrutinizing its content here. Instead, we will take a look at likely developments surrounding the Draft, based on this report by Xinhua.

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