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.
UPDATE (Sept. 8, 2018): This post has been updated based on the 13th NPCSC five-year legislative plan.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.