Law Explainer: China’s State Medals and State Honorary Titles (UPDATED)

UPDATE (Sept. 17, 2019): On Tuesday, the NPCSC unanimously approved a decision conferring State honors on 42 individuals: 8 “Medal of the Republic” recipients, 6 “Medal of Friendship” recipients, and 28 recipients of various State honorary titles. In a presidential order dated the same day, Xi Jinping formally conferred the honors on their recipients.

Notable recipients of the Medal of the Republic include Tu Youyou, 2015 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine; and Yuan Longping, known in China as the “Father of Hybrid Rice.” The recipients of State honorary titles include individuals who have made great contributions to science, art, and education, among other fields, as well as those who are recognized as “heroes” or “role models” for their personal feats. Of note, Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong’s first Chief Executive, was given the State honorary title of “Outstanding Contributor to ‘One Country, Two Systems'” [“一国两制”杰出贡献者]. Among the Medal of Friendship recipients are current Cuban leader Raúl Castro and former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Finally, some stats. Just over a quarter (11) of the recipients are female. Among the 36 Chinese citizen recipients, only 7 are ethnic minorities and all but 3 are members of the Communist Party. Ten recipients have been awarded the honors posthumously.


In line with our earlier prediction, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) will convene for a one-day special session on September 17, the Council of Chairpersons decided on Tuesday. The sole item on the special session’s agenda is a draft decision to confer State honors and honorary titles, presumably on this list of 36 nominees, to celebrate the 70th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic. Below we briefly overview the history of China’s State honors system and the current legal scheme. We will update this post once the conferral decision is adopted next week.

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