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People's congresses: democracy behind China's success story

Xinhua, March 4, 2017 Adjust font size:

China's system of people's congresses is in the spotlight again as the fifth session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, will open Sunday.

Rather than creating policy conundrums or delays -- as is often the case with parliaments in some Western nations when the ruling party or coalition does not hold a majority -- the people's congress system lends support to and supervises the government to achieve effective governance and rule of law.

The NPC Standing Committee, a permanent body of the NPC, provides oversight and has been active in inspecting whether governments comply with the law. In 2016, it conducted six inspections, covering about 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

Take the inspection on the enforcement of the Environmental Protection Law, for instance. The NPC Standing Committee made a report after inspecting factories and holding seminars and organized a Q&A-style meeting with officials from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and other departments about issues in law enforcement.

Additionally, a document was sent to the General Office of the State Council, which is expected to give a follow-up report in April on how the government has handled the issues.

Such a process is conducive to solving problems popping up in law enforcement and safeguarding the authority of laws.

According to the Constitution, the people's congress system is the fundamental political system in China, with about 2.6 million deputies at various levels.

At the pinnacle of the system sits the NPC, which supervises the State Council, China's cabinet, as well as the top court and procuratorate.

With nearly 3,000 deputies, the NPC is different from the legislatures in Western political systems.

In China's political system, the NPC is the supreme organ of state power. The central government, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate answer to the NPC and are supervised by it. In the West, the parliament stands equally with the administration and justice arms, and the three balance and checks each another.

This vertical design has the advantages of uniting different forces in governance and avoiding internal frictions.

The system of people's congresses is designed to include people from various backgrounds and cover a good cross-section of society.

Compared with legislators in the West who make politics their career and usually have a staff and campaign team, NPC deputies are part-time and many of them are ordinary citizens.

A deputy to the NPC can be the country's president or a farmer, a celebrated tycoon or a migrant worker, a lawyer or an official.

As an NPC deputy, Zhou Guohui, director of the Department of Science and Technology of Zhejiang Province, proposed a free trade park in the eastern province's Zhoushan City during the sessions in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

His persistence worked. Last August, the province was approved, together with six other regions, to set up a free trade zone.

Motions and proposals initiated by Zhou also include one in 2015 stressing the need to boost development of the big data industry. In August of that year, the State Council approved an action framework for promoting big data.

Zhou is only one example of how people's congresses and their deputies contribute to effective decision-making in China.

Zhou's suggestions originated from his study and close contact with local communities. Actually, NPC deputies at various levels are key channels for community voices, reflecting local opinions and problems and enabling people to be masters of the nation. Deputies are both entitled and obliged to stand for the people's interests and express their requests, rather than acting as the voice of money and power.