China has five levels of government, whereas the United States has three. In fact, it usually takes more effort, time and experience to become a top provincial leader in China than to become the president of some countries. A person who has not been tested and had their skills tempered enough through serving at a provincial-level leadership position will have great difficulty ruling the most populous country in the world effectively.
Before taking charge, most members of the central leadership should have served as primary assistants to previous standing committees of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, namely through being members or alternate members of the Political Bureau, or members or alternate members of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee. The decision to re-establish the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee as the working body of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and its Standing Committee was made during the Fifth Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in February 1980. At that time, Deng Xiaoping and other senior leaders expected that the move would facilitate a collective power transition. The CPC Constitution states that members of the Secretariat are nominated by the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and are subject to the endorsement of the Central Committee in plenary session.
Under normal conditions, one can only be a member of the central leadership after holding one or more of the aforementioned positions.
These experiences will prepare would-be Party leaders politically, and reduce information asymmetry, imperfection and uncertainty by facilitating information sharing in the power transition process.
The last step of the power transition process is completed at the Party's national congress. For example, Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the 16th and 17th CPC Central Committees, led a team to draft the report to the 16th CPC National Congress in November 2002 under the leadership of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 15th CPC Central Committee. Approved at the 16th CPC National Congress, the report outlined the new central leadership's general guidelines for managing the Party and ruling the country, ensuring policy continuity while allowing for innovation.
At the central government level, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee leads the decision-making process, with the participation of leaders of the State Council, the National People's Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Top leaders also seek suggestions from the general public and a number of other sources before making significant decisions. Some of these sources include domestic and foreign think tanks, as well as leaders of local, mainly provincial, Party committees, governments, people's congresses and committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
The central collective decision-making system entered into a mature stage on December 2, 2002, when the Political Bureau of the 16th CPC Central Committee passed its working rules.
In February 2004, the CPC Central Committee adopted the regulations on intra-Party supervision, which stipulate that the Political Bureau should report to the plenary session of the CPC Central Committee.
The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee meets on a regular basis, with each member expressing their own opinions on specific issues, as well as the opinions on behalf of the organizations they oversee.
Once a collective decision is made at the meeting, members of the Standing Committee convey the decision to organizations they oversee so that those institutions can act accordingly.
The CPC Central Committee has set rules and procedures on the making of significant decisions and established an accountability system for policy mistakes.
In September 2004, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th CPC Central Committee passed a decision on strengthening the Party's ruling capacity, which spells out important policy-making rules and procedures.
Non-CPC political parties can participate in the administration and discussion of state affairs. The CPC Central Committee holds political consultations with these parties on important matters, such as recommended candidates for state leaders, amendments to the Constitution and important laws and formulation of programs for the country's middle- and long-term development.
Members of the central leadership also actively solicit opinions from experts and think tanks. After the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, experts and think tanks have played an increasingly important role in policy advising.
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