A New Chapter for Democracy
The first ever round of universal suffrage for Hong Kong's chief executive will be held in 2017
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UPDATED: September 15, 2014 NO. 38 SEPTEMBER 18, 2014
Governance That Works

The system of people's congresses, which enables the public to have a say in political affairs through elected deputies, was formally established in 1954, five years after the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Since the First National People's Congress (NPC) was held six decades ago, the system has proven to be a democratic political system that reflects the common will of Chinese people.

This brand-new representative democracy features leadership by the Communist Party of China, government by the people and the rule of law. It fits the realities of modern-day China. More than two decades before the founding of the PRC, China tried the separation of powers under the Beiyang Government, eventually opting instead for its current method. History shows that the former did not work well for the nation.

The NPC not only serves as China's top legislature, but also elects China's head of state, approves the Central Government's budget and oversees the operations of the State Council, the country's cabinet, as well as its top judicial bodies. Likewise, people's congresses of provinces, cities, counties and towns provide the floor for deputies to discuss and decide on all important local issues.

The people's congress system has been continually improved over the past 60 years. For example, many aspects of the electoral system have been reformed. Before 1979, voters would directly elect their representatives only to the people's congresses of their towns. Direct election has since been expanded to the selection of deputies to the people's congresses of counties. These deputies will then elect a county's deputies to the people's congress of a city. City representatives will elect provincial ones, who will, in turn, elect deputies to the NPC.

Moreover, in the past, when the rural population far exceeded the urban one, each rural representative was a proxy for a greater number of citizens. Since 2010, the number of people each rural and urban representative speaks for has been the same, as an electoral law amendment granted equal representation in people's congresses to rural and urban residents.

In addition to the electoral system, the functions of the NPC Standing Committee have been improved. The committee exercises legislative power and supervises the implementation of the Constitution together with the NPC, which holds a full session once a year. Also, the NPC's special committees, ranging from the Law Committee to the Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee, have become more competent.

Although China has established a policy-making system that pools people's wisdom and serves their interests, further reforms are needed. The people's congress system will have to face new challenges, become better-rounded and keep its vitality.

China has already recognized the importance of further reforming its governance system. At a conference celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the NPC on September 5, President Xi Jinping cautioned against putting forth the appearance of power in lieu of its absence, speaking to the Western criticism of people's congresses as "rubber stamps." In addition, those taking part in people's congresses should avoid making empty promises during elections, a phenomenon that also plagues Western elections.

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