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Tiananmen Square_2009 National Day Parade






How China Works

The Central Government
China is a socialist state, controlled absolutely by the Communist Party of China. The National People's Congress is the highest organ of state power. It is composed of deputies elected by the provinces, regions, municipalities and armed forces. Deputies serve five-year terms.

The congress usually meets once a year in March in the Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square. The cavernous meeting chamber can accommodate 10,000 people.

Besides the Communist Party, there are eight democratic parties, which provide a semblance of an opposition, but pose virtually no threat to the status quo. The congress elects the president and vice president, and the constitution allows any citizen over the age of 45 to stand for the office. Fat chance, unless one has enormous connections. Like the U.S. system, the president and vice president can serve no more than two consecutive terms.

The real authority resides in the State Council, the highest organ of state administration. The council is responsible to the National People's Congress or its standing committee, and is composed of the premier, vice premiers, councillors, ministers, auditor-general and secretary-general. The premier, vice premiers and councillors cannot serve more than two consecutive five-year terms. Under the General Affairs Office of the State Council are 36 ministries or organizations with ministerial status, nine commissions, an auditing administration, and a number of subsidiary organs and working bodies. Among the organizations with ministerial status are the Peoples Bank of China, the Auditing Administration and Xinhua News Agency, China's official news gathering body. Top

An organization called the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference assists the National People's Congress in making its decisions by conducting political consultations on major state policies and issues. Founded in 1949 shortly before the founding of the People's Republic, its membership comes from the Communist Party, eight other political parties, people's organizations and prominent individuals, including even a few Westerners who are long-time residents and citizens in China, such as Israel Epstein, editor emeritus of China Today magazine, and George Hatem. Top

The non-Communist parties, with dates of founding, are: China Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang (1949), China Democratic League (1944), China Democratic National Construction Association (1945), China Association for Promoting Democracy (1945), Chinese peasants' and Workers Democratic Party (1947), China Zhi Gong Dang (1947), Jin San Society (1945), and the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League (1947)

China has 22 provinces (23 if Taiwan is included), four municipalities with the status of a province (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing), two special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau), and five autonomous regions (Tibet, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, and Guangxi Zhuang).


Armed Forces
China has the largest standing armed forces in the world with more than 3 million men and women in uniform. Millions more belong to armed militia and the Chinese People's Armed Police Force. The People's Liberation Army is the backbone of the armed forces. Its birthday on Aug. 1, 1927, is commemorated each year nationwide and marks the beginning of Chinese Communist Party's long march to power.

Foreign Relations
China has relations with practically every country in the world. Sweden was the first Western country to recognize the People's Republic, on May 9, 1950, followed two days later by Denmark. France established relations on Jan. 27, 1964, Canada on Oct. 13, 1970 (the first country in the Americas to do so), Mexico on Feb. 14, 1972, Great Britain on March 13, 1972, Japan on Sept. 29, 1972, and the United States on Jan. 1, 1979.

China's major exports are textiles, garments, telecommunications and recording equipment, petroleum and minerals. Its major imports include specialized industrial equipment, chemicals, manufactured goods, steel, textile yarn and fertilizers. Its major industries are iron and steel, coal, machine building, armaments, textiles, petroleum, cement, chemical fertilizers, consumer durables and food processing.

About one-quarter of its Gross National Product is derived from the agriculture sector. China is among the world's biggest producers of rice, potatoes, sorghum, peanuts, millet, barley and pork, and produces wheat, cotton, other fibers and oilseeds and a variety of livestock products as well. It is basically self-sufficient in food.

Most of its major products originated outside China. Sorghum was brought to China from Ethiopia via Burma in the 16th century. Corn, potatoes, peanuts, pineapples and tobacco all came from the Americas, introduced mostly by the Portuguese from Macao and Dutch from Indonesia. Rice came from Vietnam and was brought to Fujian is south China. The new crops enabled the Chinese to bring additional land under cultivation, introduce twice-yearly crops, and increase the yield. As a consequence the population grew by leaps and bounds. Top

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