BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly 2018/11

On Sunday (Mar. 11), the National People's Congress (NPC) voted near unanimously for a package of constitutional amendments that bolster the power of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and blur the boundaries between the CPC and state. The most debated of the 21 amendments has been the elimination of presidential term limits. In practice, presidency of the state is entitled to the CPC secretary general, who also serves as commander-in-chief of the military. The terms of the latter two posts were never limited to definite periods. Xi became the first living Chinese leader since Mao to have his name inscribed in the party articles, and on Sunday his personal ideology "Xi Jinping Thought" was incorporated into the preamble of the Chinese constitution.

The NPC also approved the party's proposed broad administrative reforms of state institutions. Parts of old ministries and agencies will be eliminated and merged, while new ones will be created, raising the total number of ministries and commissions by one to 26. For example, the banking and insurance supervisory commissions will be combined, while the pursuit of macroeconomic stability will shift in part to the central bank. The market regulatory authority will occupy the field in such areas as corporate antitrust and competition regulation as well as product safety. The new national health commission will now focus on the challenges presented by an aging population. The Ministry of Environmental Protection will be bolstered by the integration of activities currently performed in several other ministries and agencies. Appointments to top leadership positions will be made before the NPC adjourns next Tuesday (Mar. 20).

The constitution was amended to include a newly created National Supervisory Commission. It comprehensively oversees the country's internal monitoring, anti-corruption activities, ideology and political work on behalf of the party.

Accepted constitutional amendments enable CPC to take a firmer grip on society. Although the NPC has never rejected a proposed amendment from the party, open opposition now appears to be rarer than before. The constitutional amendments were approved in a vote of 2,958 to 2. After the changes enter into force, the CPC will be China's sole governing authority under the constitution. Official addresses to the NPC stressed strengthening the party's role in governing as crucial to administrative efficiency and moving ahead with reforms.