MERICS China Monitor No. 37

Activating The National People’s Congress

Law making on Behalf of the Party Center

Traditionally, the legislative initiative and law-making process in China was dominated by State Council executive agencies. Since 2015, significant changes have taken place: the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) has played a very active role in introducing its own draft bills and in addition has frequently vetoed government-initiated bills.

The latest China Monitor Activating the National People’s Congress: Law making on Behalf of the Party Center by MERICS experts George G. Chen and Matthias Stepan argues, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership headed by Xi Jinping bolsters this shift in the NPC’s role. The NPC should curb the ineffectiveness of executive bodies in implementing the will of the top leadership, bypassing bureaucratic turf wars among State Council organs, and upholding the authority of the CCP as the governing party.

The NPCSC, China’s “core legislature,” focuses its law-making efforts on social and environmental issues. The revision of the Environmental Protection Law in 2014 demonstrates the NPCSC’s dynamic role as a political actor operating and coordinating beyond institutional rivalries between State Council executive bodies. Moreover, the new law on managing overseas Non-Governmental Organizations indicates that the current top leadership of the CCP actively employs the legislative process to safeguard key party-state interests. The NPCSC has made progress in initiating citizen-related draft bills, supervising government authorities, and intervening more proactively where government activities do not comply with the law.

All this adds to the NPC’s profile and influence in policy-making. Still, the NPC cannot be seen as a free-wheeling law-making body. What we find is rather an authorization of the NPC and its Standing Committee as the law-making body acting on behalf of the party’s top leadership and its priority agendas, such as anti-corruption, environmental protection and control of societal organizations. China’s law-making bodies thus serve as a corrective of the bureaucratic leviathans in the executive branch often considered too slow and ineffective to realize the will of the party’s top leadership.

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The Authors

The  Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS)is a Stiftung Mercatorinitiative. Established in 2013, MERICS is a Berlin-based institute for contemporary and practical research into China.