PRC1 Government Structure
- The government of the People’s Republic of China (“China”) comprises central (or national) and local governments. The central government primarily consists of the National People’s Congress (“NPC”), the State Council, the Supreme People’s Court (“SPC”) and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (“SPP”).
- The NPC is the supreme organ of state power, the State Council is the administrative/executive branch, and the SPC and SPP are the judicial organs of the central government. Directly under the State Council, there are nearly 50 ministries, commissions, administrations and offices that are responsible for administering, regulating and supervising the respective societal, economic and cultural aspects of the nation. Annex 1 is a chart setting out the central government’s structure.
- Local governments at the level of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities under the direct administration of the central government2 are structured similarly.
PRC Legal System
- China’s legal system is largely a civil law system and consists of three broad categories of written law:
- The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which, in theory, is the supreme source of law, but which is rarely cited or is applied only in specific cases.
- ‘Laws’, ‘administrative regulations’, ‘local regulations’, ‘department rules’ and ‘local government rules’ (as respectively defined under the PRC Legislation Law).
- ‘Normative documents’, which are not formally recognised as a source of law, but are specific directives, notices or circulars that are formulated and issued by various administrative authorities (i.e., the State Council and ministries, commissions, administrations and offices of the State Council as well as their respective local counterparts) in order to provide detailed implementing rules or an explanation of legal principles and administrative regulations. As laws and administrative regulations are often principle-based and lack implementing details, these normative documents in practice function as a source of law. As long as these normative documents do not violate laws or administrative regulations, PRC courts would normally give deference to such documents.
- While the lower-ranking laws in theory should not contradict those of higher ranking, China has no formal judicial review of the constitutionality of a given law. Set out in Annex 2 is a table of different sources of law and their relative ranking in authority.