China under Mao
Chinese political system has undergone a number of changes since the communist revolution happened. Mao Zedong, a major figure in the history of Chinese communism, played a major role in shaping the system of politics in this country during and after his regime (Walder, 2015). In fact, the communist party ideologies dominate the government structures and decision-making. For this reason, the modern day Chinese governance system and Mao’s one have some striking similarities and differences in distribution of power and influence. The political system of China during the reign of Mao Zedong and the contemporary political system offer an in-depth view of how power is exercised in the communist China.
During the reign of Mao Zedong, the Chinese political system was anchored in the communist manifesto, which controlled every aspect of administration. The community party structure made the base of the government. In fact, after the triumph over the Nationalist forces, Mao made a public announcement that the new government would consist of the members of the communist party. According to Dumbaugh (2009), any form of opposition received ruthless retaliation as a way to guarantee communism a free room to thrive without distractions. Some agencies and committees were announced to form the governmental structure.
The Central Committee formed the highest governing body in the communist party (Dumbaugh, 2009). Mao was its chairman, and he had immense power over the legislation and political decision-making. Collective leadership approach dominated Mao’s regime. Power was spread within the Central Committee, where each section of people received power and mandate to handle specific legislative and political decision-making.
Although the Politburo offered leadership, where the top leaders collectively managed the country affairs, this system excluded the majority from the decision-making, and Mao wielded more influence across organs of the government. He did all he can to centralize power and keep top party and government organs subordinate to his authority (Grant & Rawcliffe, 2009).
Dumbaugh (2009) argues that in the period of 1945-1956, the system of collective leadership did not apply, but instead, the Mao controlled Secretariat to be in charge of decision-making and legislation. The development was due to the failure of the party congress to establish the Standing Committee. In 1956, this vital committee was restored with the subordinate Secretariat. The committee comprised six members with Mao as its patron. However, he did not pay much attention to its roles and often failed to show up for the meetings.
If to speak about Secretariat, it consisted of seven people and three alternative committees. The General Secretary from the communist party presided over this organ, and he was the only person who sat on the Secretariat and the Standing Committee. Under this political system, the head of main government, military, and party hierarchies were ranked according to the order of political power. On the other hand, the Secretariat employed a parallel delimitation of individual responsibility with every member presiding over particular policy portfolio.
The leading small groups (LSG) played a subordinate role to the Secretariat. The work of these groups was to coordinate and oversee key policy implementation. However, the system did not last long as Mao felt that it did not give him enough authority. In the early 1960s, he started making efforts to reassert his power.
The advent of Cultural Revolution in 1966 led to the collapse of the Standing Committee and Secretariat. Consequently, the Cultural Revolution small group replaced the Politburo Standing Committee as the main deciding-making organ on political issues. Later on, in 1969, the Ninth Party Congress chose a new Politburo Standing Committee. However, it never met. Mao preoccupation with the power centralization did not favor collective leadership, which left the two high-ranking organs weak (Grant & Rawcliffe, 2009).
During the Mao’s regime, there also was the Party Congress which had responsibility for selecting members of the Standing Committee, approving legislation and policies proposal by the state, and overseeing the implementation of the communist manifesto. However, it did not have a direct influence on major decision-making. The proposals of the Congress were subject to the Secretariat and Standing Committee approval. Its power was mainly legislative and appointing regarding the state highest organs of authority (Dreyer, 2015).
The post-Mao era marked the transformation of the ways Chinese political system works. The new leadership made quick moves to revert to collective leadership and try to eliminate the one-man dictatorship as exhibited in Mao regime. Previous political structures and policy formulation systems were altered to accommodate new changes. Thus, collective leadership is a feature that the modern Chinese political structure emphasized to avoid one-man dictatorship (Joseph, 2014). Party and state institutions that existed during Mao era plus new ones took charge of various roles in governing China.
One of such institutions includes the Congress, the legislative assembly whose main function is representation across the country. Its members are selected through a competitive process. National People's Congress is the constitutional highest ranking organ of power. It can legislate and amend laws, supervise enforcement, abrogate and ratify foreign treaties, approve or refuse state budget, elect top officials of the judicial system and the state, oversee the functions of the State Central Military, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, State Council, and Supreme Court. However, in reality, the state council wields more political power than the Congress due to the communist party’s overwhelming influence on the governmental decisions. The National People’s Congress is more of a rubber stamp to the decisions of the party top leadership (Dumbaugh, 2009).
Dreyer (2015) affirms that the National People’s Congress meets once a year for two weeks to make and approve new major laws, policy directions, personnel changes, and budget, proposed by the State Council. It should be noted that Standing Committee of the National People's Congress adopts most legislations that govern China. In this respect, it exercises more legislative authority than the General Congress does.
Another political structure is the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) which comprises a seven-member council, the most senior state, and a Communist Party decision-making organ (Dreyer, 2015). The PSC has the authority to endorse or reject legislations budget, appointment of personnel, and policy directions before forwarding them to the state council and National People’s Congress for approval. The number one ranking member of the PSC is the Communist Party General Secretary, who is also the Prime Minister and overseer of the military and foreign policy (Joseph, 2014).
In its turn, the State Council is considered the highest decision-making organ in the modern day China. It consists of the president, four deputies, heads of state council commissions, ministers, and state councilors. The prime minister presides over the state council, and it has the chief power over governing the country and making major decisions. Unlike Mao era, the contemporary China political system has strong emphasis on collective leadership (Dreyer, 2015).
Moreover, in the modern day China, the provincial governments are subordinate to the State Council. The operations of these regional administrations are supervised by the Beijing regime, which controls the policies that are adopted throughout the country. State Council is an embodiment of shared authority with each ministry and department enjoying autonomy in a specified field.
Two more political institutions comprise the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). PLA is the Communist Party military wing, which also serves as the country’s security force (Dreyer, 2015). It ensures that the party leadership enjoys absolute power. In this respect, communist indoctrination guides the work of the army. The leadership of this wing sits in the State Council, and it is under the direct control of the Communist Party. The General Political Department (GDP) is the main tool for Communist Party influence and control of the PLA. GDP is entrusted with the power to train military and political matters, control dossiers on individuals, and promote. All GDP officers are loyal party members. Two of them sit on the Communist Party Politburo (Dreyer, 2015).
In his turn, Dreyer (2015) observes that the CPPCC is a feature that did not exist in the Mao era but was created in the modern Chinese political system to further collective leadership principle. The state and party consult this organ on major policy issues. It serves as the forum for collecting public opinions before making key policy and legislative changes. The CPPCC gives the state a chance to get the public and experts take on various policy propositions before they are adopted by the state.
In conclusion, the Chinese political system during Mao Zedong era was more centralized as the prime minister weakened the collective leadership framework to concentrate his authority and influence. The Standing Committee, People’s Congress, and military were subordinate to Mao’s power. Decision-making was largely controlled and influenced by him, which explains why the party state organs were weaker regarding decision-making. In its turn, the contemporary China adopted and advanced strong institutions of collective leadership with the state council being the most powerful organ of decision-making. The National Congress, which has legislative and supervisory functions, is the constitutionally most powerful organ, but in reality, it is subordinate to the authority of the Communist Party. It is largely a rubber-stamping tool to decisions of the party and state government. Therefore, in the modern day China, the governmental policies, laws, and controls are mainly done by the communists through the Standing Committee rather than a single individual as during Mao regime.