Policy Brief  

The National People’s Congress: Functions and Membership

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From time to time, the attention of the media in the United States and around the world turns to China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), typically around the time the NPC meets in March. The NPC is sometimes described as what it is: a “ceremonial” legislature that functions as“rubber stamp” for the Chinese Communist Party. The Nature Of the NPC and its members, however, is also sometimes misunderstood, or at least not fully explained. The NPC is the highest organ of the state, the national legislature. Delegates are elected by the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, and by the armed forces. Delegates are elected for a term of five years and the NPC convenes once a year with the session usually running for between 10 and 14 days in March, in conjunction with the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC). The membership of the NPC totals almost 3,000 and meeting only briefly each year means that for most delegates, membership is ceremo- nial rather than substantial. For most, it is a sign of recognition or appreciation by the national leadership that they have made contributions to society or that they have particular expertise that is required by the NPC.

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