The Chinese Political System and the Communist Party

Constitution of the People's Republic of China (1982)

Constitution of the People's Republic of China (1982) [PDF]
Excerpts from the Preamble to the 1982 constitution. With document-based questions.

Constitution of the Communist Party of China (Amended 2007)

Constitution of the Communist Party of China
Amended and adopted at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on October 21, 2007.

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Diagram of the Political Structure of China

How China Is Ruled [BBC News]
Annotated diagram of China's political structure.

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Discussion Questions

  1. Find a diagram of the United States government and compare it to that of the Chinese government. What is the relationship between the federal, state, and local governments in the United States? Is this similar to or different than the centralized unified system of government found in China?

  2. Describe the role played by political parties in the United States, especially by the two major parties — the Democrats and the Republicans. Is this similar to or different than the role played by the Chinese Communist Party?

  3. When discussing the U.S. government, we often speak of "the balance of power" between the three branches of government — the executive (the president), the legislative (Congress), and the judicial (the Supreme Court). What is the "balance of power"? What is its purpose? How is this similar to or different than the Chinese system of government?

  4. Would Americans accept the idea that any one element of the government — the president, Congress, or the Supreme Court, or one of the political parties — should be stronger than all the others? Why?

  5. What place is given to individual freedom in the American definition of the ideal political society? How does this seem to differ from the Chinese sense of the ideal political society or from their sense of an individual's rights?

  6. On what principle do Americans disagree with the Chinese system of government? Think about and discuss the following:

    a) Do you and your classmates agree on how people "should" behave? Would Americans in general allow someone else to tell them how to behave? While some Americans might agree with the notion that all people should behave in a certain way, wouldn't they be less confident in deciding how to establish and enforce a standard of behavior? How would the entire society decide what was correct behavior, especially if people disagreed?
    b) Is there a committee at your school in charge of monitoring the social behavior of all the students? Is there such a committee in your neighborhood or at you or your mother's or father's place of work?
    c) How do Americans feel about laws that affect our personal behavior? What type of arguments are generated by issues such as: school prayer; the banning of books from public libraries or high school reading lists; the opening of a pornographic bookstore? How are the debates generated by these issues resolved?
    d) Do Americans accept government censorship of the news, media, television, radio, newspapers? Would Americans generally agree that through open discussion and free expression of opinion, the correct ideas emerge? How would this differ from the Chinese view?

  7. Do we, as Americans, accept the idea that someone in government should be able to tell us how best to arrange our personal affairs? What job we should take? Whom and when we should marry? When we should have children and how many?

  8. Perhaps you know people or perhaps you yourself or your family belong to an organization or a religious group that sets standards for personal behavior. How is this the same or different from the government? Can people choose to belong or not to belong to such a group, or does the group automatically include everyone in the society?

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© 2009 Asia for Educators, Columbia University | http://afe.easia.columbia.edu