political posters, county levels, long chapter, centralized power, concept of rule
The first constitution of the People’s Republic of China went into effect in 1954. It established the government structure and contained a long chapter on citizens’ rights and duties. The government adopted new constitutions in 1975 and 1978, and adopted the present constitution in 1982. Each constitution reflected the ideological concerns and policy priorities of the time, although none fundamentally altered the government structure. The present constitution echoes the formality and detail of the first, reflecting an ideological return to the concept of rule of law. All of the constitutions nominally centralized power in the National People’s Congress, giving it the power to appoint and supervise the top officials of both the executive and the judicial branches. Amendments to the 1982 constitution canceled the right of citizens to hang political posters and legitimized the economic role of private firms.
Members of people’s congresses at the two lowest levels of government—the township and county levels—are directly elected in tightly controlled elections with limited competition. Citizens who are at least 18 years of age may vote. Members of the people’s congresses at the provincial and national levels are indirectly elected by the congresses at the lower levels. Administrative leaders at all levels—for example, county heads, provincial governors, and the premier—are elected by the people’s congress at their level, although the person chosen is usually the one recommended by the CCP.
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