Article 16 of the Common Program
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Article 16 of the Common Program

The jurisdiction of the Central People's Government and the local People's Governments shall be defined according to the nature of the various matters involved, and shall be prescribed by decrees of the Central People's Government Council so as to satisfy the requirements of both national unity and local expediency.



Mao Zedong expresses his opinion on jurisdiction on several times. On December 2, 1949 he states "These organizational regulations are precisely the general laws appropriate to the current period. The various local people's governments, although they may add [to these regulations] in accordance with concrete conditions [in their various localities], must implement them without exception... China is a big country; only if we establish powerful local organs at such a level can things be done well. What ought to be united, must be united; and there should by no means be any separate governance, each doing what he thinks is best. However, there must be integration between [the notion of] unification and [the notion of] discretionary arrangements according to local conditions. Under the regime of the people, the historical conditions of the past, in which regional occupation by the feudalist forces has been generated, have been eliminated. The division of labor between the Center and the localities will be to our advantage and will in no way harm us."
Document: 2-12-1949 Directive Issued at the Fourth Meeting of the CPGC (Excerpts)
On August 12, 1953 he explains "Centralization and decentralization are in constant contradiction with each other. Decentralism has grown since we moved into the cities. To resolve this contradiction all the principal and important issues must first be discussed and decided on by the Party committee before its decisions are referred to the government for implementation."
Document: 12-08-1953 Mao Zedong "Combat bourgeois ideas in the party"
And 6 months earlier he states "The “five excesses” consist of an excess of assignments, an excess of meetings and training courses, an excess of documents, written reports and statistical forms, an excess of organizations, and an excess of side jobs for activists. These problems have existed for a long time; with regard to some of them the Central Committee has issued directives to Party committees at various levels, urging them to give such problems proper attention and find solutions. But far from being solved, the problems are becoming more and more serious. This is because the issue has never been systematically raised in its totality and, what is more important, no struggle has ever been waged against decentralism and bureaucracy on the part of the leading Party and government organs at the five levels — central, greater administrative area, provincial (municipal), prefectural and county. For, generally speaking, the “five excesses” in the districts and townships are not a local product but stem from above and are the consequences of decentralism and bureaucracy existing to a serious degree in the leading Party and government organs at the county level and above."
Document: 19-03-1953 Mao Zedong "Resolve the Problem of the 'Five Excesses'"
According to the Common Program the central government is the highest body of state power when the NPC is not in session. The People's Republic of China is a unitary state, the central government defines the division of jurisdiction between the central and local administration. The jurisdiction of the central government is written down in the “Organic Law of the PRC Central People’s Government” and “…defines the central power as enacting and interpreting laws, formulating domestic and foreign policies, and appointing the leaders of the state, regions and provinces. But the jurisdictions of the local authorities are not specified."
Dong Lisheng (2007). Central local relations in China: retrospect and prospect. Discussion Paper 16 China Policy Institute. Page 8
In practice, since the Central Government is only an executive assembly with no implementation and enforcement infrastructure and resources, it has to delegate most of its decision-making power to the GAC. The Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, despite its independent status vis a vis the executive branch endowed in the Common Program, are in reality supervised by the Political-Legal Committee of the GAC, a mandate given personally by Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Central Government, and Zhou Enlai, the premier of the State Council. This means that the GAC are exercising de facto the executive, judicial and prosecutorial power, as well as, to some extent, legislative power. In practice, since the Central Government is only an executive assembly with no implementation and enforcement infrastructure and resources, it had to delegate most of its decision-making power to the GAC. The the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, despite its independent status vis a vis the executive branch endowed in the Common Program, are in practices supervised by the Political-Legal Committee of the State Council, a mandate given personally by Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Central Government, and Zhou Enlai, the premier of the State Council.11This means that the GAC are exercising de facto the executive, judicial and prosecutorial power, as well as, to some extent, legislative power.
Li Ling (2019). Political-legal order and the curious double character of China’s courts. Asian Journal of Law & Society, 6,1. Page 4
See also Article 17
As seen above in Article 14 the 6 great administrative bureaus are put out of action in 1954 and at the same time two resolutions are passed, one regulating the provinces' and districts' (ch'ü) organs, and one increasing the number of central organs. After the abolition of the 6 bureaus ”… the provincial administrations were elevated from secondary to primary level, and put under the direct leadership of the central government. For this, administrative regions at the provincial level were combined, with all the cities under the jurisdictions of the provinces except Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai which were directly under the Central Government. As a result, the number of provinces decreased from 53 in 1953 to around 30 in 1955.”
Kin Lok Wai (2009). The relationship between central and local governments under the unitary state system of China. In Jorge Oliveira & Paulo Cardinal (Eds.), One country, two systems, three legal orders - perspectives of evolution. Berlin. Page 530
The creation of the State Planning Commission in August 1953 is the hallmark of the call for increased centralization and unification in planning.


Literature Notes Documents...

4. Dong Lisheng (2007). Central local relations in China: retrospect and prospect. Discussion Paper 16 China Policy Institute. Page 8 Back
5.Li Ling (2019). Political-legal order and the curious double character of China’s courts. Asian Journal of Law & Society, 6,1. Page 4 Back
6. Kin Lok Wai (2009). The relationship between central and local governments under the unitary state system of China. In Jorge Oliveira & Paulo Cardinal (Eds.), One country, two systems, three legal orders - perspectives of evolution. Berlin. Page 530 Back
Continue to Article 17