Q: In what ways do Chinese government agencies perform their functions? How are the powers divided between the central government and local governments? How are contradictions between central policies and local policies dealt with?
A: China's administration includes government agencies at central and local levels, with the State Council as the highest organ of state administration. Local governments include four levels: provincial level, prefecture level, county level and township level.
Since 1998, China has adopted significant reform of the institutional structure of the State Council, which comprises: General Office of the State Council and 28 ministries, commissions and general administrations, one special department directly under the State Council, 18 departments directly under the State Council, eight offices under the State Council and some institutions directly under the State Council.
China's administrative divisions include 22 provinces, five autonomous regions and four municipalities directly under the Central Government and local governments at the level of prefecture, county and township. All of them are under the leadership of the State Council and administrate local affairs.
Prior to reform and opening up in 1978, power in China had been too centralized in general. In terms of the relationship between the Central Government and local governments, power was mainly held by the Central Government; in terms of the relationship between society and government, power was mainly held by government; in terms of the relationship between the ruling party and the government, power was mainly held by the ruling party.
According to the Constitution and the Law on Legislation, people's congresses and their standing committees of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities as well as large cities are entitled to formulate local regulations, and governments in these places have the power to draw up local rules. Ethnic autonomous regions are entitled to formulate autonomous regulations and special rules. However, the status of local legislation is lower than that of central legislation, and when local legislation contravenes central legislation, state laws, administrative regulations and state policies shall prevail.
Moreover, according to the principle of being led by the Central Government and fully playing out the initiatives of localities, China has clarified functions between the Central Government and local governments in terms of economic regulation, market supervision, social management and public services. National or trans-provincial affairs are managed by the Central Government in order to secure the unity of the country's legal system, policies and market. Affairs within the localities are managed by local governments in order to raise efficiency, lower costs and improve administrative vigor. For affairs to be managed by both the Central Government and local governments, scope of management and responsibilities should be clarified according to different circumstances. Furthermore, the state has gradually straightened out the functions and responsibilities of the Central Government and local governments in terms of finance, taxes, investment, and social security, in accordance with the division of functions and responsibilities in the management of economic and social affairs.
The division of functions and responsibilities between the Central Government and local governments is decided by the economic and political interests of the Central Government and local governments in the final analysis. How to handle the relationship between national interests and local interests is a very important question in the political lives of most modern countries. China is a socialist country. Although it can better reflect the fundamental and long-term interests of its entire people, an undeniable point is that contradictions still exist between the Central Government and local governments. How to deal with these contradictions is still a very important question to a large country such as China.