REGULATIONS > Overview of China’s Legal and Supporting Institutional Framework

The Highest Authority – National People’s Congress

The National People’s Congress (NPC) is the highest political and legislative authority within the PRC and has far-reaching powers that include:

  • Amending and enforcing implementation of the constitution;
  • Formulation of policy and laws;
  • Electing the President and Vice President, other members of the State Council and other senior officials;
  • Supervision of other governing bodies; and
  • Approving the plan for national economic and social development.

The permanent body of the NPC is the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party. The State Council appointed by the NPC serves as the government/cabinet and consists of the Premiers, Vice-Premiers, State Councilors, Ministers in charge of ministries, Ministers in charge of commissions, the Auditor-General and the Secretary-General.

The NPC has established numerous committees covering state affairs that include Environment and Resources Protection and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees. Under the direction of the NPC and its Standing Committee, these draft and submit (among other bodies) relevant bills and undertake routine legislative and supervisory tasks. The NPC also delegates significant powers to implement state laws to local authorities.

National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)

NDRC is a macroeconomic management agency under the State Council that formulates policies for economic and social development (monetary, price and land policies).

The Commission plans key construction projects and promotes China’s strategy of sustainable development. This includes coordinating emission reductions; formulating and/or coordinating implementation of plans and policy measures for a “recycling economy”; introducing resource conservation, ecological improvement and environmental protection coordination work to promote environment-responsible industries and clean production.

The Ministerial System

The various ministries under the State Council play a role in directing policy, laws and regulation. The ministries themselves have numerous departments and agencies under their authority and issue supervisions and regulations to facilitate implementation of laws.

Bureaus subordinate to the ministries are responsible for issuing local statutes, supervisions and stipulations including pollution permits at the provincial, city, county, district and town levels.

The Judicial System

The judicial system consists of:

  • Supreme People’s Court, (the highest prosecutorial agency in China);
  • People’s Courts (Higher Level People’s Courts (provincial) and Intermediate and Basic People’s Courts (local); and
  • Procuratorates (prosecutorial agencies) that examine cases scheduled for investigation to determine whether a case should be prosecuted.

Judges in China, however, lack the professional status typical of many developed economies and are generally not highly educated, reflecting their low status in the political hierarchy.

Adapted from i) Economic Research Services/USDA, “China’s Agricultural Water Policy Reforms/AIB-782″ and ii) WEPA website