Saturday, November 17, 2007
A little-remarked passage (part VI, numbered para. 1) in Hu Jintao's work report to the 17th Party Congress [Chinese | English] last month calls for the gradual bringing into line of the different ratios of representation of rural and urban residents in China. I checked with a colleague who's very well informed about China, and it turns out that even well-informed people don't generally know that Art. 16 of the Election Law provides that urban residents shall get four times as many NPC seats per person as rural residents:
This electoral discrimination against rural residents has a long history and arises, unsurprisingly enough, from the view that this was after all supposed to be a revolution led by the proletariat, and we can't have them swamped by all those peasants.
The concept of differing representational weight appeared in the first Election Law of 1953, when urbanites were given eight times the representational weight of rural residents. This was reduced to four times in the 1995 revision of the Election Law. In 1953, the ratio of urban to rural residents was 13:87; in 1979, 18:82; in 1995, 30:70; and in 2005, 42:58. This reflects both genuine urbanization and possibly changes in the definition of who counts as what.
Some interesting results follow from putting these numbers together. If we think of the countryside as a unit and the cities as a unit, the NPC representation of the countryside has in fact gone down over time even while the ratio has been adjusted to be less discriminatory. Doing the math, it turns out that in 1953, the cities had 1.2 NPC deputies per rural deputy; in 1979, 1.8. In 1995, when the ratio was changed, this went down slightly to 1.7, but by 2005 it had climbed up to 2.9 urban deputies per rural deputy. In other words, NPC deputies are about 75% urban. Interesting!
My source for these numbers is this interesting article. Of course, if any reader knows these numbers to be wrong - I have not independently verified them - please let me know.