Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The gerrymandered National People's Congress

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.

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The number may not be wrong, but I think you should know this: the current calculating method of the urban and rural residents cannot reflect the real facts in the society.
In traditional method, the urban and rural residents are differentiated by their residence belongingness (kukou). Since the adoption of the opening policy and the development of the economy, more and more rural residents move to urban for work. According to statistic data of the authority, the moving population has reached 140m in the end of the 2005( But this part of the population still is regarded as rural residents when calculating the ratio no matter the person living in urban or not. So you may find one person who has been lived in Beijing for decades is rural resident. Maybe it’s all because of the outdated residence system.

Posted by: letitia | Nov 27, 2007 2:04:58 AM

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