On the Composition of the Deputies in the National People's Congress of China

AuthorZhao Xiaoli
ZHAO (DO NOT DELETE) 13-10-4 10:16 PM
ZHAO Xiaoli
The composition of the deputies in the National People’s Congress of China shows reliance on
the principle of formal proportionality based on the national census and substantial
representation based on the inclusion of rural areas, minorities and other groups which are a
statistically smaller portion o f the population. However the quota system based on these
principles of representation cannot mitigate against the overrepresentation of government
officials and the increasing elitism of the deputies. Yet these issues are nominal compared to
the forging of closer political bonds between the representatives and the represented. The
author believes that the correlation between the representatives and the represented may be
strengthened by moving towards the direct election of the deputies of the National People’s
Congress, thereby placing the constitutionality of the National People’s Congress as the
highest organ of state sovereignty on a firmer foundation.
On March 14th 2010, the eleventh National People’s Congress
amended the 1979 Electoral Law of the People’s Republic of China
for the National People’s Congress and Local People’s Congresses
for the fifth time, removing the one-quarter clause in favor of
apportioning deputies at the national and local levels based on rural
and urban population.
Under the one-quarter clause prior to the amending of the
Electoral Law, every rural deputy represented four times as many
people as the urban deputy represented. Article 14 and 16 of the
amended Electoral Law states that “t]he number of deputies to the
National People’s Congress shall be allocated by its Standing
Committee on the basis of the population of each province,
autonomous region and municipality directly under the central
government, and in accordance with the principle that each deputy
represents the same number of urban or rural people and the
requirement guaranteeing an appropriate number of deputies for
every region, ethnic group and sector of society”.
This new requirement clarifies two principles for apportioning
deputies for national and local level deputies: firstly, each deputy
represents the same number of urban or rural people, i.e., the
principle of formal proportionality; and secondly, that regions, ethnic
groups or sectors of society with lower population otherwise
incapable of being represented be afforded representation, i.e., the
principle of substantive representation.
It is obvious that the principles of formal proportionality and
substantive representation conflict; if formal proportionality is
applied across the board, then regions, ethnic groups or sectors of
society with lower populations will be denied representation; and if
Associate Professor at School of Law, Tsinghua University.
ZHAO (DO NOT DELETE) 13-10-4 10:16 PM
substantive representation is relied on extensively, then regions with
higher proportions of population will be denied adequate
representation. The author will now first examine the effects of these
two principles on the apportionment of deputies of the National
People’s Congress.
A. Proportionality and representativeness of rural and urban
People’s Congress deputies at the county and rural levels are
elected directly, while deputies above the county level are elected
through representatives. Thus the one-quarter clause impacts direct
elections and indirect elections differently.
In direct elections, the one-quarter clause affects the value of each
vote, as the vote of a rural voter is not the same worth as the vote of
an urban voter. The differing value of the votes means that the
deputies voted in by a majority of the population are not necessarily
a majority of the deputies representing the population. For example,
if a county has 1,000,000 residents of which 200,000 are urban
voters and 800,000 are rural, according to the one-quarter clause
there would be the same number of deputies representing the urban
voters as the rural voters. If the county had 300,000 urban voters and
700,000 rural voters, then the deputies representing the urban
population would in fact outnumber the deputies representing the
rural population. The result is that a majority of the deputies do not
represent a majority of the population, which is inconsistent with
formal proportionality.
In indirect elections representative democracy causes the
one-quarter clause to affect not the value of each vote, but the
apportioning of deputies between different voting units. In the
National People’s Congress, apportionment of the deputies is based
on population and the proportion of rural and urban voters in the
provinces, autonomous areas, and the municipalities under the
central government. For example, if province A and municipality B
each have a population of 12,000,000; if province A being an
important agriculture area has a rural population of 9,600,000 and an
urban population of 2,400,000; if the rural population elects one
deputy for every 960,000 people, and the urban population elects one
deputy for every 240,000 1, then province A would have twenty
1 Such a standard has been adopted by the Tenth National People’s Congress and the Eleventh
National People’s Congress to decide the number of deputies elected from each province, autonomous
region or municipality directly under the Central Government. See generally DijiuJie Quanguo Renda
Diwuci Huiyi Guanyu DishiJie Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui Daibiao Minge He Xuanju Wenti De

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