Wang Huning
Li Keqiang
Zhao Leji
Li Zhanshu
Wang Yang
Han Zheng
State Council
Military
Supervision
Judiciary
NPC
CPPCC

Leading groups

Xi Jinping is the most powerful figure in China's political system, and his influence mainly comes from his position as the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Xi is the core of the seven-member standing committee of the Politburo — they form the innermost circle of China's governance structure.

While in theory they make decisions by consensus, Xi is the core and not, as they say, the first among equals. But it's not an absolute dictatorship as the other six are also important.

The seven members are in a 25-member Politburo, making up the pinnacle of leadership power in the Communist Party. Remember, all institutions in China, including the government, the courts and the military, report to the party.

Foreign affairs
Taiwan affairs
Internet security
Security commission
Comprehensively deepening reforms
Defence and military reform
Financial affairs
Military and civilian development

Xi is also creating many leading groups with himself as the chief to take over decision-making power that used to be scattered among different units or people. Click on the groups below to see what they do.

Central Leading Group for Foreign Affairs
These positions offer Xi control over China’s diplomacy and its policy towards Taiwan.
Central Leading Group for Taiwan Affairs
These positions offer Xi control over China’s diplomacy and its policy towards Taiwan.
Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatisation
This group was created in early 2014 and reflected Xi’s desire to control the internet. Xi’s hallmark idea for online governance is "internet sovereignty". Public reports about Xi in this title are rare.
Central National Security Commission
The commission is Beijing’s answer to the National Security Council in Washington, covering intelligence, the military, diplomacy and public security as well as health, commerce and finance. Xi chaired the commission’s first meeting in April 2014. Public reports about the commission’s work have been muted ever since.
Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms
After Xi created this group at the end of 2013, it became clear he would use it to cement his direct control over key issues. Xi had held 31 meetings of the leading group by the end of last year, addressing a wide range of issues.
Central Leading Group for National Defence and Military Reform of the Central Military Commission
Xi chaired the first group meeting in March 2014 and at the third in July 2015 he pushed a blueprint for massive military reforms.
Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs
This leading group has been in place since at least 1992. Xi heads it and his right-hand man, Liu He, is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the group.
Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development
A group involved with creating China's industrial-military strength.

Xi, as China's president, is the head of the state. But the head of the government is the premier and the No 2 in the party, Li Keqiang.

The central government's official name is the State Council, like the cabinet elsewhere, and runs all ministries, including the People's Bank of China, the central bank.

It should be noted that there are dual reporting structures in all Chinese ministries or government agencies. A minister is often the secretary of the ministry's party committee, which means he reports to the premier on one channel but the real reporting line is the party.

The Chinese military answers to the Communist Party under a principle known as "the party commands the gun". The Central Military Commission, with Xi as the chairman, is the decision-making body of the military.

The commission is one of the biggest institutional changes that Xi is making in governance of China. Once approved, the watchdog will supervise all public institution workers, including governments and courts, as well as doctors and teachers.

China says it is a country run according to rule by law. In some areas, such as commercial law, judgments are increasingly seen as fair and independent. But in general, "rule by law" is really the "rule of the party" by its own laws.

The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, headed by a Politburo member, oversees the judiciary and prosecutors.

The National People's Congress is a rubber stamp agency to put Communist Party decisions into "laws", giving the one-party dictatorship a parliamentary democracy cloak and a rule-by-law cover. It has never vetoed any proposal from the party.

"Elections" of delegates are strictly controlled by the party, and most of delegates are party members or local government officials.

A ceremonial NPC gathering of about 2,300 delegates takes place in March. The standing committee of the NPC — which has many retired government officials as members — drafts and endorses laws in normal days.

If the NPC is a kind of ornamental House of Commons, the CPPCC is a House of Lords with only an advisory role. Membership of the CPPCC can signify political recognition or an arrangement for retired officials.