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Headway on Specialization but Deficiency on Autonomy: Institutionalization of the Permanent Committees in China's National People's Congress



Parallel abstracts

As China's society is showing signs of civil autonomy and defiance, scholars wonder whether the legislatures, once a "rubber stamp," are gaining a new life by becoming more autonomous vis-a-vis the resilient party-state. Employing a new operational definition of institutionalization by supplementing the concepts borrowed from existing literature in China's National People's Congress (NPC), this article tries to analyze the institutional developments of the permanent committees in the NPC. The findings suggest that the NPC committees have indeed made great headway on the issue of "complexity" and even included some "universal criteria" in their rules, but problems with the "boundness" still linger. In the area of "complexity," the growth of committees in both size and numbers, recruitment of younger but better educated members, the emergence of seniority system in the selection of leadership and the rising trend towards specialization, have all contributed to building up capacity of the institution. While the function of law-drafting has been declining, committees have been granted more powers in the deliberation process, and hence more regularization. On the other hand, about 80% of committee members still retain CCP membership. More NPC Standing Committee members are serving in permanent committees than before, while shortened time served by committee members have added additional challenges to the consolidation of "boundness." In conclusion, the article substantiates the logic of "authoritarian resilience" by pointing out that although more specialization is obviously discernible in the NPC committees, autonomy remains weak.