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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

China's Political Institutions and Leaders in Charts


Susan V. Lawrence
Specialist in Asian Affairs

This report provides a snapshot of China’s leading political institutions and current leaders in the form of nine organization charts and three tables. The report is a companion to CRS Report R41007, Understanding China’s Political System, by Susan V. Lawrence and Michael F. Martin, which provides a detailed explanation of China’s political system. This chart-based report is intended to assist Members and their staffs seeking to understand where political institutions and individuals fit within the broader Chinese political system and to identify which Chinese officials are responsible for specific portfolios. The information may be useful for Members and staff visiting China, hosting visitors from China, preparing for China-related hearings, or drafting China-related legislation.

Figures 1 and 2 depict China’s political power structure as it was envisioned in Chapter 3 of the 1982 state constitution, and as actually implemented. The key difference is that while Chapter 3 of the state constitution identifies the National People’s Congress as the highest organ of state power, the Communist Party of China exercises leadership over the entire political system.

Figures 3, 4, and 5 provide information about the Communist Party’s leadership. Figure 3 presents the Party’s hierarchy. Figure 4 lists the members of the Party’s most senior decisionmaking body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and their portfolios. Figure 5 lists all 25 members of the full Politburo and their principal areas of responsibility.

Figure 6 lists the members of the Central Military Commission, a Party body that exercises unified command over the armed forces, known collectively as the People’s Liberation Army.

Figure 7 shows where the largely honorary office of the State President sits within the state hierarchy, according to the state constitution. The president’s authority actually derives from his concurrent post as General Secretary of the Communist Party.

Figure 8 presents the hierarchy of the State Council, a cabinet-like entity which is tasked with implementing Party policies and managing the state bureaucracy. China conducts its relations with most of the world through the State Council. Table 1 introduces the 10 members of the State Council Executive Committee, listed by rank, with information about each official’s portfolio. Figure 9 depicts the organizational structure of China’s unicameral legislature, the National People’s Congress.

Table 2 lists leading Party, military, and State officials with portfolios that include foreign affairs. Table 3 lists the top officials of China’s Foreign Ministry, with information about each official’s portfolio.

Date of Report: November 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R43303
Price: $29.95


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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

U.S.-Taiwan Relationship: Overview of Policy Issues


Shirley A. Kan
Specialist in Asian Security Affairs

Wayne M. Morrison
Specialist in Asian Trade and Finance

The purpose and scope of this CRS report is to provide a succinct overview with analysis of the major issues in the U.S. policy on Taiwan. This report will be updated as warranted. Taiwan formally calls itself the sovereign Republic of China (ROC), tracing its political lineage to the ROC set up after the revolution in 1911 in China. The ROC government retreated to Taipei in 1949. The United States recognized the ROC until the end of 1978 and has maintained a nondiplomatic relationship with Taiwan after recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing in 1979. The State Department claims an “unofficial” U.S. relationship with Taiwan, despite official contacts that include arms sales. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979, P.L. 96-8, has governed policy in the absence of a diplomatic relationship or a defense treaty. Other key statements that guide policy are the three U.S.-PRC Joint Communiqu├ęs of 1972, 1979, and 1982; as well as the “Six Assurances” of 1982. (See also CRS Report RL30341, China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei.)

For decades, Taiwan has been of significant security, economic, and political interest to the United States. In 2012, Taiwan was the 11
th-largest U.S. trading partner. Taiwan is a major innovator and producer of information technology (IT) products, many of which are assembled in the PRC by Taiwan-invested firms there. Ties or tension across the Taiwan Strait affect international security (with potential U.S. intervention), the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, and U.S.- PRC cooperation. While the United States does not diplomatically recognize Taiwan, it is in reality an important autonomous actor. Today, 23 countries (including the Vatican) have diplomatic relations with Taiwan as the ROC. Taiwan’s 23 million people enjoy self-governance with democratic elections. After Taiwan’s presidential election in 2008, the United States congratulated Taiwan as a “beacon of democracy.” Democracy has offered Taiwan’s people a greater say in their status, given competing politics about Taiwan’s national identity and priorities. Taiwan held presidential and legislative elections in January 2012. Kuomintang (KMT) President Ma Ying-jeou won re-election against the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate.

Since Taiwan and the PRC resumed their quasi-official dialogue in 2008 under President Ma and cross-strait tension decreased, some have stressed the need to take steps by the United States and by Taiwan to strengthen their relationship to advance U.S. interests. Another approach has viewed closer cross-strait engagement as allowing U.S. attention to shift to expand cooperation with a rising China, which opposes U.S. arms sales and other dealings with Taiwan. In any case, Washington and Taipei have put more efforts into their respective relations with Beijing, while contending that they have pursued a positive, parallel U.S.-Taiwan relationship.

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has sought U.S. support for his policies, including Taiwan’s inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) (in 2012), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and talks on maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas. Other policy issues include whether to approve arms sales, whether to restart U.S. Cabinet-level visits, and how to bolster trade relations and resolve disputes, such as through the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks (resumed in March 2013). The United States has been especially concerned about Taiwan’s restrictions on U.S. beef and pork, even as Taiwan has claimed attention to international organizations and standards. Since March 2013, Chairmen Ed Royce and Robert Menendez of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, and other Members, have supported a bilateral investment agreement (BIA). Legislation in the 113
th Congress includes H.R. 419, H.R. 772, H.R. 1151 (P.L. 113-17), H.R. 1960, H.Con.Res. 29, H.Con.Res. 46, H.Con.Res. 55, H.Res. 185, S. 12, S. 579, S. 1197, and S.Res. 167. Other congressional actions have focused on arms sales. (See CRS Report RL30957, Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990.)


Date of Report: November 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 48
Order Number: R41952
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Burma's Political Prisoners and U.S. Sanctions


Michael F. Martin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

The installation of a new quasi-civilian government in 2011 and the undertaking of a number of political reforms have raised the prospects for the resumption of a fully democratically elected civilian government in Burma after five decades of military rule. The release of Burma’s political prisoners has a central role in U.S. policy and Burma’s political future. Many of the U.S. sanctions on Burma were implemented after Burma’s ruling military junta suppressed protests and detained many political prisoners. In addition, the removal of many of the existing U.S. sanctions requires the release of all political prisoners in Burma.

Similarly, hopes for a democratic government in Burma—as well as national reconciliation— would depend on the release of prisoners associated with the country’s ethnic groups. Several ethnic-based political parties have stated they will not participate in parliamentary elections until their members are released from custody. Also, prospects for stable ceasefires and lasting peace with various ethnic-based militias may require the release of their members currently in detention.

Estimates of how many political prisoners are being detained in Burma vary. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), or AAPP(B), a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying and locating political prisoners in Burma, the Burmese government may be holding over 100 political prisoners in its prisons and labor camps scattered across the country.

Differences in the estimates of the number of political prisoners in Burma can be attributed to two main factors. First, Burma’s prison and judicial system is not transparent, making it difficult to obtain accurate information. Second, there is no consensus on the definition of a “political prisoner.” Some limit the definition of “political prisoner” to “prisoners of conscience” (people who are detained for peaceful political opposition). The AAPP(B) includes “anyone who is arrested because of his or her perceived or real involvement in or supporting role in opposition movements with peaceful or resistance means.”

Since his appointment in April 2011, President Thein Sein has granted amnesty to selected prisoners on 12 separate occasions, the latest occurring on October 8, 2013. In total, the Union Government has released 29,601 prisoners, of whom 1,002 were political prisoners, according to the AAPP(B). During his July 2013 visit to the United Kingdom, President Thein Sein pledged that all prisoners of conscience in Burma would be released by the end of the year. However, critics claim that the Union Government continues to arrest and detain new political prisoners, often for violating new laws governing the right to peaceful assembly and protest.

The State Department is actively discussing the political prisoner issue—including the definition of political prisoners—with the Burmese government, opposition political parties, and representatives of some ethnic groups. In these discussions, U.S. officials emphasize the importance of the release of all political prisoners for the further easing or removal of U.S. sanctions on Burma.

The status of Burma’s political prisoners is likely to figure prominently in any congressional consideration of U.S. policy in Burma. Congress may choose to examine the political prisoner issue in Burma either separately or as part of a broader review of U.S. policy towards Burma. Congress may also consider taking up legislation—on its own or in response to a request from the Obama Administration—to amend, modify, or remove some of the existing sanctions on Burma.

This report will be updated as circumstances require.

Date of Report: October 30, 2013
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R42363
Price: $29.95

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