China has been run by the Communist Party of China (CCP), which has over 70 million members, since 1949. The head of state is Hu Jintao, who was elected by the National People’s Congress (NPC) in 2003. The NPC is the highest political body in China and is a single legislative chamber comprised of deputies elected by local people’s congresses. The NPC meets for two weeks each year to debate and vote on policy issues, laws and the budget. Below state level there are 22 provinces, five autonomous regions and four municipalities, one of which is Beijing. The city is officially led by the mayor of Beijing, although the Communist Party chief holds more power.
Beijing is the centre of political power in China and all the important decisions that affect the rest of the country are made here. Despite this, don’t expect to be engrossed in policy debates, read about adversarial political movements or see a lot of demonstrations as in Washington, D.C. or London. Expat interaction with government depends on where they work and who their friends are, though exercise caution when discussing your political opinions about China with people you don’t know well. Many Internet sites are restricted, the media is all state-run and there is little tolerance for political dissent or organisation. On the other hand, Beijingers love to engage foreigners in discussions on foreign affairs and the economy.