Line of succession in modern China (PRC)

The Premier and President of China (PRC), I understand, are very different from the President and Vice President of the USA.
What happens if one or the other dies in office - who becomes the replacement? And if both die simultaneously, who’s the instant replacement? (in the US, for instance, the Vice President’s rise to the Presidency is immediate at once, should the President die in office.)

Need answer fast?

He’s got an Interview scheduled and wants to be sure.

Legally, the Vice President replaces the President and the First Vice Premier replaces the Premier. But please remember, the offices of President and Premier, while they’re not entirely powerless, don’t have much real power. Power is held by the Party, and within the Party, by the Politburo and the General Secretary. While the General Secretary tends to also be President, his real authority comes from his role as head of the Party, not head of state.

And what will the Politburo do if the General Secretary dies unexpectedly? Is there a named succession list by office/portfolio, a pre-defined selection procedure, or just another mad power scramble under the blanket?

It was the same deal in the Soviet Union. Real power always rested with the General Secretary; the nominal head of state (Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet) was a ceremonial position without any real power (Mikhail Kalinin couldn’t even get his own wife freed from the gulag until he was on his deathbed and Stalin finally decided to release her). Starting with Brezhnev General Secretaries assumed the office to clarify their diplomatic rank abroad. Eventually Gorbachev did create an actual office of “President of the USSR” to give him a source of authority independent of the Party, but then Soviet Union dissolved.

Also the same deal in every parliamentry democracy ever.

But in any non-democracy, rule of law is less important than politics. We think of China, or North Korea, or the old USSR or even Iran or Saddam’s Iraq as “the leader says ‘jump’ and everyone jumps.” In fact, in most of these places the government is a collection of factions and influences. Being leader is a continual game of playing off one faction or influential leader against the other, to stay on top of a shifting pyramid. Good leaders give limited influence to each lesser rival and watch for too many of them collaborating together. Play off the army brass against the secret police but make sure they don’t collaborate to displace you, etc.

So who would take over? It depends on the politics of the moment. If one person’s mentor and patron kicks off, that person may find value in switching to another backer, or be taken out of the game by a group of other rivals; in the midst of all this, the factions will meet to hash out who should be the replacement, much like they do now every 5 years. Whether they follow the letter of the law depends on which factions are winning, or wheeling and dealing.

Interesting, sounds like democracies might actually be more efficient at handling a crisis.

Another nifty factoid to support this is that the People’s Liberation Army is not actually the government’s military. The PLA is the military arm of the Communist Party of China.

This is widely repeated, but doesn’t seem to be strictly true (at least not presently). Of course, in an effectively* one-party state like China, it’s true that for all practical purposes the Communist Party of China controls the armed forces, just like it controls everything else.
*There are other parties, but they don’t actually have any real power.

Formally speaking, though, the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China provides for a “normal” set-up in which the military is a state organ. Section 4 of Chapter III provides:

And the National People’s Congress is “the highest organ of state power” (Section 1 of Chapter III). The National People’s Congress (and its Standing Committee) are repeatedly referred to as exercising power over the Central Military Commission: Electing the Chairman of the CMC and–on the nomination of the Chairman–the other members of the Commission; recalling and removing from office the Chairman and other members of the CMC; and (for the Standing Committee of the NPC) “supervising the work” of the CMC.

Now, the Communist Party of China controls the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee, natch. But, de jure, it’s no different from a situation where the Demopublican Party occupies the White House and has a majority of the House and Senate–the Demopublican Party would then effectively control the armed forces of the United States, but you still wouldn’t say that the U.S. armed forces are “the military wing of the Demopublican Party”. Of course, the U.S. constitution never mentions the Democratic Party or the Republican Party (or the Federalists or the Whigs or anyone else), whereas the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China repeatedly talks about “under the leadership of the Communist Party of China” this and “under the leadership of the Communist Party of China” that.

To futher complicate matters, there are actually two different bodies both called the Central Military Commission: The Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China (an organ of the Chinese state) and the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China (an organ of the Communist Party). These two bodies just happen to both be made up of the same dozen guys (and are thus really just one committee). And (as is generally the case in one-party states), the “party” organizations (“politburo” or whatever) are in reality more important than the “state” organizations (“council of ministers” and so forth), and in some sense the “party” CMC might be said to be more important than the “state” CMC (except that it’s the same guys on both the “state” CMC and the “party” CMC).

Nonethess, while everything in China is run by the Chinese Communist Party, the PLA is not legally and officially some kind of party militia. The PLA is, constitutionally speaking, the armed forces of the Chinese state (the People’s Republic of China).

Remember too, that the State CMC only dates back to the 1982 constitution. Before then, the PLA was run entirely by the Party CMC.

Bumping because this recent article in the *China Daily says:

Well, first of all, I think you’re asuming that all democracies have clear, fixed lines of succession like the US - if the President dies, the VP succeeds immediately and serves out his term. End of story. But this isn’t so; as already pointed out, in parliamentary democracies, if the Prime Minister dies there will typically be a deputy who will take over temporarily while the governing party selects a new leader, which may not be that different a process from the selection of a new party leader in a one-party state.

The other thing is, you’re assuming that the presidential method is more efficient. That depends on what you mean by “efficient”. The presidential method produces certainty more quickly, but that’s not necessarily the same thing. The factors which drive the selection of the VP probably do not prioritise the ability to govern as president, since the prospect of his ever having to do so is fairly remote. In the US, for instance, the VP candidate is usually chosen mainly with an eye to enhancing the electoral prospects of the presidential nominee. If catapulted unexpectedly into office, he may not have the kind of relationships with legislators or with other senior power-brokers that enable him to govern effectively. There’s no guarantee, in other words, that a VP who succeeds to the presidency will be an efficient president. Indeed, not only is there no guarantee about this; there is no particular reason toe expect it. Whereas a new prime minister emerges through the same process by which his predecessor was chosen.

Since the death of Deng the rulers of China have been very careful about not letting one man have two much power. The power lies in the Politboro Standing Committee, which is composed of seven people. The ruler of China always has three offices, General Secretary of the Party, President of the PRC, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. While it is not formalized the next ruler is traditionally given the office of Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission. If something happened to the ruler, then one of the seven members of the Standing Committee would become ruler. The Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission is currently not on the Standing Committee which indicates to me that the successor to Xi has not been decided upon.