Researching party-state documents
Hi everyone, happy mid-week. Is it me, or are the days just blending into each other? Okay, I’m not here to get existential on you - I have two items…
First, the last issue of Neican’s (March 22) Chinoiserie section has sources for researching Chinese party and government documents. I thought I’ll send you Holly Snape’s guide, Resources for Researching with Party and Government Documents, in full, because how useful it is. Thanks to Holly for letting us republish her excellent guide here. The original version was published as a Wechat post.
Second, we are letting you decide what topics Yun and I write this week. So comment on Twitter, Substack or email us with your suggestions.
Resources for Researching with Party and Government Documents
Holly Snape, British Academy Fellow, University of Glasgow
1. Government Policies
This is the main national government website. There are different options for searching here, depending on what you’re looking for. I’ll go through some of the most useful below.
1) For general policy searches, go to 政策 here:
Then use the simple search function or select “Advanced Search” (高级搜索)
If you opt for “Advanced Search” you can choose to search for key words in:
Fulltext (全文)or just the Title (标题)
In Central (Party) related documents (中央有关文件) or deselect this to see only State Council (i.e. government) documents
[Note:中央有关文件isa good way to see what the Party policies are on or related to specific policy fields as well as government policies]
It splits the results into 中央有关文件 and 国务院文件 so you can easily tell which are Party and which are government (some will be both, but they will come under 中央有关文件)
2) For general policy searches, go to 政策 here:
Then scroll down until you see the blue box (bottom right) that reads 信息公开目录
From inside 信息公开目录 you can search in different ways, e.g.
Select from the dropdown box whether to search in all; full text; title; document serial number; issuing body
Where you see 全部you can search by the year.
There’s also a 高级搜索 (Advanced search)
3) For recent cross-sectoral policies, go to 政策 here:
Then scroll down until you see the big blue bar across the screen that reads 国务院政策文件库
From inside 国务院政策文件库(State Council Document Database) you’ll see recent major policy key-words for large fields or cross-sectoral initiatives (e.g. 互联网+ the InternetPlus initiative covers a wide range of policy sectors seeking to integrate the internet to them e.g. InternetPlusHealthcare)
You’ll also see beneath the search window three options: “All Documents”; “State Council Documents”; “Departmental Documents”
4) For laws and regulations; white books; the annual Government Work Report:
Go to 政策 here:
Then scroll all the way down to these white boxes. You can choose from
1.[Government Work Report]; 2. [laws and regulations]; 3. [laws and regulations soliciting opinions]; 4. [white books]
[laws and regulations soliciting opinions] (政策法规意见征集) are drafts of new policies or bills that are made public before passage to solicit opinions. These are a good way to see if there are new policies in the making in your policy field. Often, when such a policy or bill is issued in a specific field, scholars and experts will debate it through different forums or join with colleagues to develop partial or complete alternatives. This can be a good way of understanding the different views of leading experts in a policy field and the problems and contentious issues surrounding that policy.
Inside[laws and regulations] you can search, from left to right:
[StateCouncil departmental rules 国务院部门规章]; [local regulations地方性法规]; [judicial explanations司法解释]
Note you can select to search according to title or according to main body of text
Whitebooks can be useful to give you an overview of your policy field.
I’d search in here using the Control+F, or Command+F on a Mac, and search single characters in your policy area. E.g. if I’m looking for poverty alleviation related policy I’d search 贫 (because searching for 贫困 won’t find the results 扶贫 or 减贫; for gender/women related content I’d search女
5) For specific ministries and lists of what policies and regulations they’ve issued in a certain time period:
Go to 政策 here:
Then scroll all the way down to the picture of the document (公报).
Click on the picture and from there scroll down until you see two blue boxes on the right
The lower one is will take you to a page where you can choose from a list of ministries. Select the ministry you want.
It takes you to a list of years and months. Choose a month (for example, if you want to know the main policies etc. of the Ministry of Education in 2018 this would be achievable by going through each report in roughly 12 reports). Click on the month and it takes you to a downloadable PDF. Inside the PDF I would first skim the contents目录and maybe also search key characters inside the document.
6) For less recent/historical documents:
There’s a big set of policy data from 1999 going back to 1954. This can be incredibly valuable, but you either a) need a clear idea of what you’re looking for, e.g.you’ve searched a policy field elsewhere and found that in 1998 there was a Document No.6 on education that you want to look for; or b) you’re looking generally at what sorts of policies were being introduced in a specific year(e.g. you’re doing a study that needs historical context or traces the development of a policy field back a long way).
To find this data,
First, go to 政策 here:
Then look for the 历史公报（1954-1999）under the green box:
7) For the range of documents and other types of data, a different way to search is:
Scroll all the way to the bottom of the homepage, where you’ll find:
The content that can be found in the different searches above in simple lists here instead of getting lost in the site.
2. Laws and Policies in English and Chinese
ChinaLaw Translate is a crowdsourced policy/law translation platform.
It’s an excellent resource (that you can also contribute to through either a subscription or voluntary translation)…if you quote CLT’s translations, please cite them :)
3. Ministry Specific
You can easily search for a ministry in Baidu. Look for the blue tab that says 官方
Different ministries organize their content in different ways. You’ll likely be able to familiarize yourself relatively painlessly with the ministry(ies) important to your policy field.
As an example, with the Ministry of Civil Affairs you can find 政策法规及解读 by scrolling over the tabs on the homepage and looking through 信息公开
That takes you straight into a list of types (left-hand column) departments within the ministry (under the yellow 法律法规)
4. Party meeting documents(Ch)
This is a great, basic resource if you want to see what the Party was doing (or saying) and when at some of the highest levels. It has comprehensive access to the documents from the most important Party meetings (National Party Congress approx. every 5 years; Central Committee plenary sessions, meant to be at least once a year).
The Plenary Session documents are organized according to the Central Committee number that was meeting; you’ll find them under the National Party Congress number that marked the beginning of that Central Committee. e.g. by clicking on the 15th National Party Congress (中国共产党第十五次全国代表大会) in the left-hand column) you can scroll down and find the Plenary Session documents (sometimes only the shortened versions) for each Plenary Session of the 15th Central Committee(e.g. 一中全会、二中全会、三中全会)
What you can find here:
- National Party Congress reports/resolutions (from 1st in 1921 to 19th in 2017)
- Central Committee Plenary Session documents
- Party Charter (each amended version found under the relevant Congress)
- Other selected content, e.g. interviews, editorials surrounding major meetings
5. Party, government, NPC, CPPCC etc. documents (multilingual)
There’s a lot to this. It takes a little while to navigate it, but it can be worth it. It brings together Chinese, English and a number of other language versions of the documents from the annual sessions of the national government, legislature (NPC), Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), etc.
What you can find here:
- Government meeting documents
- NationalPeople’s Congress documents
- (some)“works of leaders” (e.g. the Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung)
- (some)National Party Congress docs. (including most recent in Eng)
If you want the Ch docs: keep scrolling down the homepage; click 更多>>
6. Intraparty Documents (Ch)
This is great if you want to see how the Party manages itself. It’s mostly designed for use for study etc. by Party members themselves, so it’s an authoritative and easy-to-use resource to facilitate study.
What you can find here:
- Party Charter (each amended version)
- Party regulations
- Party measures
- Party codes, etc.
7. Party Congress Reports (Eng) plus media/discourse analysis
What you can find here:
- Directly downloadable Word versions of English National Party Congress reports (from 8th in 1956 to 18th in 2012) (i.e. all since the PRC’s founding)
- In China Media Report website, generally, there’s excellent analysis of political discourse