How is China Ruled
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The Communist Party has ruled China since 1949, tolerating no opposition and often dealing brutally with dissent.
Nowadays the country is actually governed by nine men on top of a pyramid of power which reaches into every village and workplace.
They have never faced competitive election, making it to the top thanks to their patrons, abilities and survival instincts in a political culture where saying the wrong thing can lead to a life under house-arrest, or worse.
Formally, their power stems from their positions on the Party's decision-making Politburo.
But in China, personal relations count much more than job titles. A leader's influence rests on the loyalties he or she builds with superiors and protégés, often over decades.
That was how Deng Xiaoping remained paramount leader long after resigning all official posts, and it explains why Party elders sometimes play a key role in big decisions.
The Politburo controls three other important bodies and ensures the Party line is upheld.
These are the military affairs commission, which controls the armed forces; the National People's Congress, or parliament; and the State Council, the government's administrative arm.