China is governed as 22 provinces, five "autonomous" regions, four municipalities - considered so important they are under central government control (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing) - and two special administrative regions.
The people in charge of these bodies – a group of about 7,000 senior party and government leaders - are all appointed by the party's organisation department.
Although many are powerful individuals – the governor of Sichuan province rules over 85 million people – their ability to deviate from the party line is limited because they know their next career move would be at stake.
Nevertheless, most analysts agree the centre has lost some control to the regions in the past two decades, especially in the economic field.
There has even been speculation that some provinces want to break away from central control, though this is seen as highly unlikely to be allowed.
Power and decisions flow down from the top level to an intermediate level of counties and cities, and finally to the local-level townships.
At each level the party and government structures sit side by side, with the party's representative always the more powerful.
Thus a province's party general-secretary takes precedence over its governor.
Each level has its own local People's Congress which elects its own government for periods of three or five years.
These local governments have been given limited leeway to adopt local regulations in keeping with their situation.
TIAO AND KUAI
Under a system known as tiao and kuai, different levels of the bureaucracy only have to abide by directives issued by higher-ranking bodies.
A ministry cannot rule over a province because they are the same rank.
Provinces do have to comply with orders from the State Premier, who out-ranks them.