There are no direct national elections in the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China. Only district and municipal bodies are directly elected but these elections lack significance as candidates are usually pre selected and approved by the Communist Party. The Communist Party is the only legal party and shapes all policies and strategies through its Politburo Standing Committee (PSC). The official legislative body is the 3,000-member National Peopleâ€™s Congress (NPC), which more or less serves as a symbolic body and only convenes once a year to confirm decisions made by the PSC. The NPC is elected by sub-national congresses. National leaders are officially chosen by the national party congress, but personnel decisions are made beforehand through an obscure internal process. The
latest party congress in 2012 saw the PSC shrink from nine to seven members, with a majority of conservative figures being appointed. The committee is headed by Xi Jinping, who also succeeded Hu Jintao as president in 2013. Li Keqiang was appointed Xiâ€™s deputy and became prime minister in 2013, following Wen Jiabao. Analysts conclude that former Chairman of the Communist Party Jiang Zemin exerted considerable influence in the selection of the new PSC, with five of the seven members being his allies or protÃ©gÃ©s. This suggests that patronage networks play an increasingly important role within the CCP leading circles. A number of leading party members have expressed unease about this issue. The usually well orchestrated political transition process was marred by one of Chinaâ€™s biggest political scandals in recent years, as a subordinate of Politburo member Bo Xilai fled to the US embassy and stated allegations against the former and his wife, Gu Kailai. The following political turmoil led to Boâ€™s expulsion from the CPC and the conviction of his wife for the murder of British Businessman Neil Heywood. Bo Xilai was subsequently sentenced to life in prison on corruption charges in 2013. The new leadership has pledged to intensify its efforts against corruption, which remains rampant. The increased discontent over corrupt party officials has led to the marginal opening of the electoral process. In some districts party secretaries have been put to public vote to meet criticism. However, despite these small steps China is still far from fulfilling the minimum standards of an electoral democracy.