President Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, called for "progressively" equalizing standards for representation of the rural and urban population in China’s legislative organs, local people's congresses (LPC), in his work report to the 17th Party Congress on October 15. If implemented, this measure would represent a step toward addressing one source of institutional discrimination against Chinese rural residents.
Under the PRC Election Law of the National People’s Congress and Local People’s Congresses, rural LPC deputies represent four times as many constituents as their urban counterparts. This increases the relative weight of urban interests in Chinese legislative bodies, but leaves migrant and rural interests underrepresented.
The discrepancy in legislative representation between urban and rural residents parallels a deeper set of institutional biases linked to the hukou (household registration) system that discriminates against rural and migrant Chinese residents in public services such as education and health insurance. [For more information, see the topic paper of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China regarding the Chinese hukou system.] Chinese authorities are currently considering proposals aimed at reforming the hukou system, but have avoided sweeping institutional reforms.
It remains an open question whether Chinese authorities can successfully reform the relative LPC representation of urban and rural residents. Other reform efforts, such as the effort to decouple hukou identification from preferential receipt of urban social benefits, have stalled on resistance from entrenched urban interests.