134 China

Red with a large yellow five-pointed star and four smaller yellow five-pointed stars (arranged in a vertical arc toward the middle of the flag) in the upper hoist-side corner. The color red represents revolution, while the stars symbolize the four social classes – the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie (capitalists) – united under the Communist Party of China.

Flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

Map courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

Google Earth

A crenellated walkway on top of the Great Wall. The Wall stretched for many thousands of miles linking fortresses. Signal towers were used for communication.

Photo courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

China is a member of ICAO and JARUS.
Last updated on July 5, 2024


According to Britannica, despite its size, the People’s Republic of China is organized along unitary rather than federal principles. Both the government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP; Pinyin: Zhongguo Gongchan Dang; Wade-Giles romanization: Chung-kuo Kung-ch’an Tang), moreover, operate “from the top down,” arrogating to the “Centre” all powers that are not explicitly delegated to lower levels. To run the country, the government and the CCP have established roughly parallel national bureaucracies extending from Beijing down to local levels. These bureaucracies are assisted by various “mass organizations”, e.g., trade unions, a youth league, women’s associations, and writers’ and other professional associations, that encompass key sectors of the population. These organizations, with their extremely large memberships, have generally served as transmission lines for communicating and uniformly implementing policies affecting their members. No voluntary associations are permitted to function that are wholly independent of CCP and government leadership.

The CCP and government bureaucracies themselves are organized along territorial and functional lines. The territorial organization is based on a number of administrative divisions, with both a CCP committee and a “people’s government” in charge of each. These territorial divisions include the national level in Beijing (the Centre), 33 provincial-level units (4 directly administered cities, 5 autonomous regions, the Hong Kong and Macau special administrative regions, and 22 provinces, excluding Taiwan), some 330 prefectural bodies, more than 2,850 county-level entities, and numerous cities, towns, and townships. Some larger cities are themselves divided into urban wards and counties. This territorial basis of organization is intended to coordinate and lend coherence to the myriad policies from the Centre that may affect any given locale.

The functionally based political organization is led on the government side by ministries and commissions under the State Council and on the CCP side by Central Committee departments. These central-level functional bodies sit atop hierarchies of subordinate units that have responsibility for the sector or issue area under concern. Subordinate functional units typically are attached to each of the territorial bodies.

This complex structure is designed to coordinate national policy (such as that toward the metallurgical industry), assure some coordination of policy on a territorial basis, and enable the CCP to keep control over the government at all levels of the national hierarchy. One unintended result of this organizational approach is that China employs more than 10 million officials, a number that exceeds the populations of many of the world’s countries.

There are tensions among these different goals, and thus a great deal of shifting has occurred since 1949. During the early and mid-1950s the government’s functional ministries and commissions at the Centre were especially powerful. The Great Leap Forward, starting in 1958, shifted authority toward the provincial- and lower-level territorial CCP bodies. During the Cultural Revolution, starting in 1966, much of the political system became so disrupted that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was called in and assumed control. When the PLA fell under a political cloud, the situation became remarkably fluid and confused for much of the 1970s.

Since then the general thrust has been toward less-detailed CCP supervision of the government and greater decentralization of government authority where possible. But the division of authority between CCP and government and between territorial and functional bodies has remained in a state of flux, as demonstrated by a trend again toward centralization at the end of the 1980s and subsequent efforts toward decentralization since the late 1990s. The Chinese communist political system still has not become institutionalized enough for the distribution of power among important bodies to be fixed and predictable.

The fourth constitution of the People’s Republic of China was adopted in 1982. It vests all national legislative power in the hands of the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee. The State Council and its Standing Committee, by contrast, are made responsible for executing rather than enacting the laws. This basic division of power is also specified for each of the territorial divisions, province, county, and so forth, with the proviso in each instance that the latitude available to authorities is limited to that specified by law.

All citizens 18 years of age and older who have not been deprived of their political rights are permitted to vote, and direct popular suffrage is used to choose People’s Congress members up to the county level. Above the counties, delegates at each level elect those who will serve at the People’s Congress of the next higher level. Were this constitution an accurate reflection of the real workings of the system, the People’s Congresses and their various committees would be critical organs in the Chinese political system. In reality, though, they are not.

Actual decision-making authority in China resides in the state’s executive organs and in the CCP. At the national level the top government executive organ is the State Council, which is led by the premier. The constitution permits the appointment of vice-premiers, a secretary-general, and an unspecified number of councillors of state and heads of ministries and commissions. The premier, vice-premiers, state councillors, and secretary-general meet regularly as the Standing Committee, in which the premier has the final decision-making power. This Standing Committee of the State Council exercises major day-to-day decision-making authority, and its decisions de facto have the force of law.

While it is not so stipulated in the constitution, each vice-premier and councillor assumes responsibility for the work of one or more given sectors or issues, such as education, energy policy, or foreign affairs. The leader concerned then remains in contact with the ministries and the commissions of the State Council that implement policy in that area. This division of responsibility permits a relatively small body such as the Standing Committee of the State Council (consisting of fewer than 20 people) to monitor and guide the work of a vast array of major bureaucratic entities. When necessary, of course, the Standing Committee may call directly on additional expertise in its deliberations. The National People’s Congress meets roughly annually and does only a little more than to ratify the decisions already made by the State Council.

Parallel to the State Council system is the central leadership of the CCP. The distribution of power among the various organs at the top of the CCP, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau (Politburo), the Political Bureau itself, and the Secretariat, has varied a great deal, and from 1966 until the late 1970s the Secretariat did not function at all. There is in any case a partial overlap of membership among these organs and between these top CCP bodies and the Standing Committee of the State Council. In addition, formally retired elder members of the party have often exercised decisive influence on CCP decision making.

According to the CCP constitution of 1982, the National Party Congress is the highest decision-making body. Since the Party Congress typically convenes only once in five years, the Central Committee is empowered to act when the Congress is not in session. Further, the Political Bureau can act in the name of the Central Committee when the latter is not in session, and the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau guides the work of the Political Bureau. The Secretariat is charged with the daily work of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau. The general secretary of the party presides over the Secretariat and also is responsible for convening the meetings of the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee. The Secretariat works when necessary through several departments (the department for organization, for example, or the department for propaganda) under the Central Committee.

Until 1982 the CCP had a chairmanship that was unique among ruling communist parties. Mao Zedong held this office until his death in 1976, and Hua Guofeng was chairman until his removal from office in 1981. Hu Yaobang then served as party chairman until the post was abolished in 1982. The decision to redefine the position was part of the effort to reduce the chances of any one leader’s again rising to a position above the party, as Mao had done. China’s government still has a chairmanship, but the office has only limited power and is largely ceremonial.

The division of power among the leading CCP organs and between them and the State Council is constantly shifting. The Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and the Political Bureau as a whole have the authority to decide on any issue they wish to take up. The Secretariat has also at times played an extremely powerful and active role, meeting more frequently than either the Political Bureau or its Standing Committee and making many important decisions on its own authority. Similarly, the State Council has made many important decisions, but its power is always exercised at the pleasure of the CCP leadership.

Since the late 1970s China has taken a number of initiatives to move toward a more institutionalized system in which the office basically determines the power of its incumbent rather than vice versa, as has often been the case. Thus, for example, the CCP and state constitutions adopted in 1982 (and subsequently amended somewhat) for the first time stipulated a number of positions that confer membership status on the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau. These positions are the head of the Party Military Affairs Commission, the general secretary of the CCP, the head of the Central Advisory Committee, and the head of the Central Discipline Commission. In addition, for the first time under the stipulations of the constitution, limits of two consecutive terms were placed on the government offices of premier, vice-premier, and state councillor. There were no similar constitutional restrictions on the tenure of incumbents to top CCP positions.

In theory, the CCP sets major policy directions and broadly supervises the implementation of policy to ensure that its will is not thwarted by the state and military bureaucracies. The CCP also assumes major responsibility for instilling proper values in the populace. The government, according to the theory, is responsible for carrying out CCP policy, making the necessary decisions as matters arise. Of course, this clear division of labour quickly becomes blurred for a number of reasons. For example, only since the late 1970s has a concerted effort been made to appoint different people to the key executive positions in the CCP and the government. Prior to that time, the same individual would head both the CCP committee and the government body in charge of any given area. At the highest levels the premier of the government and the chairman of the party continue to sit on the CCP Political Bureau.

More fundamentally, it is often impossible to clearly separate policy formation and implementation in a huge, complex set of organizations charged with a multiplicity of tasks. The tendency has been for CCP cadres to become increasingly involved in day-to-day operations of the government, until some major initiative was taken by the top national leadership to reverse the trend. While the distinction between the CCP and the government is of considerable significance, therefore, the ruling structure in China can also be viewed from the functional point of view mentioned above. The careers of individual officials may shift among posts in both the CCP and the government, but for most officials all posts are held within one area of concern, such as economics, organization or personnel, security, propaganda, or culture.

A hierarchy of organization and personnel has been embedded in virtually all CCP and government bodies. Even on the government side, all officials in these personnel departments are members of the CCP, and they follow rules and regulations that are not subject to control by the particular bodies of which they are formally a part. This system has been used to assure higher-level CCP control over the appointments to all key positions in the CCP, government, and other major organizations (enterprises, universities, and so forth).

For much of the period between 1958 and 1978, these personnel departments applied primarily political criteria in making appointments. They systematically discriminated against intellectuals, specialists, and those with any ties or prior experience abroad. From 1978 to 1989, however, official policy was largely the reverse, with ties abroad being valued because of China’s stress on “opening the door” to the international community. A good education became an important asset in promoting careers, while a history of political activism counted for less or could even hinder upward mobility. A partial reversion to pre-1978 criteria was decreed in 1989, followed by periods of shifting between the two policies.

Two important initiatives have been taken to reduce the scope of the personnel bureaucracies. First, during 1984 the leaders of various CCP and government bodies acquired far greater power to appoint their own staffs and to promote from among their staffs on their own initiative. The leaders themselves still must be appointed via the personnel system, but most others are no longer fully subject to those dictates. Second, a free labour market has been encouraged for intellectuals and individuals with specialized skills, a policy that could further reduce the power of the personnel bodies.

The legal apparatus that existed before the changes made during the Cultural Revolution was resurrected in 1980. The State Council again has a Ministry of Justice, and procuratorial organs and a court system were reestablished. The legal framework for this system was provided through the adoption of various laws and legal codes. One significant difference was that for the first time the law provided that there should be no discrimination among defendants based on their class origin. China also reestablished a system of lawyers.

The actual functioning of this legal apparatus, however, has continued to be adversely affected by a shortage of qualified personnel and by deeply ingrained perspectives that do not accord the law priority over the desires of political leaders. Thus, for example, when the top CCP leadership ordered a severe crackdown on criminal activity in 1983, thousands were arrested and executed without fully meeting the requirements of the newly passed law on criminal procedures. That law was subsequently amended to conform more closely with the actual practices adopted during the crackdown. Subsequently, similar campaigns have been mounted against criminal activity.

Civil / National Aviation Authority (CAA/NAA)

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is the Chinese civil aviation authority under the Ministry of Transport. It oversees civil aviation and investigates aviation accidents and incidents. As the aviation authority responsible for China, it concludes civil aviation agreements with other aviation authorities, including those of the Special administrative regions of China which are categorized as “special domestic.” It directly operated its own airline, China’s aviation monopoly, until 1988. The agency is headquartered in Dongcheng District, Beijing. The CAAC does not share the responsibility of managing China’s airspace with the Central Military Commission under the regulations in the Civil Aviation Law of the People’s Republic of China.


SkyVectorGoogle MapsADS-B Exchange

ICAO countries publish an Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP). This document is divided into three parts: General (GEN), En Route (ENR) and Aerodromes (AD). ENR 1.4 details the types of airspace classes they chose to adopt from classes A through G. China AIP

Drone Regulations

Drone Laws

CAAC issues Measures for the Management of Unmanned Civil Aviation Experimental Bases (Test Areas)

In order to give full reign to the trailblazing role of unmanned civil aviation experimental bases (test areas) (hereinafter referred to as test areas) in terms of system, mechanisms, policies and regulations, etc., CAAC issued Measures for the Management of Unmanned Civil Aviation Experimental Bases (Test Areas).

The setting up of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) test areas represents an important innovative measure taken by CAAC to administer drones. This measure marks an important progress in the exploration of integrated UAS management both by the industry and society, and it is also the legal basis for China to carry out UAS pilot and demonstration work in an orderly manner. 13 cities (urban areas) have been selected as unmanned civil aviation experimental bases (test areas), covering operation in urban and island scenarios, and could support tests such as UAS application in regional logistics and so on. In these areas, research could be carried out on the safety and reliability of UAS and system compliance verification. The test areas could facilitate the coordination of low-altitude airspace resources, improve the efficiency of use of such resources, and make explorations into issues such as the investment, construction, usage, and management of unmanned aviation infrastructure.

CAAC issues Commercial Trial Operation Licenses for UAS Logistics on Feeder Lines

CAAC recently issued the first national letter of approval and operation certificate for trial operation of UAS logistics on feeder lines. SF UAS, a large UAS enterprise affiliated to SF Express, has become the first enterprise in China that can carry out commercial trial operation of UAS logistics on feeder lines under specific scenarios, which features long-time transport of cargo weighing at least a ton. It demonstrates thorough implementation of requirements in the 14th Five-Year Plan for Civil Aviation Development, the Special Plan for Air Logistics Development and the Roadmap for Building of Intelligent Civil Aviation, further facilitating building of comprehensive air logistics and intelligent logistics and contributing to efforts for a civil aviation powerhouse in multiple fields and intelligent civil aviation.

CAAC issues Regulations on Real-name Registration of Civil Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

In order to strengthen the management of civil unmanned aerial vehicles (civil UAVs), CAAC issued the Regulations on Real-name Registration of Civil Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (the Regulations) on May 16, which requires the owners of civil UAVs to register in real name starting June 1, 2017.

The Regulations applies to civil UAVs in the People’s Republic of China whose maximum takeoff weight is above 250 grams (inclusive). A civil UAV is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard but equipped with a flight control system, which is not used for military, police and customs missions. Radio controlled aero-models, unmanned free balloons and tethered balloons are not included in civil UAVs. The Regulations requires that starting June 1, 2017, civil UAV manufacturers and owners must apply for an account in the CAAC UAV Real-name Registration System (https://uas.caac.gov.cn) (the registration system). Manufacturers should fill in all the information of its products in the system and owners register in the system information of their products in real name and stick the registration mark given by the system on the UAV.

The Regulations stresses that from August 31, 2017, civil UAV owners failing to register in real name and stick the registration marks in accordance with the Regulations will be regarded as violating the law and will be subject to limitations with respect to the use of UAVs and punishment by regulatory authorities in accordance with relevant regulations. At the meantime, UAV owners shall promptly de-register the UAV information in the registration system after the UAV is sold, transferred, damaged, discarded, lost, or stolen; and when the ownership of the UAV is changed, the current owner shall register the UAV information in real name in accordance with the relevant requirements in the Regulations.

CAAC Issues Guiding Opinions on Operational Risk-based RPAS Airworthiness Certification

In order to promote the healthy growth of the civil Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) industry in China, CAAC issued the Guiding Opinions on Operational Risk-based RPAS Airworthiness Certification on January 23. In view of the characteristics of RPAS’s diversified operational scenarios and various operational risks, it requires airworthiness management based on operational risks, and pushes forward the development of an airworthiness management mode based on operational risks for RPAS.

According to the Guiding Opinions, an operational risk-based risk classification method for RPAS will be established to carry out classified management of RPAS airworthiness certification. The level of operational risks of civil RPAS will be divided into three categories: low, medium and high. For manufacturers of RPAS with low operational risks, CAAC mainly focuses on registration and ex post supervision; for manufacturers of RPAS with high operational risks, CAAC evaluates specific projects to determine level of involvement; for manufacturers of RPAS with medium operational risks, CAAC reviews risks to determine level of involvement. At the same time, relying on the real-name registration system, in combination with CAAC’s Unmanned Operation Management System (UOM), the RPAS certification module will be constructed to realize fully online application and approval.

China is a big country in terms of design, manufacturing and application of RPASs, which have been widely used in such fields as logistics and freight transportation, agriculture, forestry and plant protection, aerial photography, pipeline inspection, and remote sensing detection. According to the statistics of “Real-Name Registration Information System for Civil RPAS”, as of January 24, 2019, about 295,000 RPASs have been registered, of which 25,000 RPASs being ones with the maximum take-off weight from 25kg to 150kg, 571 RPASs being ones of more than 150kg, and 49 RPASs being ones more than 650kg. There are about 268,000 RPAS owners, 3720 types of RPASs and 1239 registered manufacturers and agents.

Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)

New safety regulators’ agreement moves China and EU closer together on UTM and UAM

Sept 2020: The EU-China Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA), which went into force in the first week of September will bring European and Chinese safety regulators closer together in areas such as UAS traffic management (UTM) and urban air mobility/advanced aerial mobility (UAM/AAM) regulations and standards setting.

The scope of the agreement covers:

  • airworthiness Certificates and Monitoring of Civil Aeronautical Products;
  • environmental testing and Certificates of Civil Aeronautical Products;
  • the certification and monitoring of design and production organizations;
  • the certification and monitoring of maintenance organizations;
  • personnel licensing and training; operation of aircraft;
  • air traffic services and air traffic management;
  • and other areas subject to Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, signed in Chicago on 7 December 1944 (“the Convention”).

This will, in theory, help Chinese autonomous air vehicle companies such as EHang develop products to joint EU/Chinese certification levels and enable European UTM service providers more easily access markets in China.  As part of the agreement the two sides have set up a technical coordination body called the Certification Oversight Board (COB), which will contribute to minimizing the differences in the regulatory systems, standards and certification processes of the Parties; developing, approving, and revising the Technical Implementation Procedures….sharing information on major safety concerns and, where appropriate, developing action plans to address them, along with other similar provisions. The first COB meeting took place on 3 September.  According to a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) press release: “During the meeting, the parties adopted the Technical Implementation Procedures (TIP) which will support the BASA and its Annex on Airworthiness. These administrative and technical procedures describe in detail how EASA and CAAC will conduct the validation and reciprocal acceptance of civil aeronautical product approvals.”

“I am confident that, thanks to this bilateral agreement, the relations between Europe and China in aviation will be taken to the next level,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “This further strengthens EASA’s commitment to work closely with international partners on building a safe and environmentally sustainable industry.”

The agreement goes beyond mutual recognition of certificates and suggests joint-agreements could be developed to certify systems and procedures. According to BASA:

“When mutually agreed by the applicant and both Technical Agents, a concurrent certification process may be used, where appropriate and as detailed in the Technical Implementation Procedures. Both Technical Agents recognize the possible benefits of such a process.”


2023 – China accepts first type certification application for piloted eVTOL

2023 – EHang and Shenzhen Bao’an District Form Strategic Partnership for eVTOL Operation


2023 – China publishes new rules on drone operations management and UTM

2023 – China’s EHang Earns World’s First eVTOL Type Certificate

2023 – CITIC Offshore Helicopter and Lilium partner to launch eVTOL Network in China’s Greater Bay Area

2024 – China plans to open airspace zones for drones, electric aircraft

2024 – CAAC Production Certificate Secured by EHang for the EH216-S

2024 – Xishan Tourism orders 50 EH216-S aircraft from China’s EHang

2024 – Lilium, Bao’an District to establish China eVTOL hub

2024 – New China FBO Looks To Meld Bizjets and AAM

2024 – EHang and China Southern Airlines General Aviation forge strategic partnership




Short Essay Questions

Question 1

You have been hired by a Drone Startup Company. Your boss has immediately assigned this job to you.

They need you to prepare a one-page memo detailing the legalities of using a drone to film parts of the Great Wall, in the area of Beijing, pictured above.

They need you to mention any national laws and local ordinances.

They specifically want to know what airspace you will be operating in and whether or not you need an airspace authorization.

Does it matter whether or not you are a citizen of the country?

Lastly, there is a bonus for you if, as you scroll through this chapter, you find any typos or broken links!

Question 2

Do you need a certificate to fly UAS?

If so, how do you obtain one?

Are there fees associated with this?

If so, how much?

Question 3

May you operate beyond visual line of sight?

If so, what procedures must you follow?

Question 4

Does the country have UAM/AAM laws? If so, describe, citing the exact law.

Question 5

Are you aware of any new laws or policies not mentioned above? If so, describe, citing the exact law or policy.





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Drones Across the World Copyright © 2023 by Sarah Nilsson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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