The vice-premiers and state councilors are nominated by the premier, and appointed by the president with National People's Congress' (NPC) approval. The premier is nominated and appointed by the president with NPC approval. Incumbents may serve two successive five-year terms.
Each vice premier oversees certain areas of administration. Each State Councilor performs duties as designated by the Premier. The secretary-general heads the General Office which handles the day-to-day work of the State Council. The secretary-general has relatively little power and should not be confused with the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China.
Each ministry supervises one sector. Commissions outrank ministries and set policies for and coordinate the related activities of different administrative organs. Offices deal with matters of ongoing concern. Bureaus and administrations rank below ministries.
Although formally responsible to the NPC and its Standing Committee in conducting a wide range of government functions both at the national and at the local levels, in practice the NPC's actual authority is rather limited, although it is not completely non-existent. The State Council acts according by virtue of the authority of the NPC, and there have been at least one case where the NPC has outright rejected an initiative of the State Council and a few cases where the State Council has withdrawn or greatly modified a proposal in response to NPC opposition.
The State Council and the Communist Party of China are also tightly interlocked. Most of the members of the State Council are high level party members. Although, as party members, they are supposed to follow party instructions, because they tend to be senior members of the party they also have large amounts of influence over what those instructions are. This results in a system which is unlike the Soviet practice in which the Party effectively controlled the state. Rather the party and state are fused at this level of government. The members of the State Council derive their authority from being members of the state, while as members of the Party they coordinate their activities and determine key decisions such as the naming of personnel.
Although there were attempts to separate the party and state in the late 1980s under Zhao Ziyang and have the Party in charge of formulating policy and the State Council executing policy, these efforts were largely abandoned in the early 1990s.
As the chief administrative organ of government, its main functions are to formulate administrative measures, issue decisions and orders, and monitor their implementation; draft legislative bills for submission to the NPC or its Standing Committee; and prepare the economic plan and the state budget for deliberation and approval by the NPC. The State Council is the functional center of state power and clearinghouse for government initiatives at all levels. With the government's emphasis on economic modernization, the State Council clearly acquired additional importance and influence.
REFERENCES: Yang, Dali. Remaking the Chinese Leviathan: Market Transition and the Politics of Governance in China. Stanford University Press, 2004.