Chinese State Council Budget Tracker

By Ryan Fedasiuk, Emily Weinstein, Ben Murphy, and Alan Omar Loera Martinez
Web design by Jennifer Melot

The State Council is the chief administrative authority of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, it directly controls China's cabinet-level departments (ministries) and dozens of smaller offices. This data brief explores the State Council's 2019 budget, including cabinet-level spending and funding for other organizations central to science, technology, and talent recruitment in China. It reflects only the budget of China's central government, and does not account for resources allocated to the governments of individual provinces, prefectures, or districts.

Because of differences in the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar and the yuan, it is difficult to compare the budgets of the Chinese and American governments in a meaningful way. We include budget values in RMB, nominal USD, and USD adjusted for GDP-wide purchasing power parity (USD-PPP). USD-PPP is a currency conversion that attempts to account for the differing prices of goods in the United States and China. To make the calculations, we use data from the World Bank's 2017 International Comparison Program (Table 2.4, consumption expenditure by government). In reality, the U.S. dollar equivalent of China's State Council budget likely falls somewhere in between nominal and PPP-adjusted values.

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The authors would like to thank Zach Arnold, Alex Barker, Daniel Chou, Andrew Imbrie, Anna Puglisi, Igor Mikolic-Torreira, Dewey Murdick, and Lynne Weil for their suggestions on style and content. They are especially grateful to Sheena Greitens and Scott Harold for their comprehensive reviews.
Cabinet-Level Departments

The State Council comprises 26 cabinet-level departments, including 21 ministries, three national commissions, the National Audit Office, and the People's Bank of China. The Ministry of National Defense (国防部; MND) and the Ministry of State Security (国家安全部; MSS) do not publish their budget documents. Collectively, the other 24 departments' public budgets amounted to $160 billion in nominal USD (1.1 trillion RMB) in 2019. We have no way of determining whether each ministry operates a non-public "black" budget and, if so, how much funding the State Council may allocate to it. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology account for nearly half of State Council's cabinet-level spending.

Click on any of the organizations below to learn more about their roles, or to view their itemized 2019 budget documents.

Science, Technology, and Talent Recruitment Organizations

The State Council directly supervises dozens of organizations, administrative offices, and institutions below the cabinet level. Three organizations form the backbone of China's government-led research ecosystem: the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). Three others lead China's efforts to acquire foreign science and technology and recruit overseas experts: the China Association of Science and Technology (CAST), the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA; now absorbed into the Ministry of Science and Technology), and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO; now absorbed into the CCP Central United Front Work Department of the Communist Party). Collectively, these six organizations' public budgets amounted to $19 billion in nominal USD (133 billion RMB) in the last years for which data was available.

Click on any of the organizations below to learn more about their roles, or to view their itemized budget documents. Data for CAS, CAE, NSFC, and CAST are from 2019. OCAO and SAFEA data are from 2017, the last years available before they were absorbed into other organizations.