The concept of the state in China is open to a variety of interpretations. First, it can be understood in the limited sense of government organization, namely, the state apparat. Under this conceptualization, two commonly used terms are relevant. The first and more abstract is guojia, usually translated as 'the state', which entails the organized strength of centralized and united political power, and stresses its coercive functions. The second is zhengfu, usually translated as either 'government' or 'administration', which refers to the administrative units of the state's organization, from the central to the basic levels (Goodman 1984). However, in order to understand the full implications of the Chinese state, it is not possible to ignore the other components. Schurmann, for example, identified three major hierarchies that make up the Chinese political system-namely, the Communist Party, the People's Liberation Army and the government (Schurmann  1970:532, 557). It is commonly agreed that a workable concept has at least to include the state-party matrix (Schurmann  1970, Barnett 1967, Pye 1981, Goodman 1984, Burns 1989b).
The fusion of party and state is a key feature of socialist polity (Furtak 1986). In China, this phenomenon is even more pronounced. As the vanguard party, the Communist Party leads the nation. The CCP takes the theoretical position that the party makes policy but the state implements it. In practice, the party subsumes the government. Not only does it set policies, it also controls personnel appointments and engages in the minutiae of public administration. In terms of structure, the party and state systems have separate organizations. Where operation is concerned, however, overlapping leadership in the two hierarchies and domination of party over government prevail at every level. This results in a fusion of power and functions. In the case of the MCA, the Ministry sees itself as the executive department that carries out the dictates of the party. The party group (dang zu) is the actual command centre of ministerial decision-making. Most important regulations and policies are issued jointly by the CCP and State Council or subordinate ministries. Given the above reality,