The country is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, in a one-party system, making whoever occupies the highest positions in the party among the most powerful.
Power isn't just held by the politicians either -- influential businessmen and entrepreneurs, the pioneers of China's economic rise, are also fighting for a seat at the table.
As Beijing gets ready for the biggest event in China's political calendar, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party on October 18, we polled 10 experts, asking them to pick who they thought were the top five most powerful people in China.
Their answers on who really pulls the strings were varied, and shed light on the upcoming Congress -- akin to a closed-door election when China's next generation leaders are expected to be unveiled.
Here's who makes up the top five, according to the policy advisers, academics and journalists we spoke to.
5. Li Keqiang
In theory, Premier Li is number two in China's power structure, but his influence is far from assured.