Thanks. Here's some more:
Many people view China as a monolithic structure. In fact, it's very, very polylithic (to coin a new term) consisting of many ministries, bureaus, departments and spheres of influence. Here's a brief (!) listing of some of the governmental units nationally and locally that may affect your life and/or work here in the PRC:
PRC = People's Republic of China (but you already knew that)
Embassy/ Consulate -located outside China, handles diplomatic affairs, visas, etc.
State Council - oversees most administrative functions in the PRC. 35 members led by the Premier (currently Wen Jiabao)
FMPRC=Ministry of Foreign Affairs - sets some policy and rules affecting foreigners; also handles requests for mainland visas in HK and Macao. Ministry directly under the State Council
HK = Hong Kong
MPS = Ministry of Public Security - directly under the State Council they oversee the PSB
PSB = Public Security Bureau - they are at both the national and local level.
MHRSS = Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security - formerly called the Ministry of Labor, they deal with employment throughout the PRC. Directly under the State Council, they pass laws which affect your employment e.g.. the 2008 Labor Law, the recently enacted but not yet fully implemented Social Security law for foreigners, etc. Regarding foreigners, they interact with them through SAFEA.
SAFEA = State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs - An administrative agency directly under the State Council but overseen by the MHRSS. They administer foreigners working in the fields of education, science and culture. They can issue standard forms such as the FEC (see above), standard employment contracts, etc. They operate locally through provincial and local FEBs. SAFEA can issue policies that are in some cases non-binding on local FEBs and schools which use FEC holding teachers. (Examples include salary guidelines, the Foreign Expert Handbook, the Standard SAFEA Contract,etc.) They also can arbitrate labor disputes between teachers and schools, though they prefer not to.
MOE = Ministry of Education - directly under the State Council, they oversee general education policy as well as directly administer a few universities such as the C9's (China's "Ivy League"), 985 schools (a group of about 35 select universities which include the C9) and certain graduate schools (GUCAS, GSCASS, etc.). Locally, they operate through Education Bureaus (see below).
FEB = Foreign Experts Bureau - the local branch of the national SAFEA. They issue the FEC required to work as a teacher at SAFEA authorized schools and centers. SAFEA gives the the local FEB great deal of autonomy. This explains the various applications of various "rules" in various provinces and cities; for example The 2 Year Rule (can't work for the same school for more than 2 years), The 5 Year Rule (can't work in China for more than 5 consecutive years), The Over-60/65 Rule (must be under 60/65 to work here), etc. (Note: the FEB does NOT issue the RP. That function is carried out by the local PSB.)
Labor Bureau = a local branch of the MHRSS separate from SAFEA, they handle employment issues for non-teaching, science, culture posts. They issue the AEP which is a separate pathway to the RP.
Education Bureau = there's one at both the provincial and local level. They oversee the schools within their purviews. Some universities are overseen directly by the national MOE free of interference by local Education Bureaus. Most schools are administered by the Education Bureau at either the provincial or local level. Generally, before a school can get an FEC for a teacher, they must file a copy of the teacher's Resume/CV (in Chinese) with the Education Bureau who passes on the suitablity of the teacher (i.e. bachelor degree, two years teaching experience, TEFL cert in lieu of experience).
PSB = Public Security Bureau - under the direction of the national PSB, at the local level they deal with issuance of the RP, visa issues WITHIN China, and all manner of "security" dealing with foreigners. Regarding RPs, visas and passports, the local PSB has a sub-bureau called The Entrance and Exit Administration Bureau which handles these matters. The PSB will require either an FEC from the FEB or an AEP from the local Labor Bureau in order to issue an RP.
Ed. Bur. > FEB > PSB > RP or Labor Bureau > PSB > RP