Governance
What are the secrets to the CPC’s endurance?
As the world's largest Marxist ruling party with more than 91 million members, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been in power for over 70 years in the world's most populous country. What are the secrets behind its enduring vitality?
By Xie Chuntao  ·  2021-04-16  ·   Source: NO.16 APRIL 22, 2021
Students learn about the history of the Communist Party of China through paper cutting in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province, on April 9 (XINHUA)

As the world's largest Marxist ruling party with more than 91 million members, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been in power for over 70 years in the world's most populous country. What are the secrets behind its enduring vitality?

Putting people first

The people are the CPC's source of strength. When it was founded in 1921, the CPC pledged to represent the interests of the working class by overthrowing the corrupt and failing regime. The Party worked steadily to uphold China's national interests, and made all-out efforts to address issues relating to people's wellbeing, such as ensuring the fair distribution of land and enabling those who had long been marginalized to enjoy democratic rights. With the support of the majority of people, the CPC led a successful revolution.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Party went on to spearhead efforts to advance reconstruction, restore the national economy and lay the foundation for industrialization and modernization. In 1978, in response to calls from the public, the CPC adopted the historic reform and opening-up policy, which unleashed market forces and boosted productivity.

Since the Party's 18th National Congress in 2012, the CPC has continued to put the people first and worked to meet their aspirations for a better life by championing all-round development. Last year, for instance, China curbed the COVID-19 epidemic, ended absolute poverty and made great strides toward a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

The CPC has been of one mind with the people, breathed the same breath as the people, and shared weal and woe with the people throughout its 100-year history, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said at a meeting launching a Party history learning and education campaign on February 20. Keeping firmly in mind its original aspiration and mission is the reason the CPC has maintained its vitality.

Theoretical innovation

The Opium War of 1840 plunged China into the darkness of domestic turmoil and foreign aggression. Dedicated patriots tried every means possible to seek the nation's salvation but were powerless to change the nature of society in old China and the plight of the Chinese people. In the late 1910s, the October Revolution in Russia sparked interest in Marxism-Leninism in China. In this theory, Chinese progressives saw a new solution to China's problems, and the CPC's founders adopted Marxism as its guiding ideology.

However, China's revolution, reconstruction and reform faced problems to which the theories of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin did not provide the answers. After the dogmatic implementation of Marxism and replication of the Soviet model led to a number of early failures, Chinese communists took stock of their experience and came to the conclusion that Marxism must be adapted to the Chinese context. The sinicization of Marxism has led to the emergence of theories that serve as a guide to action for all Party members and all the Chinese people.

Since 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Xi at the core has provided the answers to a number of key questions. They include what kind of socialism with Chinese characteristics should be upheld and developed in the new era, and how the Party should go about doing it. The theoretical explorations and innovations gave shape to Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

Party building

The CPC is the vanguard of the Chinese working class, the Chinese people, and the Chinese nation. Although there have been changes during different periods, the requirements for its members have always been high. The requirements include political ideology, performance at work, public evaluation and moral integrity. The membership procedures are also strict.

The CPC embraces members from a range of social communities, including workers, farmers, military personnel, intellectuals, government officials, and people from new social strata, including entrepreneurs, the self-employed and freelance professionals. It has focused on encouraging the participation of young people and enhancing the education of its members. The participation of outstanding individuals has injected impetus into the Party.

The requirements for selecting Party leaders are becoming increasingly high. The CPC takes both integrity and ability into consideration when selecting officials, with priority given to integrity. The Party also attaches great importance to training officials and gaining work experience from multiple posts.

The CPC has upheld democratic centralism, a principle for effective and collective decision-making based on extensive consultations. This principle is also applied in the recommendation, selection and appointment of its officials.

The CPC has never shied away from self-supervision and self-discipline, and has improved itself through facing up to and solving its problems. For instance, between 1942 and 1945, the Party launched the Yan'an Rectification Movement to address internal issues through criticism and self-criticism.

The CPC never tolerates corruption and imposes severe punishments on corrupt members. At the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the CPC, held in March 1949, Mao Zedong warned that some Party members had become arrogant, lazy and self-indulgent. "Our comrades must remain modest and prudent, neither conceited nor rash, in our working practices; and our comrades must remain hardworking despite difficulties in our working practices," he said.

The CPC Central Committee with Xi at the core has exercised comprehensive and rigorous governance over the Party. The eight-point decision on improving Party and government conduct formulated by the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in 2012 focuses on maintaining close ties with the people and rejecting bureaucratic practices. With a persistent and sweeping anti-corruption campaign, serious potential dangers in the Party and the country have been removed, the political ecosystem of the Party has improved, and the Party's ability to innovate and its power to unite have been strengthened.

The most distinctive part of the CPC's character is its courage to carry out self-reform and conduct strict self-governance, Xi said.

In the new era, through consistent self-reform, the Party has explored a successful way to solve its own problems while staying in power for a long time, and has established effective systems for supervising power and enforcing disciplines and laws. Commitment to self-reform is a hallmark that distinguishes the CPC from other political parties across the world and allows it to maintain vitality.

Retrospectives are not for gloating about previous achievements but for informing current and future development. As the CPC upholds its fine traditions and further improves itself, it can continue to be the vital force leading China's transformative changes. 

The author is vice president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance)

(Print Edition Title: The Path of the Party)  

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

Comments to yanwei@bjreview.com

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