Written by: Aaron Wong Jielun (21-I4), Emma Shuen Lee (21-O1), Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1), Lim Zi Loong, Zexel (21-E2), Tiew Zuo Yuan Richard (21-I2), Zuo Yuning (21-A1)
Designed by: Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1)
Thousands gathered at Tiananmen Square during the wee hours of 1 July 2021. China’s ruling party turned 100 this year. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrated its achievements, including its efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as the eradication of absolute poverty. The celebration kicked off with a mass singing session of communist songs, exhorting the people to be loyal to the party. The party showcased its latest air force hardware in a fly-past. President Xi Jinping then delivered a 70-minute speech, pointing out that it was the CCP that brought China its ‘moderately prosperous’ status. Additionally, he warned against external forces that would attempt to “bully” or pressure China.
What is the Chinese Communist Party?
While it is the governing party of Mainland China, the influence of its decisions and policies shakes the international stage. The CCP was founded in 1921 and has developed China to become the second largest economy in the world. Led by general secretary Xi Jinping, it currently sits as the sole political party of Mainland China with no opposing parties.
While its ideology has been known to dramatically shift based on its changing leadership and evolving circumstances, at a fundamental level, all of the party’s theories and beliefs are seen to stem from the communist ideology of Marxism-Leninism. In particular, the current economic model of the country as driven by the CCP, is much akin to capitalism. However, the CCP believes that the country is simply at an initial stage of production that is necessary before true communism can be achieved in the future.
In terms of governance, the CCP practises democratic centralism, a practice where all leadership figures are allowed to express their own opinions, but will have to ultimately accept the decision of the majority without opposition.
Successes since 1921
The success of the CCP cannot be denied, especially in terms of its political stronghold in world affairs today. Before World War II, China seemed to only be at the receiving end of political dominance, being at the mercy of the British during the Opium War, and anti-Japanese sentiments from Japanese domination in the past are still prevalent in China today. Today, China is a superpower rivaled only by the United States. Its status is enshrined by the leadership they take on in many regions, and especially in Southeast Asia and Central Asia, as seen through the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Belt and Road Initiative.
In 1949, the CCP achieved one of the most significant milestones in the party’s history: it founded the People’s Republic of China. After the CCP had cooperated with Kuomintang (KMT) to win the Sino-Japanese war, the CCP took advantage of the corruption and military incompetence of the KMT and then overcame the opposition to become the leader in mainland China. On Oct 1 1949, Mao stood on Tiananmen announcing the creation of the People’s Republic of China.
Its social successes are tremendous—though achieved in an oppressive manner, China has become one of the most politically united societies, seemingly unaffected by the traditional ills of progress such as polarisation and liberalisation. More than ever, there is a sense of not just patriotism, but nationalism in the country. In the face of claims by South Korean netizens that Paocai is a copy of the Korean Kimchi, Chinese netizens come to the defence of their own dish almost immediately. When asked about the controversial social credit system that China utilises, several Chinese netizens once again came through to the CCP’s proposal, stating that they have nothing to hide. Moreover, this sentiment is common even amongst the younger population, contrary to the youth’s role in democracy abroad in other countries and thereby demonstrating the success of the CCP in uniting society.
Challenges the CCP faces
A pertinent domestic issue that the CCP can never avoid is the worsening inequality in the nation, in terms of wealth and gender inequality. While the CCP has achieved undeniable success in lifting millions out of poverty, it has also widened the gap between the rich and the poor. One of the main causes is the unfair provision of education, as students from lower-income families find it immensely difficult to enter a good university. Indeed, around 75% of urban students, who are generally more well to do, are able to afford university fees as compared to only 25% of rural students. To make things worse, school fees in poorer areas can cost more than 80% of an individual parent’s income, which is one of the highest in the world. Consequently, poorer families cannot afford to send their children to school and prefer to have them start working from a young age, which hence prevent their children from obtaining the education necessary to end the poverty cycle. Besides income inequality, the gender disparity also warrants the CCP’s attention. Women in China continue to suffer great disadvantages in many aspects of life, such as how there are more men than women and how they are under-represented in the government. According to Feng Yuan who co-founded Equality, an NGO for women’s rights, “progress is slow and in some ways it’s even going backwards, because there has been no practical policy and measures [from the government]”. For instance, the recent backlash against the three-child policy is in part due to claims that the state was trying to “exploit the unpaid labour of women” because the government made little effort to encourage men to spend more time with their children.
Another problem is human rights. China does not acknowledge the existence of the problems in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, but there is sufficient and clear evidence that there have been serious human right violations in those regions. When more than a million Uighurs have been detained and thousands of mosques have been destroyed, China cannot claim to be respectful of minority races and religions. China’s systematic attempts to dismantle the Tibet language and culture through ‘compulsory use of Mandarin in education’ and assimilation efforts. Furthermore, China breached the promises it made in 1997 by using the National Security Law to arrest dissidents and shut down independent media outlets such as Apple Daily. These warrant their claims to be a country of diverse cultures, that values free speech, rather contradictory to many. Even as the CCP celebrates its 100 years of ‘arduous struggle in the journey for national rejuvenation’, we must not forget that its journey has not been as glorious as many believe.
CCP is said to be born out of a secret meeting on a boat a hundred years ago, looks ahead to the next hundred years, and an unfulfilled dream of the “great rejuvenation” of the Chinese nations. Indeed, it is phenomenal for the world to witness the struggles of a backwards country in becoming a global powerhouse of today, from the “broken heads, bloodshed” against imperialist oppression less than a century ago to a prosperous and egalitarian society that has materialised today. One can only imagine the sheer amount of adversities that China will surmount. It is beyond doubt that the CCP is here to stay and the world must learn to embrace the envisionment of this awakening giant. In China’s eyes, the best is yet to come.
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