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Society & Culture

The CCP Turns 100

Jan 12, 2021
  • Tom Watkins

    President and CEO of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, FL

Chinese President Xi Jinping's 2021 New Year address reminded the Chinese people and the world that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CCP). He said, “The 100-year journey surges forward with great momentum. Its original aspiration remains even firmer one hundred years later”. 

Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the CCP has been in sole control of the Chinese government – what may have begun with a whisper, clearly provided the spark that has transformed the fortunes of China and their place on the world stage.  

As a junior high school student, I recall being amazed when I learned that in 1921, a small group of men gathered in Shanghai to form the CCP. By 1949 – a mere 28 years later – on October 1, 1949, China stood up, not only driving the Japanese army out of China, but defeating the existing Chinese Nationalist Government to create the People’s Republic of China. How was that even possible? 

One does not need to be a Communist sympathizer to acknowledge the remarkable feat accomplished under the CCP. South China Morning Post columnist, Alex Lo, challenges the West to re-think its ideological anti-China struggle and embrace reality stating, “China has produced the greatest economic success, in the shortest period of time, that the world has ever seen.” 

A movement that was birthed from misery has accomplished a great deal, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. But the same party that has done more to eradicate poverty and spark an economic and modernization miracle also produced the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen Square incident and the oppression of Tibetan and Uighur people.  

The U.S. is not without fault when it comes to our own nation’s failure in addressing the needs of Americans and brutality towards our minorities. The U.S. government carried out genocide against Native Americans, enslaved Black people, and long denied women voting rights after the rest of the world had done so. Our country is reminded of these continuing injustices as they boil over today in the form of marches, riots and revolts. 

Prior to 1920, China was ripe for revolution, facing monumental challenges of poverty, drought, food shortages, and social, economic, and political upheavals that unraveled everyday life. In the early 1920s, densely populated North China was stricken by a famine that impacted millions. Rather than assisting the people, warlords took advantage of the situation and watched while half a million people perished by starvation, children were sold into slavery, and thousands fled the area. The chaos and lack of meaningful response by the existing government was a petri dish for Chinese revolutionary zeal.   

The West Pushed China to The Edge 

May 4th, 1919, set the spark that ignited the Chinese powder keg to cast off the shackles of the past.     

The subsequent May Fourth Movement occurred at a time when the Chinese nation was in crisis, its people standing strong to fight imperialism and feudalism. At the heart of the May Fourth spirit was anger, patriotism, and heightened nationalism.  

Two years later, in 1921, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded, setting in motion a new Long March – the coming of age of the Communist Party, a sunrise of Chinese pride, and the moderation of a new China.  

It can be argued that the West’s incompetence and mismanagement around the Treaty of Versailles became the final straw for China, helping birth the beginning of the modern-day Communist Party in China. The May 4th Movement was nothing short of a national revolution that has rolled on for a century.  

The CCP was founded as both a revolutionary movement and a political party based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism. The party relies on P+P – People’s Liberation Army and Personnel – for its strength and legitimacy amid constant propaganda.

The Communist Party has been leading change in China, staying a step ahead of the masses in creating an economic juggernaut, the likes of which the world has never seen.      They created a vast number of billionaires and millionaires and moved an estimated 800 million people out of abject poverty into the middle class. 

More and more Chinese today have a stake in maintaining order, allowing the CCP to remain in power to protect the gains they have rapidly accumulated. Given their long chaotic history of suffering, or eating bitters, perhaps the average Chinese citizen longs for eating the fruit of stability, tranquility, peace and prosperity above all else.  

Through force of will and brute power, the CCP has both mobilized and immobilized its people in achieving liberation from foreign interference, gaining national independence to become the world's second biggest economy as well as an economic, military, and ideological player on the international stage.                                                                                                    

A Shaky Foundation?  

Yet, Minxin Pei, Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College, has argued than at any time since the end of the Mao era. 

Challenges facing the CCP include the changing economic stability, rising inequality, an aging population, minority oppression, and growing tensions with the United States and other Western powers. 

Ironically, the West may have assisted the CCP to maintain power and influence with its mishandling of the 2008 economic crisis, the 2020 COVID pandemic, and the insurrection President Trump’s supporters incited in an attempt to hold on to power. It is not necessarily that the CCP has done so well, but that the US has done so poorly, making Chinese leaders look good – perhaps even brilliant – in the eyes of Chinese citizens.       

Performance Matters 

Going forward, Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are tasked with finding the glue that keeps one-fifth of all humanity from coming unhinged. Liking or disliking Communism or the authoritative rule of China may be a luxury the 21st century can ill afford. The thought of China disintegrating into chaos? A nightmare. For the sake of the Chinese people and the world, success is better than failure, forcing a re-assessment and weighing the cost of the CCP’s success or failure without embracing all they stand for. 

The US faces a great challenge– reconciling what is right and just, with what is indeed possible.


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