Communist Party of China

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Communist Party of China
Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng
Chinese name中国共产党
General SecretaryXi Jinping
Politburo Standing CommitteeXi Jinping
Li Keqiang
Zhang Dejiang
Yu Zhengsheng
Liu Yunshan
Wang Qishan
Zhang Gaoli
Founded1 July 1921
HeadquartersZhongnanhai, Beijing
NewspaperPeople's Daily
Youth wingCommunist Youth League
Membership  (By the 18th National Congress)82.6 million[1]
IdeologySocialism with Chinese Characteristics
International affiliationAttends the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
National People's Congress
2,157 / 2,987
Party flag
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party.svg
Politics of the People's Republic of China
Political parties
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Communist Party of China
Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng
Chinese name中国共产党
General SecretaryXi Jinping
Politburo Standing CommitteeXi Jinping
Li Keqiang
Zhang Dejiang
Yu Zhengsheng
Liu Yunshan
Wang Qishan
Zhang Gaoli
Founded1 July 1921
HeadquartersZhongnanhai, Beijing
NewspaperPeople's Daily
Youth wingCommunist Youth League
Membership  (By the 18th National Congress)82.6 million[1]
IdeologySocialism with Chinese Characteristics
International affiliationAttends the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
National People's Congress
2,157 / 2,987
Party flag
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party.svg
Politics of the People's Republic of China
Political parties
Communist Party of China
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese中国共产党
Traditional Chinese中國共產黨
Hanyu PinyinZhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng
Abbreviated name
Hanyu PinyinZhōng Gòng
Tibetan name
Uyghur name
جۇڭگو كوممۇنىستىك پارتىيە

The Communist Party of China (CPC), often referred to as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The CPC is the only party allowed to rule the PRC, although it coexists alongside 8 other legal parties that make up the United Front. Through this position the CPC maintains a unitary government and a centralized control over the state, military, and media. The legal power of the Communist Party is guaranteed by the national constitution. The current party leader is Xi Jinping, who holds the title of General Secretary of the Central Committee.

The party was founded in July 1921 in Shanghai. After a lengthy civil war, the CPC defeated the government of Kuomintang and assumed full control of mainland China by 1949. The government of the Republic of China retreated to the island of Taiwan, where it still holds power to this day.

Both before and after the founding of the PRC, the CPC's history is defined by various power struggles and ideological battles, including destructive socio-political movements such as the Cultural Revolution. At first a conventional member of the international Communist movement, the CPC broke with its counterpart in the Soviet Union over ideological differences in the 1960s. The Communist Party's ideology was redefined under Deng Xiaoping to incorporate principles of market economics, and the corresponding reforms enabled rapid and sustained economic growth.

The CPC is the world's largest political party, claiming over 82.6 million members at the party's 18th National Congress.[1] Since 1978, the Communist Party has institutionalized transitions of power and consolidated its internal structure. The modern party stresses unity and avoids public conflict while practicing democratic centralism.


The CPC has its origins in the May Fourth Movement of 1919, during which radical ideologies like anarchism and communism gained traction among Chinese intellectuals.[2] The CPC's ideologies have significantly evolved since its founding and establishing political power in 1949.[2] The Chinese Revolution, led by Mao Zedong and the CPC, led to the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.[2] The PRC was founded on Marxist–Leninist principles, or more precise, the sinification of Marxism–Leninism (which is known officially as Mao Zedong Thought, better known as Maoism).[2] During the 1960s and 1970s, the CPC experienced a significant ideological breakdown with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[3] By that time, Mao had begun calling for the "continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat" stipulated that class enemies continued to exist even though the socialist revolution seemed to be complete, giving way to the Cultural Revolution.[4]

Following Mao's death in 1976, a power struggle between CPC General Secretary Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping erupted.[5] Deng won the struggle, and became the CPC paramount leader.[5] Deng, alongside Chen Yun and Li Xiannian, spearheaded the Reform and opening policy, and conceived of the ideological concept Socialism with Chinese characteristics.[6] In reversing some of Mao's "extreme-leftist" policies, Deng argued that a socialist state could utilize the market economy without being capitalist.[7] While asserting the political power of the Party itself, the change in policy generated significant economic growth.[2] The ideology itself, however, came into conflict on both sides of the spectrum with Maoists as well as those supporting political liberalization, culminating with other social factors to cause the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests.[8] Deng's vision on economics prevailed, and by the early 1990s the concept of a socialist market economy had been conceived.[9] Deng's beliefs, referred to as Deng Xiaoping Theory, were entrenched in the CPC Constitution in 1997.[10]

Jiang Zemin succeeded Deng as paramount leader in the 1990s, and continued most of his policies.[11] As part of Jiang Zemin's nominal legacy, the CPC ratified the Three Represents into the 2003 revision of the Party Constitution as a "guiding ideology", encouraging the Party to represent "advanced productive forces, the progressive course of China's culture, and the fundamental interests of the people."[12] The theory has legitimized the entry of private business owners and bourgeois elements into the party.[12] Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin's successor as paramount leader, took office in 2002.[13] Unlike Mao, Deng and Jiang Zemin, Hu laid emphasize on collective leadership and opposed one-man dominance over the political system.[13] The insistence on focusing on economic growth has led to a wide range of serious social problems. To address these, Hu introduced two main ideological concepts; the Scientific Outlook on Development and Harmonious Socialist Society.[14] Hu resigned from his post as CPC General Secretary and Secretary of the Central Military Commission at the 18th National Congress, and was succeeded in both posts by Xi Jinping.[15]


Democratic centralism[edit]

The CPC's organizational principle is democratic centralism (synonymous in this instance with "socialist democracy").[16] It has been the guiding organizational principle of the party since the 5th National Congress (held in 1927).[16] In the words of the party constitution, "The Party is an integral body organized under its program and Constitution and on the basis of democratic centralism".[16] Mao once quipped that democratic centralism was "at once democratic and centralized, with the two seeming opposites of democracy and centralization united in a definite form." Mao claimed that the superiority of democratic centralism laid in its internal contradictions, between democracy and centralism, and freedom and discipline.[16] Currently, the CPC is claiming that "democracy is the lifeline of the Party, the lifeline of socialism".[16] But for democracy to be implemented, and functioning properly, there needs to be centralization.[16] Democracy in any form, the CPC claims, needs centralism, since without centralism there will be no order.[16] According to Mao, democratic centralism "is centralized on the basis of democracy and democratic under centralized guidance. This is the only system that can give full expression to democracy with full powers vested in the people’s congresses at all levels and, at the same time, guarantee centralized administration with the governments at each level exercising centralized management of all the affairs entrusted to them by the people’s congresses at the corresponding level and safeguarding whatever is essential to the democratic life of the people".[16] 

Multi-party Cooperation System[edit]

The Multi-party Cooperation and Political Consultation System is led by the CPC in cooperation and consultation with the 8 parties which make-up the United Front.[17] Consultation takes place under the leadership of the CPC with mass organizations, the United Front parties and "representatives from all walks of life".[17] These consultations contribute, at least in theory, to the formation of the country's basic policy in the fields of political, economic, cultural and social affairs".[17] The relationship the CPC has with the other parties is based on the principle of "long-term coexistence and mutual supervision, treating each other with full sincerity and sharing weal or woe."[17] This process is institutionalized in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).[17] All the parties in the United Front support China's road to socialism, and hold steadfast to the leadership of the CPC.[17] Despite all this, the CPPCC is a body without any real power.[18] While discussions do take place, they are all supervised by the CPC.[18]


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National Congress[edit]

The National Congress is the party's supreme organ, and is held every fifth year (in the past there was deep intervals between congresses, but since the 9th National Congress congresses have been held regularly).[19] According to the party's Constitution, a congress cannot be postponed expect "under extraordinary circumstances".[20] A congress can be held before the given date if the Central Committee decides so, or if "one third of the party organizations at the provincial level so request".[20] Under Mao the delegates to congresses were appointed, however, since 1982 congress delegates were elected due to the decision that there have to be more candidates than the number of seats.[21] At the 15th National Congress, for instance, several princelings (the sons or daughters of powerful CPC officials) failed to get elected to the 15th Central Committee, among these were Chen Yuan, Wang Jun and Bo Xilai.[22] The elections are carried through secret ballots.[20] Despite this, certain seats don't stand for election, instead the outgoing Central Committee "recommends" to the party electorate to appoint some of their choices.[23] These figures are mostly high-ranking members of the party leadership or special guests.[23] For instance, at the 15th National Congress, 60 seats were given to members who joined the CPC before 1927 and some were given to the outgoing members of the 15th Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the 15th Central Committee.[23]

The party Constitution gives the National Congress six responsibilities; (1) electing the party's executive and legislative branches, represented by the Central Committee, (2) electing the judicial branch, represented by the CCDI, (3) to hear and examine the report of the outgoing Central Committee, (4) to hear and examine the report of the outgoing CCDI, (5) discuss and enact party policies and (6) to revise the party's Constitution.[23] However, the delegates rarely discuss in length at the National Congresses, with most of the discussions taking place before the congress, in the preparation period.[23]


According to the CPC published book Concise History of the Communist Party of China the party's 1st Constitution was adopted at the 1st National Congress.[24] Since then several constitutions have been written, such as the 2nd Constitution adopted at the 7th National Congress.[24] The constitution regulates party life, and the CCDI is responsible of supervising the party to ensure that the constitution is followed.[25] The current constitution currently in force was adopted at the 12th National Congress.[26] It shares many affinities with the state constitution, and they are generally amended either at party congresses or shortly thereafter.[27] The preamble of the state constitution is largely copied from the "General Program" (the preamble) of the party constitution.[28]

Central Committee[edit]

The Central Committee is empowered by the party Constitution to enact policies between party congresses.[29] A Central Committee is de jure elected by a party Congress, but is in reality its membership is chosen by the central party leadership.[29] The authority of the Central Committee has increased in recent years, with the leaders rarely if ever going against Central Committee, which often occurred during the early years of the People's Republic.[20] The Central Committee is required to meet at least once every year,[30] however, in the early years of the People's Republic there are several years it did not convene at all; 1951–53, 1960, 1963–65, 1967, 1971, 1974 and 1976.[31]

While the Central Committee is the highest organ between party congresses, few resolutions are cited in its name, instead the majority of party resolutions refer to the "Communist Party Centre", which is an indirect way to shield the powers (and resolutions produced) by the Politburo, the Politburo Standing Committee and the General Secretary.[30] This way of doing things shields the central party leadership from the lower-level bodies, reducing accountability (since the lower-levels can never know for sure which body produced which resolution).[30] In contrast to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) the CPC Central Committee does not have the power to remove general secretaries (or leading official for that matters), despite the party Constitution granting it those rights.[32] When the CPV dismissed its General Secretary Do Muoi it convened a special session of its Central Committee, and when it chose its new general secretary, it convened another Central Committee plenum.[32] In contrast, in China, when the CPC dismissed Hu Yaobang (in 1987) and Zhao Ziyang (in 1989), the Politburo (and not the Central Committee) convened a special session.[30] Not only did the meeting itself break constitutional practices (since the CPC Constitution clearly states calling a Central Committee session), the meeting contained several party veterans who were neither formal members of the Politburo or the Central Committee.[32] In short, the CPC Central Committee, in contrast to the CPV Central Committee, is responsible to the higher bodies of the party (the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee), while in Vietnam the higher bodies are accountable to the Central Committee.[33]

Central Commission for Discipline Inspection[edit]

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) is responsible for monitoring and punishing CPC cadres who abuse power, are corrupt or commit wrongdoing in general.[34] CCDI organs exists at every level of the party hierarchy.[34] It is the successor to the Control Commission which was abolished in 1968, during the heights of the Cultural Revolution.[35] While the CCDI's was original conceived to restore party morale and discipline, it has taken over much of the functions of the former Control Commission.[36] The CCDI is elected by the National Congress, held every fifth year.[36]

Bodies of the Central Committee[edit]

Party leader[edit]

Upon the party's founding in 1921, there was not one preeminent post within the party, but in 1925 the post of General Secretary was formed, with the first officeholder being Chen Duxiu (the informal CPC leader since 1921).[37] The office became synonymous with leader of the CPC, but was abolished in 1937 and replaced with CPC Chairman.[37] The office was revived in 1956 at the 8th National Congress, but it functioned as a lesser office responsible to the office of the CPC Chairman.[37] At a party meeting in 1959, Mao explained the relationship between the CPC Chairman and the CPC General Secretary as follows; "As Chairman, I am the commander; as General Secretary, Deng Xiaoping is deputy commander."[38] The office of CPC Chairman was abolished in 1982, and replaced with that of CPC General Secretary.[39] According to the party Constitution, the General Secretary must be a member of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), and is responsible for convening meetings of the PSC and the Politburo while also presiding over the work of the Secretariat.[40]


The Politburo of the Central Committee "exercises the functions and powers of the Central Committee when a plenum is not in session".[41] It is formally elected by the 1st plenary meeting of a newly elected Central Committee.[41] In reality, however, Politburo membership is decided by the central party leadership.[41] During his rule, Mao chose the composition of the Politburo himself.[41] The Politburo was the de facto highest organ of power until the 8th National Congress, when the PSC was established.[37] The powers of the PSC were taken at the expense of the Politburo.[37] The Politburo meets at least once a month.[42] The CPC General Secretary is responsible for convening the Politburo.[40]

From 2003 onwards, the Politburo delivers a work report to every Central Committee plenum, to further cement the Politburo's status as accountable to the Central Committee.[43] Also, from the 16th National Congress onwards, the CPC reports on the meetings of the Politburo, the PSC and its study sessions.[44] However, the reports to not contain all the information discussed at the meetings, with the ending of the reports usually noting that the meeting also discussed "other matters".[44]

In the Politburo decisions are reached through consensus and not votes.[45] In certain cases straw votes will be used only to see how many support or oppose a certain case (to be clear, these straw votes do not contribute to the ultimate decision).[45] Every member has the right to participate in the collective discussion (even non-members).[45] It is the CPC General Secretary who convenes the Politburo and sets the agenda for the meeting.[45] Each Politburo member is told of the agenda beforehand, and are given materials (by the General Secretary) on the subject so as to be prepared for the discussions.[45] The first person to speak (at the meeting) is the member who proposed the agenda.[45] After that, those who knows about the subject beforehand or who's work is directly related to it speak.[45] Then those who doubt or oppose the agenda speaks.[45] At last, the General Secretary speaks, and he usually supports the agenda (since he supported discussing it in the first place).[45] When the General Secretary is finished speaking he calls for a vote.[45] If the vote is anonymous (or nearly so), it can be accepted, but if the vote is nearly anonymous (but members who directly work on the area the agenda discusses opposes it), the issue will be postponed.[46] In the cases that the Politburo enacts a decision without all the members agreeing, the other members usually try to convince the opposers to their side.[46] In many ways the way the CPC Politburo decides on policy is very similar to that of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after Nikita Khrushchev's removal.[47]

Politburo Standing Committee[edit]

The Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) is the highest organ of the Communist Party when neither the Politburo, the Central Committee and the National Congress are in session.[48] It convenes at least once a week.[42] It was established at the 8th National Congress (held in 1958) so as to take over the policy-making role formerly assumed by the Secretariat.[37] While the PSC is "the primary decision-making body, though there is growing evidence of its being made more responsive to the collective agreements of the entire Politburo."[49] Despite formal rules stating that a PSC member has to serve a term in the Politburo before advancing the PSC, this rule has been breached twice, first in 1992 when Hu Jintao was appointed to PSC and then again in 2007 when Xi Jinping was appointed to it.[50] In reality, however, PSC is not accountable to the Central Committee (and has never been).[51]


The Secretariat of the Central Committee is headed by the General Secretary and is responsible for supervising the central party organizations; departments, commissions, newspapers etc.[52] It is also responsible for implementing the decisions of the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee.[52] The Secretariat was abolished in 1966, and its formal functions were taken over by the Central Office of Management, but was reestablished in 1980.[52] To be appointed to the Secretariat a person has to be nominated by the Politburo Standing Committee, the nominations has to be approved by the Central Committee.[53]

Central Military Commission[edit]

The Central Military Commission (CMC) is elected by the Central Committee, and is responsible for the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese military.[54] The position of CMC Chairman is one of the most powerful political offices in China, and the CMC Chairman has to concurrently serve as CPC General Secretary.[54] Unlike the collective leadership idea in other party organs, the CMC Chairman acts as commander-in-chief with the right to appoint or dismiss the top brass as he pleases.[54] The CMC Chairman can deploy troops, controls the country's nuclear weapons and allocates the budget.[54] The promotion of officers above the divisional level, or their transfer, can only be validated with the CMC Chairman's signature.[54]

The CMC is, in theory, responsible to the Central Committee, but in practice its only responsible to the CMC Chairman.[54] This is in many ways Mao's fault, who did not want other Politburo members to involve themselves in military affairs.[55] As he put it, "the Politburo's realm is state affairs, the CMC's is military".[55] This way of doing things has continued until this day, with the CMC only reporting to the paramount leader.[55] The CMC has controlled the PLA through three organs since 1937; the General Staff Department, the General Political Department and the General Logistics Department.[55] A fourth organ, the General Armaments Department, was established in 1998.[55]

Subordinate organs[edit]

There are several bodies subordinate organs under the auspices of the Central Committee, under are the most important;[20]

Lower-level organizations[edit]

There exists party committees at the provincial, autonomous regional, municipalities directly under the central government, cities divided into districts, autonomous prefectures, counties (banner), autonomous counties, cities not divided into districts and municipal districts.[71] These committees are elected by party congresses (at their own level).[71] Local party congresses are supposed to be held every fifth year, but under extraordinary circumstances they can be held earlier or be postponed, however this decision has to be approved by the local party committee at the next higher level.[71] The number of delegates and the procedures for their election is decided by the local party committee but must have the approval of the next higher party committee.[71]

A local party congress has much of the same duties as the National Congress, and it is responsible for hearing and examining the report of the local Party Committee at the corresponding level, to hear and examine the report of the local Commission for Discipline Inspection at the corresponding level, to discuss and adopt resolutions on major issues in the given area, and to elect the local Party Committee and the local Commission for Discipline Inspection at the corresponding level.[71] Party committees of "a province, autonomous region, municipality directly under the central government, city divided into districts, or autonomous prefecture is elected for a term of five years", and includes full and alternate members.[71] The party committees "of a county (banner), autonomous county, city not divided into districts, or municipal district is elected for a term of five years", but full and alternate members "must have a Party standing of three years or more."[71] If a local Party Congress is held before or after the given date, the term of the members of the Party Committee shall be correspondingly shortened or lengthened.[71]

A local Party Committee is responsible to the Party Committee at the next higher level.[71] The number of full and alternate members at the local Party Committee is decided by the Party Committee at the next higher level.[71] Vacancies in a Party Committee shall be filled by an alternate members according to the order of precedence (which is decided by the number of votes an alternate member got during his or hers election).[71] A Party Committee has to convene for at least two plenary meetings a year.[71] During its tenure, a Party Committee shall "carry out the directives of the next higher Party organizations and the resolutions of the Party congresses at the corresponding levels."[71] The local Standing Committee (analogous to the Central Politburo) is elected at the 1st plenum of the corresponding Party Committee after a local party congress.[71] A Standing Committee is responsible to the Party Committee at the corresponding level and the Party Committee at the next higher level.[71] A Standing Committee exercises the duties and responsibilities of the corresponding Party Committee when it is not in session.[71]


Probationary period, rights and duties[edit]

"It is my will to join the Communist Party of China, uphold the Party's program, observe the provisions of the Party Constitution, fulfill a Party member's duties, carry out the Party's decisions, strictly observe Party discipline, guard Party secrets, be loyal to the Party, work hard, fight for communism throughout my life, be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the Party and the people, and never betray the Party."

—Communist Party admission oath.[72]

To join the party an applicant has to be 18 years of age, and the person has to go through a year as a probationary member.[72] In contrast to the past, when emphasis was placed on the applicants ideological criteria, the current CPC stresses technical and educational qualifications.[72] However, applicants and members are expected to be both "red and expert".[72] To become a probationary member, two current CPC members have to recommend the applicant to the local party leadership.[72] The members who recommend have to acquaint themselves with the applicants, and know of the "applicant's ideology, character, personnel records and work performance" while teaching them about the party's program, constitution and the duties and responsibilities of members.[72] To this end, the members who recommend has to write a report to the local party leadership, in which the person writes if the member is either qualified or nonqualified for membership.[72] An applicant, to become a probationary member, has to take an admission oath in front of the party flag.[72] The relevant CPC organization is responsible for observing and educating probationary members.[72] A probationary member has similar duties to a full member, the exception being that they can't vote in party elections nor stand for election.[72]

Before 1949, joining the CPC was a matter of personal commitment to the communist cause, after 1949 people joined to gain good government jobs or access to universities, which were limited in early PRC history to CPC members only.[72] Many members join the CPC through the Communist Youth League.[72] Under Jiang Zemin private entrepreneurs were allowed become party members.[72] According to Article 3 of the CPC Constitution, a member has "To conscientiously study Marxism–Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of Three Represents, study the Scientific Outlook on Development, study the Party's line, principles, policies and resolutions, acquire essential knowledge concerning the Party, obtain general, scientific, legal and professional knowledge and work diligently to enhance their ability to serve the people."[71] A member, in short, has to follow orders, be disciplined, uphold unity, serve the Party and the people, and promote the socialist way of life.[71] Members enjoy the privilege of attending Party meetings, reading relevant Party documents, receiving Party education, to participate in Party discussions through the Party's newspapers and journals, to make suggestions and proposal, "to make well-grounded criticism of any Party organization or member at Party meetings" (even the central party leadership), to vote and stand for election, can oppose and criticize Party resolutions ("provided that they resolutely carry out the resolution or policy while it is in force") and the ability "to put forward any request, appeal, or complaint to higher Party organizations even up to the Central Committee and ask the organizations concerned for a responsible reply."[71] No party organization, included the CPC central leadership, can deprive a member of these rights.[71]

Membership composition[edit]

As of the 18th National Congress, farmers, workers and herdsmen make up 31 percent of the party membership while 9 percent of CPC members are workers.[73] The second largest membership group, denoted as "Managing, professional and technical staff in enterprises and public institutions", make up 23 percent of CPC membership.[73] Retirees make up 18 percent, "Party and government staff" make up 8 percent, "others" make up another 8 percent and students make up 3 percent of CPC membership.[73] Men make-up 77 percent of CPC membership, while woman make up 23 percent.[74] The CPC currently has 82.6 million members.[1]


According to the Article 53 of the CPC constitution, the "The Party emblem and flag are the symbol and sign of the Communist Party of China."[71] At the beginning of its history, the CPC did not have one official standard for the flag, instead allowing individual party committees to copy the flag of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[75] On 28 April 1942, the Central Politburo decreed the establishment of one official flag form; "The flag of the CPC has the length: width proportion of 3:2 with a hammer and sickle in the upper-left corner, and with no five-pointed star. The Political Bureau authorizes the General Office to custom-made a number of standard flags and distribute them to all major organs".[75] According to People's Daily "The standard party flag is 120 cm in length and 80 cm in width. In the center of the upper-left corner (a quarter of the length and width to the border) picturing a yellow sickle and hammer which is 30 cm in diameter. The flag sleeve (pole hem) is in white and 6.5 cm in width. The dimension of the pole hem is not included in the measure of the flag. The red color symbolizes revolution; the sickle and hammer are tools of workers and peasants, meaning that the Communist Party of China represents the interests of the masses and people; the yellow color signifies brightness."[75] In total the flag has five dimensions, the sizes are "no. 1: 388 cm in length and 192 cm in width; no. 2: 240 cm in length and 160 cm in width; no. 3: 192 cm in length and 128 cm in width; no. 4: 144 cm in length and 96 cm in width; no. 5: 96 cm in length and 64 cm in width."[75] On 21 September 1966 the CPC General Office issued "Regulations on the Production and Use of the CPC Flag and Emblem", which stated that the emblem and flag were the official symbols and signs of the party.[75]


It has been argued in recent years that the CPC does not have an ideology, the party organization being pragmatic and only interested in what works.[76] This simplistic view is wrong in many ways, since official statements makes it very clear they do have a coherent worldview.[76] For instance, there has to be an ideology in place for Hu Jintao to state (as he did in 2012), that the Western world is "threatening to divide us" and that "the international culture of the West is strong while we are weak ... Ideological and cultural fields are our main targets".[76] Another argument, there is a reason why the CPC puts a lot of efforts in the party schools, and crafting its ideological message.[76] Before the "Practice Is the Sole Criterion for the Truth" campaign, the relationship between ideology and decision-making was a deductive one, meaning that policy-making was derived from ideological knowledge.[77] Under Deng this relationship was turned upside down, with decision-making justifying ideology and not the other way around.[77] At last, Chinese policy-makers believe that one of the reasons for the dissolution of the Soviet Union was its stagnant state ideology, for CPC rule to be safeguarded the ideology needed to be dynamic, unlike in the Soviet Union were ideology became "rigid, unimaginative, ossified, and disconnected from reality."[77]

Marxism–Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought[edit]

"I am a Marxist. The essence of Marxism is change, [...] Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton by stressing change. The Marxist in China today is not a stubborn, dogmatic, and outdated 19th-century old man, but a dynamic, pro-change, young thinker. We have a flexible approach: for words Marx said, if they are still applicable, we will use them; for things he didn’t articulate clearly, we will spell them out; for what he didn’t say, we will boldly come up with something new.

Ye Xiaowen on the role of Marxist thought.[78]

Marxism–Leninism was the first official ideology of the Communist Party of China, and is a merger of classical Marxism (the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels) and Leninism (the thoughts of Vladimir Lenin).[79] According to the CPC, "Marxism–Leninism reveals the universal laws governing the development of history of human society." It is Marxism–Leninism which analyzes and tells the CPC of the contradictions in capitalist society and about the inevitability of a future socialist and communist societies.[79] It was Marx and Engels who first created a theory on Marxist party building, and Lenin further developed it through practice before, during and after the Russian Revolution of 1917.[79] Lenin's biggest achievement came in party building, through concepts such as the vanguard party of the working class and democratic centralism.[79] According to the People's Daily Mao Zedong Thought "is Marxism–Leninism applied and developed in China".[79]

Mao Zedong Thought was conceived not only by Mao Zedong, but by leading party officials.[80] According to Xinhua, Mao Zedong Thought is "an integration of the universal truth of Marxism–Leninism and the practice of the Chinese revolution."[80] Currently, the essence of Mao Zedong Thought has been interpreted (by the CPC) to be "Seeking truth from facts", which means "that we [CPC] must proceed from reality and put theory into practice in everything. In other words, we must integrate the universal theory of Marxism–Leninism with China's specific conditions."[80]

While analysts generally agree that the CPC have rejected orthodox Marxism–Leninism (often referred to as just Marxism) and Mao Zedong Thought (or at least basic thoughts within orthodox thinking), the CPC itself disagrees.[81] Some Western commentators also talk about a "crisis of ideology" within the party (because they believe that the CPC has rejected communism).[81] Wang Xuedong, the Director of the Institute of World Socialism, said in response; "We know there are those abroad who think we have a 'crisis of ideology,' but we do not agree."[81] According to Jiang Zemin the CPC "must never discard Marxism–Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought,” stating “If we did, we would lose our foundation.”[82] He further noted that Marxism in general "like any science, needed to change as time and circumstances advanced."[82] Certain groups argue that Jiang Zemin ended the CPC's formal commitment with the introduction of the ideological theory, the Three Represents.[83] However, party theorist Leng Rong disagrees, claiming that "President Jiang rid the Party of the ideological obstacles to different kinds of ownership [...] He did not give up Marxism or socialism. He strengthened the Party by providing a modern understanding of Marxism and socialism—which is why we talk about a ‘socialist market economy’ with Chinese characteristics."[83] Marxism's in its core is, according to Jiang Zemin, methodology and the goal of a future, classless society, and not analyses of class and the contradictions between different classes.[84]

Karl Marx argued that society went through different stages of development, claiming that the capitalist mode of production was the third stage.[85] The stages were; ancient (based mostly on slavery), feudal, capitalist, socialist and the communist mode of production.[85] Reaching "communism" is described as the CPC's and China's "ultimate goal".[86] While the CPC claims that China is in the primary stage of socialism, party theorists argue that the current development stage "looks a lot like capitalism", alternately certain party theorists argue that “capitalism is the early or first stage of communism.”[86] In official pronouncements, the primary stage of socialism will last around 100 years, when China will reach another developmental stage.[86] While some have dismissed the concept of a primary stage of socialism as intellectual cynicism.[86] According to Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a China analyst, "When I first heard this rationale, I thought it more comic than clever—a wry caricature of hack propagandists leaked by intellectual cynics. But the 100-year horizon comes from serious political theorists".[86]

Rationale for the reforms[edit]

While it has been argued by Westerners that the reforms introduced by the CPC under Deng was a rejection of the party's Marxist heritage and ideology, the CPC does not view it as such.[87] The rationale behind the reforms was that the productive forces of China lagged behind the advanced culture and ideology developed by the party-state, to end this deficiency, the party came to the conclusion (in 1986) that the main contradiction in Chinese society was that between the backward productive forces and the advanced culture and ideology of China.[87] By doing this, they deemphasized class struggle, and contradicted both Mao and Karl Marx, who both considered that class struggle was the main focus of the communist movement.[87] According to this logic, any thwarting of the CPC's goal of advancing the productive forces became synonymous with class struggle.[87] The classical conception of class struggle was declared by Deng to be completed in 1976.[87] While Mao had also put emphasize on the need to develop the productive forces under Deng it became paramount.[88]

Some have likened the CPC's position under Deng to Joseph Stalin when he introduced the planned economy.[88] Adrian Chan, the author of Chinese Marxism, opposes this view, stating "To Stalin, the development of the productive forces was the prerequisite for the Soviet Union to become communist."[88] He further argues that such a view does not make sense in light of the different situation, Stalin laid paramount emphasize because of the Soviet Union's backwardness in all areas, in China, the reforms were seen as one way to further develop the productive forces.[88] These interpretations, while not agreeing, sheds light on the fact that Chinese socialism did change during the Deng era.[88] In 1987, in the Beijing Review, it was stated that the achievements of socialism were "evaluated according to the level of the productive forces."[88]

Party theoretician and former Politburo member Hu Qiaomu in his thesis "Observe economic laws, speed up the Four Modernizations" (published in 1978) argued that economic laws were objective and were on par with natural laws.[89] He insisted that economic laws were no more negotiable "than the law of gravity".[89] His conclusion was that the Party was responsible for the socialist economy acting on these economic laws.[89] Qiaomu believed that only an economy based on the individual would satisfy these laws, since "such an economy would be in accord with the productive forces".[89] The CPC followed his line, and at the 12th National Congress, the party Constitution was amended, stating that the private economy was a "needed complement to the socialist economy."[89] This sentiment was echoed by Xue Muqiao; "practice shows that socialism is not necessarily based on a unified public ownership by the whole society."[89]

The official communique of the 3rd plenum of the 11th Central Committee said; "integrate the universal principles of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought with the concrete practice of socialist modernization and develop it under the new historical conditions."[90] With the words "new historical conditions" the CPC had in fact made it possible to view the old, Maoist ideology as obsolete (or at least certain tenants).[90] To know if a policy was obsolete or not, the party had to "seek truth from facts" and follow the slogan the "practice is the sole criterion of the truth".[90] At the 6th plenum of the 11th Central Committee the "Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People's Republic of China" was adopted.[91] The resolution separated Mao the person from Maoism, claiming that Mao had breached Maoism during his rule.[91] While the document criticized Mao, it clearly stated that he was a "proletarian revolutionary" (that not all of his views were wrong), and that without Mao there would have been no new China.[91] Su Shaozi, a party theoretician and the head of the Institute of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought, argued that the CPC needed to reassess the New Economic Policy introduced by Vladimir Lenin (and ended by Stalin), Stalin's industrialization policies and the prominent role he gave to class struggle.[92] Su concluded that the "exploiting classes in China had been eliminated".[93] Dong Fureng, a Deputy Director at the Institute of Economics, agreed with the reformist discourse, first by criticizing Marx and Friedrich Engels' view that a socialist society had to abolish private property, and secondly, accusing both Marx and Engels for being vague on what kind of ownership of the means of production was necessary in socialist society.[93] While both Su and Dong agreed that it was the collectivization of agriculture and the establishment of People's Communes which had ended rural exploitation, none of them sought a return to that era.[94]

The creation of a "Socialist market economy"[edit]

The term, socialism with Chinese characteristics, was added to the General Program of the party's Constitution at the 12th National Congress without explaining what the term actually ment.[95] At the 13th National Congress (held in 1987) Zhao Ziyang, the CPC General Secretary, claimed that socialism with Characteristics was the "integration of the fundamental tenets of Marxism with the modernization drive in China" and was "scientific socialism rooted in the realities of present-day China."[96] By this time the CPC believed that China was in the primary stage of socialism, and therefore needed market relations so as to develop into a socialist society.[97] Two years earlier Su had tried to internationalize the term primary stage of socialism, by claiming that socialism contained three different production phases.[97] China was currently in the first phase, while the Soviet Union and the remaining Eastern Bloc countries were in the second phase.[97] Because China was in the primary stage of socialism, Zhao argued that "[China] for a long time to come, we shall develop various sectors of the economy, always ensuring the dominant position of the public sector."[97] Further, he would allow some individual became rich "before the objective of common prosperity [pure communism] is achieved."[98] At last, during the primary stage of socialism planning would no longer be the primary means of organization of the economy – upon hearing this Chen Yun, a conservative and the second-most powerful politician in China, walked out of the meeting.[99]

"Why do people support us? Because over the last ten years our economy has been developing ... If the economy stagnated for five years or developed at only a slow rate – for example, at 4 or 5 percent, or even 2 or 3 percent—what effects would be produced? This would be not only an economic problem but also a political one."

— Deng Xiaoping during a conversation with Yang Shangkun and Premier Li in 1990.[100]

Both Chen Yun and Deng supported the formation of a private market, with Chen first proposing an economy were the socialist sector was dominant (and where a private economy played a secondary role) at the 8th National Congress.[101] He believed by following the "Ten Major Relationships", an article by Mao on how to proceed with socialist construction, the CPC could remain on the socialist road while supporting private property.[102] Chen Yun conceived of the bird-cage theory, where the bird represents the free market and the cage represents a central plan. Chen proposed that a balance should be found between "setting the bird free" and choking the bird with a central plan that was too restrictive.[103]

From the 13th National Congress up to the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square incident and its ensuing crackdown, the line between the right and the left within the CPC became clearer.[104] The rift became clearer in the run-up to the 7th plenum of the 13th National Congress (in 1990), when problems surfaced in regards to China's 8th Five-Year Plan.[105] The Draft for the 8th Five-Year Plan, supervised by Premier Li Peng and Deputy Premier Yao Yilin, openly endorsed Chen Yun's economic views, that planning was to be primary coupled with slow balanced growth.[105] Li went further, and directly contradicted Deng, stating "Reform and opening up should not be taken as the guiding principle, instead, sustained, steady, and coordinated development should be taken as the guided principle."[105] Because of this stance, Deng rejected the Draft for the 8th Five-Year Plan, claiming that the 1990s was the "best time" for continuing with reform and opening up.[106] Li and Yao even went so far as to try to annul two key resolution passed by the 13th National Congress, the theory of socialist political civilization and that planning and market were equals.[106] Deng rejected the idea of reopening discussions on these subjects, and restated that reform's were essential for the CPC's future.[106] Not accepting Deng's stance, party theorist Deng Liqun along with others began promoting "Chen Yun Thought".[106] After a discussion with General Wang Zhen, a supporter of Chen Yun, Deng stated he would propose the abolishment of the Central Advisory Commission (CAC).[106] Chen Yun retaliated by naming Bo Yibo to succeed him as CAC chairman.[106] Indeed, when the 7th plenum of the 13th Central Committee did in fact convene, nothing of any notability took place, with both sides trying not to widen the ideological gap even further.[107] The resolution of the 7th plenum did contain a great deal ideological language ("firmly follow the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics"), but no clear new policy formulation were uttered.[107]

Mao Zedong meets with President Nixon, February 29, 1972

Chen Yun's thoughts and policies dominated CPC discourse from 1989 until Deng's Southern Tour in 1992.[108] Deng began campaigning for his reformist policies in 1991, managing to get reformist articles printed in the People's Daily and Liberation Army during this period.[108] The articles criticized those communists who believed that central planning and market economics were polar opposites, instead repeating the Dengist mantra that planning and market were only two ways in which to regulate economic activity.[109] By that time, the party had begun preparing for the 14th National Congress.[110] Deng threatened Jiang Zemin, the CPC General Secretary, that he would withdraw his support Jiang's reelection if he did not accept reformist policies.[110] However, at the 8th plenum of the 13th Central Committee (in 1991), the conservatives still held the upper hand within the party leadership.[110]

To reassert his economic agenda, in the spring of 1992, Deng made his famous southern tour of China, visiting Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and spending the New Year in Shanghai, using his travels as a method of reasserting his economic policy after his retirement from office.[111] On his tour, Deng made various speeches and generated large local support for his reformist platform. He stressed the importance of economic reform in China, and criticized those who were against further reform and opening up.[111] The tour proved that amongst the party's grassroots organizations, support for reform and opening up was firm.[111] Because of it, more and more leading members of the central party leadership converted to Deng's position, amongst them was Jiang Zemin.[112] In his speech "Deeply Understand and Implement Comrade Deng Xiaoping's Important Spirit, Make Economic Construction, Reform and Opening Go Faster and Better" to the Central Party School, Jiang said it did not matter if a certain mechanism was capitalist or socialist, the key question was wether it worked.[9] Jiang's speech is notable since it introduced the term, socialist market economy which replaced Chen Yun's "planned socialist market economy".[9] In a later Politburo meeting, members voted in old communist fashion unanimously to continue with reform and opening up.[9] Knowing that he had lost, Chen Yun gave in, and claimed, because of the new conditions, the old techniques (referring to the planned economy) were outdated.[9]

The thoughts of Deng Xiaoping was officially named Deng Xiaoping Theory at the 14th National Congress, and were elevated to the same level as Mao Zedong Thought.[10] The concepts "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and "primary stage of socialism" were credited to him.[10] At the congress Jiang reiterated Deng's view that it wasn't necessary to ask if something was socialist or capitalist, since the important denominator was if it worked.[113] Several capitalist techniques were introduced, while science and technology was elevated into the primary productive force.[113]

Three Represents[edit]

The term Three Represents was first used in 2000 by Jiang Zemin in a trip to Guangdong province.[114] Since then, until its inclusion in the party's constitution at the 16th National Congress, the Three Represents became a constant theme of Jiang Zemin.[114] In his speech at the 80th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Jiang Zemin said that "we [the CPC] must always represent the development trend of China's advanced productive forces, the orientation of China's advanced culture, and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people in China."[114] By this time, Jiang and the CPC had reached the conclusion that reaching the communist mode of production (as formulated by earlier communists) was more complexed than normally believed, and reached the conclusion that you could not force a change in the mode of production, it had to come naturally (that is, by following the economic laws of history).[115] While segments within the CPC criticized the Three Represents of being un-Marxist, and a betrayal of basic Marxist values, supporters viewed it as a further development of socialism with Chinese characteristics.[116] The theory is most notable for allowing capitalists, officially referred to as the "new social strata", to join the party on the grounds that they engaged in "honest labor and work" and through their labour contributed "to build socialism with Chinese characteristics."[117] Jiang contended that capitalists could join the Party on the grounds that;[117]

"It is not advisable to judge a person’s political orientation simply by whether he or she owns property or how much property he or she owns, [...] Rather, we should judge him or her mainly by his or her political awareness, moral integrity and performance, by how he or she has acquired the property, how it has been disposed of and used, and by his or her actual contribution to the cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics."

Scientific Outlook on Development[edit]

The 3rd plenum of the 16th Central Committee conceived and formulated the ideology of Scientific Outlook on Development.[118] The concept is generally considered to be Hu Jintao's contribution to the official ideological discourse.[119] It is considered a continuation and creative development of the ideologies advanced by previous CPC leaders.[119] To apply Scientific Outlook on Development on China, the CPC must adhere to building a Harmonious Socialist Society.[120] According to Hu Jintao, the concept is a sub-ideology of socialism with Chinese characteristics.[121] It is a further development of Marxism to the specific conditions of China, and its a concept open to change.[121]


People's Democracy[edit]

Hu Jintao noted in a speech, in 2007, that "People's Democracy is the lifeblood of socialism ... without democracy there can no socialism, and there can be no socialist modernization."[122] To be clear, democracy in the CPC's understanding of the word does not mean democracy in the liberal democratic sense of the word, instead meaning creating a more balanced, equal society "with socialism bringing about social justice.[122] The CPC still believes the Party and country is led by the unity of the peasant and working classes.[122] However, for the further development of democracy and socialism to be possible, there needs to be stability.[122]

Socialist civilization[edit]

The term "civilization" became a key word during the 1990s.[123] In short, the ideological campaigns which uses civilization tries to harmonize the relationship between the "two civilizations" in China – "material civilization and spiritual civilization".[124] The concept first developed during the early 1980s from classical Marxist thought.[124] It was through this concept that the CPC called for "balanced development".[124] "Material civilization" is synonymous with economic development, "spiritual civilization" (often referred to as "socialist spiritual civilization") tries to spread good socialist morals in Chinese society.[124] Under Deng, the CPC emphasized material civilization, but under Jiang spiritual civilization was emphasized.[124] In contrast to material civilization, spiritual civilization was less easily definable, and moved from a concept largely defined in socialist terminology during Deng to become a vehicle for cultural nationalism under Jiang.[124] The theory has become more complex with time, at the 16th National Congress Jiang introduced a third civilization, "political civilization", which focused solely on the CPC and political reform.[125]

"The state strengthens the building of socialist spiritual civilization by promoting education in high ideals, ethics, general knowledge, discipline and legality, and by promoting the formulation and observance of rules of conduct and common pledges by various sections of the people in urban and rural areas.

The state advocates the civic virtues of love for the motherland, for the people, for labor, for science and for socialism. It conducts education among the people in patriotism and collectivism, in internationalism and communism and in dialectical and historical materialism, to combat capitalist, feudalist and other decadent ideas."

—Article 25 of the state constitution.[126]

Deng first used the term in 1979, to denote the need to further develop a material civilization alongside a spiritual civilization.[127] Analyst Nicholas Dynon believes it may have been introduced to placate the conservatives within the Party, being Deng's way to ensure them that socialism was not be left out.[127] The term socialist civilization replaced class struggle as the main engine of progress, replacing it with a worldview which was more harmonious and cooperative.[127] "Socialist Spiritual Civilization" was launched in the early 1980s to protect the party from foreign, corruptive influences and to protect the CPC's policy of reform and opening up.[127] While the two terms, material and spiritual civilizations were added to the party Constitution at the 12th National Congress, the term itself and its meaning was hotly debated.[128] For instance, Zhao Yiya, the editor-in-chief of the Liberation Army Press, criticized Hua Yaobang's speech to the 12th National Congress, noting that both material and spiritual elements contained "class character" as well as cultural elements.[128] Material civilization was less contested, and it maintained close links to the Marxist view of economic development and the mode of productions, and the view that the material functioned as the basis of the superstructure.[129] On this area, Deng was a classical Marxist, and believed that the material served as the basis; "when people's material wealth progresses, their cultural aspects will rise as well [and] their spiritual aspects will change considerably".[130] Under the banner of spiritual civilization the CPC would promote patriotic spirit, collectivism and the four haves.[130] By the mid-1980s, Deng became concerned that material civilization was getting more attention than spiritual civilization, stating "the one is though [material civilization] while the other is soft [spiritual civilization]."[131] The 6th plenary meeting of the 12th Central Committee adopted the "Resolutions on the guiding principles for developing a Socialist Spiritual Civilization" under the slogan "In grasping with two hands, both hands must be firm".[131] Deng's Spiritual Civilization continued using much of the old Maoist vocabulary, and old Maoist slogans, such as "five stresses, four goods and three loves", "study Lei Feng" and "service to the people", continued to be used.[131] However, in a radical break from the past, Deng ended the Maoist emphasize on antagonism and contradiction in Chinese socialist thought.[132]

Jiang introduced a third civilization, political civilization, alongside the "the important thoughts of the Three Represents" at the 16th National Congress.[133] According to Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a former advisor to the Chinese government, the idea was; "three interrelated objectives — material civilization, spiritual civilization, and political civilization — and one unifying mechanism, Three Represents. The three civilizations were the intended ends, and the important thought of Three Represents was the chosen means."[133] There has been talk of introducing a fourth civilization, but nothing has come of it yet.[134] A proposed fourth civilization, social civilization, is linked to Hu's concept of Harmonious Socialist Society.[135] According to Lie Zhongjie, the Deputy Director of the Central Research Office, "the outcome of building 'society' in a general sense ... is 'social civilization' ... it is a social civilization in the broad sense transcending the [other] three civilizations".[136] However, social civilization has not been relegated to the same level as the other three civilizations, and is instead treated as a minor one.[136] There a number of proponents in China for an ecological civilization concept, "an unsurprising development given the growing awareness and official recognition of China's pressing environmental issues."[137]

Socialist modernization[edit]

A billboard during the preparations for the celebrations of 50 years of People's Republic of China

Throughout the 20th century, ideology served two functions, (1) to achieve national modernity and (2) to deliver consensus were the was fragmentation and struggle.[138] The thought most linked to modernity in early China was Marxism, which allowed for the articulation of different social structures and social relations.[138] Mao conceived a Chinese version of Marxism, in which the idea of a proletarian revolution was amended to conceive of a peasant dominated revolution.[138] This view gave traction for a modernist view, which was highly utopian, which led to the Chinese Revolution in 1949.[138] The immediate post-1949 consensus was intimately linked with the idea of an "alternative modernity that transcended capitalist modernity and its Eurocentric assumptions of historical teleology and economist determinism."[138] The impact of this, was in two key areas, the introduction of Marxist terms such as proletariat, bourgeoisie, petit bourgeoisie, capitalist (terms to denote class and Mao's emphasize of class struggle) etc. on Chinese society, and the creation of the party-state.[139]

The Maoist vision of modernity never "enjoyed entire hegemony" within the Party, and was always contested (even at Mao's height of power).[139] For instance, Zhou Enlai's launching of the concept, the Four Modernizations, in 1965 (and its relaunch in 1975), are proof of this.[139] When Mao died, the Four Modernization replaced class struggle as the Party's key objective.[139] This vision, which eventually led to the enfranchisement of the private market economy and the establishment of new institutions, became socialism with Chinese characteristics.[139] Deng Xiaoping's socialism with Chinese characteristics led to the adoption of alternative visions of modernity popular in the Western world.[139] This ideological change led to factional in strife, with many leading members calling for the return to a classical socialist model of development.[139] From the outside these changes looks strange, a society which looks more capitalist by the day, is still ruled by a Party which claims "fidelity to socialism", however, there is "less understanding of how this looks from within".[140] A break with the basic tenets Maoist thought came in the 1990s, when Jiang Zemin talked of the need to let private entrepreneurs join the Party.[140] This decision had a stronger connection to realpolitik then ideological conviction, by the 16th National Congress the private sector was one the most dominant forces in society, and therefore a constituency the party could not ignore if it wished to hold on to power.[141]

The Party is, in official discourse, directly linked to modernity.[142] For instance, in Hu's speech commemorating the 85th anniversary of the CPC's founding, Hu said "Only our Party can become the nucleus of power to lead the Chinese revolution, construction, and reform, only it is able to bear the great trust of the Chinese people and the Chinese nationality ... In the last 85 years, our party has preserved and developed the progressive creative line."[143] According to the CPC, the "people are the force for creating history", and for the CPC to accomplish its task of modernization, it cannot became alienated from the people.[144] To secure that no alienation happens, the CPC has to creatively adapt theory and pursue strategic, sound policies.[144] Therefore, having a correct understanding of Marxism and its development in China is crucial.[144] Hu notes that progressiveness "is the essence of Marxist party building" and that it is "the basic service and eternal theme" of Marxism.[144]

Socialist patriotism[edit]

Socialist patriotism is an ideological concept conceived by Vladimir Lenin.[145] It commits people to a non-nationalistic form of devotion to once country.[145] According to the standard Soviet definition it means a "boundless love for the socialist homeland, a commitment to the revolutionary transformation of society [and] the cause of communism".[145] To ensure that socialist patriotism did not evolve into a form of nationalism (which was criticized as a bourgeoise ideology), the people had to be committed to proletarian internationalism.[145] The CPC, shortly after seizing power, defined it as having three levels; "At the first level, individuals should subordinate their personal interests to the interests of the state. At the second level, individuals should subordinate their personal destiny to the destiny of our socialist system. At the third level, individuals should subordinate their personal future to the future of our communist cause."[146] Mao's nationalism was not inclusivist, and people from certain classes deemed unpatriotic from the onset.[147] Chinese nationalism under Mao was defined as "anti-imperialist" and "anti-feudal" in principle.[147] However, Mao believed that nationalism was of secondary importance, and his main aim was to further expand the reach of the world revolution.[147]

The concept was further expanded upon under Deng.[148] Believing that purer communist concepts such as class struggle and the like could not bring people together as they had done under Mao, his regime gave patriotism a larger role in affairs.[149] In early 1982, the CPC the "Three Loves" campaign under the slogan "Love the party, love socialism, and love the motherland".[148] A year later, the Central Propaganda Department and the Central Research Office formulated a comprehensive plan to exploit nationalist feelings by making films and television programs out of China's "heroic struggle against Western and Japanese imperialism".[148] "Patriotic activities" were added to the school system's extracurricular activities; the national flag was to be raised daily and pupils were to sing and learn the national anthem.[150] By 1983, the party had concluded that "Among patriotism, collectivism, socialism, and communism, patriotism has peculiar features and functions. [...] Patriotism is the banner of greatest appeal."[150] Despite its amended role, patriotism remain secondary to socialism.[150] As Deng put it, "Some has said not loving Socialism isn't equivalent to not loving one's motherland. Is the motherland something abstract? If you don't love socialist New China led by the Communist Party, what motherland do you love?"[150] According to official pronouncements, the CPC became the nation's best representative, communists became the most devoted patriots, and socialism was still considered the only viable road for China to become "a great nation".[150] Deng Liqun, in a similar vain, said "One cannot demonstrate that one loves the motherland if one shows no deep love for the socialist system and the Communist Party. In short, in our times, loving the Chinese Communist Party is the highest expression of Chinese patriotism."[151]


Deng Xiaoping, the leading figure in the reform era, did not believe that the fundamental differences between the capitalist mode of production and the socialist mode of production was wether using market or planning, stating; "A planned economy is not the definition of socialism, because there is planning under capitalism; the market economy happens under socialism, too. Planning and market forces are both ways of controlling economic activity".[7] Jiang Zemin supported Deng's thinking, and stated in a party gathering that it did not matter if a certain mechanism was capitalist or socialist, the only thing that mattered was that it worked.[9] It was at this gathering, that Jiang Zemin introduced the term socialist market economy, which replaced Chen Yun's "planned socialist market economy".[9] In his report to the 14th National Congress Jiang Zemin told the delegates that the socialist state would "Let the market forces play a basic role in resource allocation."[152] At the 15th National Congress the party line was changed to "To make market forces further play its role in resource allocation" (this line continued until the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee)[152] At the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee it was amended to "Let market forces play a decisive role in resource allocation."[152] Despite this, the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee upheld the creed of "Maintaining dominance of the public sector and strengthen the economic vitality of State-owned economy."[152]

Stance on religion[edit]

The CPC, as an officially atheist institution, prohibits party members from holding religious beliefs.[153] Although religion is banned for members of the party, personal beliefs are not held accountable.[153] During Mao's rule, religious movements were oppressed, and religious organizations were forbidden to have contact with foreigners.[154] All religious organizations were state-owned, and not independent.[154] Relations with foreign religious institutions were worsened when the Vatican forbade any Catholic to have sympathies for a communist party in 1947 and again in 1949.[154] When it came to questions of religion, Deng was more open then Mao, but it was an issue left unresolved during his leadership.[155] According to Ye Xiaowen, the former Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, "In its infancy, the socialist movement was critical of religion. In Marx’s eyes, theology had become a bastion protecting the feudal ruling class in Germany. Therefore the political revolution had to start by criticizing religion. It was from this perspective that Marx said ‘religion is the opium of the people’."[156] It was because of Marx's writings that the CPC initiated anti-religious policies under Mao and Deng.[156] While originally upholding the Marxist view that religion would decline during the emergence of a modern society, this view was proven false with the rise of the Falun Gong.[155]

The rise of Falun Gong, and its subsequent banning by state authorities, led to the convening of a 3-day National Work Conference for Religious Affairs in 1999 (its the highest-level gathering on religious affairs in the party's history).[157] Jiang Zemin, who had subscribed to the classical Marxist view that religion would wither away, was forced to change his mind when he learnt that religion in China was in fact growing, and not decreasing.[158] In his concluding speech to the National Work Conference, Jiang asked the participants to find a way to make "socialism and religion adapt to each other".[159] He continued, stating that "Asking religions to adapt to socialism doesn’t mean we want religious believers to give up their faith".[159] Jiang ordered Ye Xiaowen to study in depth the classical Marxist works to find an excuse to liberalize the CPC's policy towards religion.[159] As they found out, Friedrich Engels had written that religion would survive as long as there existed problems.[159] With this in mind, religious organizations were given more autonomy.[159]

Party-to-party relations[edit]

Communist parties[edit]

The CPC continues to have relations with non-ruling communist and workers' parties and attends international communist conferences, most notably the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties.[160] Delegates of foreign communist parties still visit China, for instance, in 2013 the General Secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) Jeronimo de Sousa visited and personally met with Liu Qibao, a member of the Central Politburo.[161] In another instance, Pierre Laurent, the National Secretary of the French Communist Party (FCP), met with Liu Yunshan, a Politburo Standing Committee member.[162] While the CPC retains contact with major parties such as the PCP,[161] FCP,[162] the Communist Party of the Russian Federation,[163] the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia,[164] the Communist Party of Brazil,[165] the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist−Leninist)[166] and the Communist Party of Spain,[167] The party also retains relations with minor communist and workers' parties, such as the Communist Party of Australia,[168] the Workers Party of Bangladesh, the Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist–Leninist) (Barua), the Communist Party of Sri Lanka, the Workers' Party of Belgium, the Hungarian Workers' Party, the Dominican Workers' Party and the Party for the Transformation of Honduras for instance.[169] In recent years, noting the self-reforms in the European social democratic movement in the 1980s and 1990s, the CPC "has noted the increased marginalization of West European communist parties."[170]

Ruling parties of socialist states[edit]

The CPC has retained close relations with the remaining socialist states (which espouse communism) Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam and their respective ruling parties.[171] It spends a fair amount of time analyzing the situation in the remaining socialist states and trying to reach conclusions as to why these states survived while so many did not following the collapse of the Eastern European socialist states in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.[172] In general analyses about the remaining socialist states (and their chances of survival) are generally positive, and the CPC believes that the socialist movement will be revitalized sometime in the future.[172]

The ruling party which the CPC is most interested in is the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV).[173] In general the CPV is considered a model example of socialist development in the post-Soviet era.[173] Chinese analysts on Vietnam believe that the introduction of the Doi Moi reform policy at the 6th CPV National Congress is the key reason for Vietnam's current success.[173]

While the CPC is probably the organization with most access to North Korea, writing about North Korea is tightly subscribed.[172] The few analyzes which are accessible to the general public are those about the North Korean economic reforms.[172] While Chinese analysts on North Korea tend to be highly positive of North Korea in public, in official discussions they show much disdain for North Korea's economic system, the cult of personality which pervades society, the Kim family, the idea of hereditary succession in a socialist state, the security state, the use of scarce resources on the Korean People's Army and the general impoverishment of the North Korean people.[174] There are those analysts who compare the current situation of North Korean with that of China during the Cultural Revolution.[175] Over the years, the CPC has tried to persuade the Workers' Party of Korea (abbreviated WPK; North Korea's ruling party) to introduce economic reforms by showing them key economic infrastructures in China.[175] For instance, in 2006 the CPC invited WPK General Secretary Kim Jong-il to Guandong province to showcase the success economic reforms have brought China.[175] In general, it must be said that for the CPC, the WPK and North Korea are generally considered as negative examples of a communist ruling party and socialist state.[175]

There is a considerable degree of interest in Cuba within the CPC.[173] Fidel Castro, the former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), is greatly admired by the CPC, and whole books have been written focusing on the successes of the Cuban Revolution.[173] Exchanges between the CPC and the PCC has increased considerably since the 1990s, with hardly a month going by without a diplomatic exchange between the CPC and PCC.[176] At the 4th Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee, which discussed the possibility of the CPC learning from other ruling parties, heaped praise on the PCC.[176] When Wu Guanzheng, a Central Politburo member, met with Fidel Castro in 2007, he gave him a personal letter written by Hu Jintao, which read; "Facts have shown that China and Cuba are trustworthy good friends, good comrades, and good brothers that treat each other with sincerity. The two countries' friendship has withstood the test of a changeable international situation, and the friendship has been further strengthened and consolidated."[177]

Non-communist parties[edit]

Since the decline and fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the CPC has begun establishing party-to-party relations with non-communist parties.[62] These relations are sought and kept so that the CPC can learn from them.[178] For instance, the CPC has been keen on learning how the People's Action Party of Singapore (PAP) maintains its total domination over Singaporean politics through its "low-key presence, but total control."[179] According to the CPC's own analysis of Singapore, the PAP's dominance can be explained by its "well-developed social network, which controls constituencies effectively by extending its tentacles deeply into society through branches of government and party-controlled groups."[179] While the CPC accepts that Singapore is a democracy, they view it as a guided democracy led by the PAP.[179] Other differences are, according to the CPC, "that it is not the political party based on the working class—instead it is a political party of the elite ... It is also a political party of the parliamentary system, not a revolutionary party."[180] Other parties the CPC frequently study and maintain strong party-to-party relations are United Malays National Organisation, which has ruled Malaysia democratically since 1957, and the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, which dominated Japanese politics from 1955 to 2009.[181] The Kuomintang is another case entirely, where party-to-party relations are retained so as to strengthen the probability of the reunification of Taiwan with mainland China.[182] However, several studies have been written on the Kuomintang's loss of power in 2000, having ruled Taiwan since 1949 (and officially the Republic of China since 1928).[182] In general one-party states or dominant-party states are of special interest to the party, and party-to-party relations are formed so that the CPC can study them.[182] For instance, the longevity of the Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party is attributed to the personalization of power in the al-Assad family, the strong presidential system, the inheritance of power from Hafez al-Assad to his son Bashar al-Assad and the role given to the Syrian military in politics.[183]

Xi Jinping (second from left) with Enrique Peña Nieto (second from right), the current President of Mexico and a leading member of the social democratic Institutional Revolutionary Party

In recent years, the CPC has garnered special interest in Latin America.[183] This is proven by the increasing number of delegates sent to, and received from these countries.[183] Of special interest to the CPC is the 71-year long rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Mexico.[183] While the CPC has attributed the PRI's long reign in power to the strong presidential system, tapping into the machismo culture of the country, its nationalist posture, its close identification with the rural populace and the implementation of nationalization alongside the marketization of the economy.[183] However, the CPC concludes that the PRI failed because of the lack of inner-party democracy, that it began pursuing social democracy, rigid party structures which could not undergo self-reform, political corruption, the pressure of globalization and American interference in Mexican politics.[183] While the CPC was slow to recognize the Pink tide in Latin America, it has strengthened party-to-party relations with several socialist and anti-American political parties over the years.[184] There may be some irritation over Hugo Chavez's anti-capitalist and anti-American rhetoric on the CPC's part.[184] Despite this, in 2013 the CPC reached an agreement with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the party founded by Chavez, in which the CPC would educate PSUV cadres in political and social fields.[185] By 2008, the CPC claimed to have established relations with 99 political parties in 29 Latin American countries.[184]

European social democracy has been of great interest to the CPC since the early 1980s.[184] With the exception of a short period in which the CPC forged party-to-party relations with far-right parties during the 1970s (in an effort to halt "Soviet expansionism"), the social democratic parties were the first serious efforts to establish cordial party-to-party relations with non-communist parties.[184] The CPC credits the European social democrats of creating a "capitalism with a human face".[184] Before the 1980s, the CPC had a highly negative and dismissive view of social democracy, a view dating back to the Second International and the Leninist and Stalinist view on the social democratic movement.[184] By the 1980s the view had changed, with the CPC concluding that it could actually learn something from the social democratic movement.[184] Delegates were sent all over Europe, but most weight was given to the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.[186] It should be noted that by the 1980s most social democratic parties were facing electoral decline, and were in a period of self-reform.[186] The CPC followed this with great interest, laying most weight on reform efforts in the British Labour Party and the Social Democratic Party of Germany.[186] They've concluded that both parties were reelected because they modernized, replacing old traditional state socialist tenants with new ones supporting privatization, shedding the belief in big government, conceiving a new view of the welfare state, changing there negative views on the market and moving from their traditional support base of trade unions to entrepreneurs, younger members and students.[187]

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Articles & journal entries

External links[edit]