Communist Party of China

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Communist Party of China
Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng
General SecretaryXi Jinping
Standing Committee
Founded1 July 1921
HeadquartersZhongnanhai, Beijing
NewspaperPeople's Daily
Youth wingCommunist Youth League
Popular frontUnited Front
Armed wingPeople's Liberation Army
Membership  (2014)86.7 million[1]
IdeologyCommunism, Socialism with Chinese characteristics
(see "ideology" section)
International affiliationInternational Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
Anthem"The Internationale"
National People's Congress (number of seats)
2,157 / 2,987
Party flag
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party.svg
Politics of People's Republic of China
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Communist Party of China
Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng
General SecretaryXi Jinping
Standing Committee
Founded1 July 1921
HeadquartersZhongnanhai, Beijing
NewspaperPeople's Daily
Youth wingCommunist Youth League
Popular frontUnited Front
Armed wingPeople's Liberation Army
Membership  (2014)86.7 million[1]
IdeologyCommunism, Socialism with Chinese characteristics
(see "ideology" section)
International affiliationInternational Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
Anthem"The Internationale"
National People's Congress (number of seats)
2,157 / 2,987
Party flag
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party.svg
Politics of People's Republic of China
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)[note 1] is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The CPC is the sole governing party of China, although it coexists alongside 8 other legal parties that make up the United Front. It was founded in 1921, chiefly by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao. The party grew quickly, and by 1949 the CPC had defeated the Kuomintang (KMT) in a 10-year civil war, thus leading to the establishment of the People's Republic of China. With a membership of 86.7 million, it is the largest political party in the world.

The CPC is organized on the basis of democratic centralism, a principle conceived by Russian Marxist theoretician Vladimir Lenin which entails democratic and open discussion on policy on the condition of unity in upholding the agreed upon policies. The highest body of the CPC is the National Congress, convened every fifth year. When the National Congress is not in session, the Central Committee is the highest body, but since the body meets normally only once a year, most duties and responsibilities are vested in the Politburo and its Standing Committee. The party's leader holds the offices of General Secretary (responsible for civilian party duties), Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) (responsible for military affairs) and state president (a largely ceremonial position). Through these posts the party leader is the country's paramount leader. The current party leader is Xi Jinping, elected at the 18th National Congress (held in 2012).

The CPC is still committed to communist thought. According to the party constitution the CPC adheres to Marxism–Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, socialism with Chinese characteristics, Deng Xiaoping Theory, Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development. The official explanation for China's economic reforms is that the country is in the primary stage of socialism, a developmental stage similar to the capitalist mode of production. The planned economy established under Mao Zedong was replaced by the socialist market economy, the current economic system, on the basis that "Practice is the Sole Criterion for the Truth" (i.e. the planned economy was deemed inefficient).

Since the collapse of Eastern European communist regimes in 1989–1990 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the CPC has emphasized its party-to-party relations with the ruling parties of the remaining socialist states. While the CPC still maintains party-to-party relations with non-ruling communist parties around the world, it has since the 1980s established relations with several non-communist parties, most notably with ruling parties of one-party states (whatever their ideology), dominant parties in democratic systems (whatever their ideology), and social democratic parties.


Founding and early history (1921–27)[edit]

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] Li Dazhao was the first leading Chinese intellectual who publicly supported Leninism and world revolution.[3] In contrast to Chen Duxiu, Li did not renounce participation in the affairs of the Republic of China.[4] Both of them regarded the October Revolution in Russia as groundbreaking, believing it to herald a new era for oppressed countries everywhere.[4] The CPC was modeled on Vladimir Lenin's theory of a vanguard party.[5] Study circles were, according to Cai Hesen, "the rudiments [of our party]".[6] Several study circles were established during the New Culture Movement, but "by 1920 skepticism about their suitability as vehicles for reform had become widespread."[7]

The founding National Congress of the CPC was held on 23–31 July 1921.[8] While it was originally planned to be held in Shanghai French Concession, police officers interrupted the meeting on 3 July.[8] Because of that, the congress was moved to a tourist boat on South Lake in Jiaxing, Zhenjiang province.[8] Only 12 delegates attended the congress, with neither Li nor Chen being able to attend.[8] Chen sent a personal representative to attend the congress.[8] The resolutions of the congress called for the establishment of a communist party (as a branch of the Communist International) and elected Chen as its leader.[8]

The communists dominated the left wing of the KMT, a party organized on Leninist lines, struggling for power with the party's right wing.[9] When KMT leader Sun Yat-sen died in May 1925, he was succeeded by a rightist, Chiang Kai-shek, who initiated moves to marginalize the position of the communists.[9] Fresh from the success of the Northern Expedition to overthrow the warlords, Chiang Kai-shek turned on the communists, who by now numbered in the tens of thousands across China.[10] Ignoring the orders of the Wuhan-based KMT government, he marched on Shanghai, a city controlled by communist militias. Although the communists welcomed Chiang's arrival, he turned on them, massacring 5000 with the aid of the Green Gang.[10][11][12] Chiang's army then marched on Wuhan, but was prevented from taking the city by CPC General Ye Ting and his troops.[13] Chiang's allies also attacked communists; in Beijing, 19 leading communists were killed by Zhang Zuolin, while in Changsha, He Jian's forces machine gunned hundreds of peasant militiamen.[14][15] That May, tens of thousands of communists and their sympathisers were killed by nationalists, with the CPC losing approximately 15,000 of its 25,000 members.[15]

The CPC continued supporting the Wuhan KMT government,[15] but on 15 July 1927 the Wuhan government expelled all communists from the KMT.[16] The CPC reacted by founding the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army of China, better known as the "Red Army", to battle the KMT. A battalion led by General Zhu De was ordered to take the city of Nanchang on 1 August 1927 in what became known as the Nanchang Uprising; initially successful, they were forced into retreat after five days, marching south to Shantou, and from there being driven into the wilderness of Fujian.[16] Mao Zedong was appointed commander-in-chief of the Red Army, and led four regiments against Changsha in the Autumn Harvest Uprising, hoping to spark peasant uprisings across Hunan.[17] His plan was to attack the KMT-held city from three directions on 9 September, but the Fourth Regiment deserted to the KMT cause, attacking the Third Regiment. Mao's army made it to Changsha, but could not take it; by 15 September, he accepted defeat, with 1000 survivors marching east to the Jinggang Mountains of Jiangxi.[17][18][19]

Chinese Civil War and World War II (1927–49)[edit]

The near-destruction of the CPC's urban organizational apparatus led to institutional changes within the party.[20] The party adopted democratic centralism, a way to organize revolutionary parties, and established a Politburo (functioned as the standing committee of the Central Committee).[20] The result was increased centralization of power within the party .[20] At every-level of the party this was duplicated, with standing committees now in effective control.[20] After Chen Duxiu's dismissal, Li Lisan was able to assume de facto control of the party organization by 1929–30.[20] Li Lisan's leadership was a failure, and by the end of it, the CPC was on the brink of destruction.[20] The Comintern became involved, and by late-1930, he had been taken away his powers.[20] By 1935 Mao had become the party's informal leader, with Zhou Enlai and Zhang Wentian, the formal head of the party, serving as his informal deputies.[20] The conflict with the KMT led to the reorganization of the Red Army, with power now centralized in the leadership through the creation of CPC political departments charged with supervising the army.[20]

The Second Sino-Japanese War caused a pause in the conflict between the CPC and the KMT.[21] The Second United Front was established between the CPC and the KMT to tackle the invasion.[22] While the front formally existed until 1945, all collaboration between the two parties had ended by 1940.[22] Despite their formal alliance, the CPC used the opportunity to expand and carve out independent bases of operations to prepare for the coming war with the KMT.[23] In 1939 the KMT began to restrict CPC expansion within China.[23] This led to frequent clashes between CPC and KMT forces.[23] It did not take long before the situation were deescalated, since none of the parties considered a civil war an option at this time.[23] Despite this, by 1943 the CPC was again actively expanding its territory at the expense of the KMT.[23]

Mao declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949

From 1945 until 1949, the war had been reduced to two parties; the CPC and the KMT.[24] This period lasted through four stages; the first was from August 1945 (when the Japanese surrendered) to June 1946 (when the peace talks between the CPC and the KMT ended).[24] By 1945, the KMT had three-times more soldiers under its command then the CPC, and because of it, it looked early on like it was winning.[24] With the cooperation of the Americans and the Japanese, the KMT was able to retake major parts of the country.[24] Around the same time, the CPC launched an invasion of Manchuria, where they were given assistance by the Soviet Union.[24] However, KMT rule over the reconquested territories would prove unpopular because of endemic corruption within the party.[24] However, the main failure was that the KMT, with 2 million more troops than the CPC, failed to reconquer the rural territories which made up the CPC's stronghold.[24] The second stage, lasting from July 1946 to June 1947, saw KMT extend its control over major cities, such as Yanan (the CPC headquarter for much of the war).[24] The KMT's successes were hollow, the CPC had tactically withdrawn from the cities, and instead attacked KMT authorities by instigating protests amongst students and intellectuals in the cities (the KMT responded to these events with heavy-handed repression).[25] In the meantime, the KMT was struggling with factional infighting and Chiang Kai-shek's autocratic control over the party, which weakened the KMT's ability to respond to attacks.[25] The third stage, lasting from July 1947 to August 1948, saw a limited counteroffensive by the CPC.[25] The objective was to clear "Central China, strengthening North China, and recovering Northeast China."[26] This policy, coupled with desertions from the KMT military force (by spring 1948 KMT military had lost an estimated 2 million troops, having 1 million troops left) and the increasing unpopularity of KMT rule.[25] The result was that the CPC was able to cut off KMT garrisons in Manchuria and retake several lost territories.[26] The last stage, lasting from September 1948 to December 1949, saw the communist take the initiative and the collapse of KMT rule in mainland China.[26] On 1 October 1949, Mao declared the establishment of the PRC, which signified the end of the Chinese Revolution (as it is officially described by the CPC).[26]

Ruling party (1949–present)[edit]

The Chinese Revolution, directed by Mao Zedong and the CPC, led to the establishment of the (PRC) in 1949.[25] The PRC was founded on Marxist–Leninist principles, or more precisely, the sinification of Marxism–Leninism (officially known as Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism).[27] During the 1960s and 1970s, the CPC experienced a significant ideological separation from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[28] By that time, Mao had begun saying that 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, leading to the Cultural Revolution.[29]

Chinese communists celebrate Joseph Stalin's birthday, 1949

Following Mao's death in 1976, a power struggle between CPC General Secretary Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping erupted.[30] Deng won the struggle, and became the "paramount leader".[30] Deng, alongside Chen Yun and Li Xiannian, spearheaded the Reform and opening policy, and introduced the ideological concept of socialism with Chinese characteristics.[31] In reversing some of Mao's "extreme-leftist" policies, Deng argued that a socialist state could use the market economy without itself being capitalist.[32] While asserting the political power of the Party, the change in policy generated significant economic growth.[2] The new ideology, however, was contested on both sides of the spectrum, by Maoists as well as by those supporting political liberalization. With other social factors, the conflicts culminated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests.[33] Deng's vision on economics prevailed, and by the early 1990s the concept a socialist market economy had been introduced.[34] In 1997, Deng's beliefs (Deng Xiaoping Theory), were embedded in the CPC constitution.[35]

CPC General Secretary Jiang Zemin succeeded Deng as “paramount leader” in the 1990s, and continued most of his policies.[36] As part of Jiang Zemin's nominal legacy, the CPC ratified the Three Represents for the 2003 revision of the Party constitution, as a "guiding ideology" to encourage the Party to represent "advanced productive forces, the progressive course of China's culture, and the fundamental interests of the people."[37] The theory has legitimized the entry of private business owners and bourgeois elements into the party.[37] Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin's successor as paramount leader, took office in 2002.[38] Unlike Mao, Deng and Jiang Zemin, Hu laid emphasis on collective leadership and opposed one-man dominance of the political system.[38] 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.[39] Hu resigned from his post as CPC General Secretary and Chairman of the CMC at the 18th National Congress held in 2012, and was succeeded in both posts by Xi Jinping.[40] Since taking power Xi has initiated the most concerted anti-corruption effort in decades, while centralizing powers in the office of CPC General Secretary at the expense of the collective leadership which has led foreign commentators to liken him to Mao.[41]


Collective leadership[edit]

Currently, in a bid to curtail the powers of the individuals, collective leadership, the idea that decisions will be taken through consensus, has become the ideal in the CPC.[42] The concept has its origins back to Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Bolshevik Party.[43] At the level of the central party leadership this means that, for instance, all members of the Politburo Standing Committee are of equal standing (each member having only one vote).[42] A member of the Politburo Standing Committee often represents a sector; during Mao's reign, he controlled the People's Liberation Army, Kang Sheng the security apparatus and Zhou Enlai the State Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[42] This counts as informal power.[42] Despite this, in a paradoxical relation, members of a body are ranked hierarchically (despite the fact that members are in theory equal to each others).[42] In spite of this, the CPC is led by an informal leader principle, each collective leadership is led by a core, that is a paramount leader; a person who holds the offices of CPC General Secretary, CMC chairman and President of the PRC.[44] Before Jiang Zemin's tenure as paramount leader, the party core and collective leadership were indistinguishable.[45] In practice, the core was not responsible to the collective leadership.[45] However, by the time of Jiang, the party had begun propagating a responsibility system, referring to it in official pronouncements to the "core of the collective leadership".[45]

Democratic centralism[edit]

Further information: Democratic centralism

The CPC's organizational principle is democratic centralism, which is based on two principles; democracy (synonymous in official discourse with "socialist democracy" and "inner-party democracy") and centralism.[46] This has been the guiding organizational principle of the party since the 5th National Congress, held in 1927.[46] 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".[46] 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.[46] Currently, the CPC is claiming that "democracy is the lifeline of the Party, the lifeline of socialism".[46] But for democracy to be implemented, and functioning properly, there needs to be centralization.[46] Democracy in any form, the CPC claims, needs centralism, since without centralism there will be no order.[46] 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".[46]

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.[47] Consultation takes place under the leadership of the CPC, with mass organizations, the United Front parties, and "representatives from all walks of life".[47] 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.[47] The CPC's relationship with 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."[47] This process is institutionalized in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).[47] All the parties in the United Front support China's road to socialism, and hold steadfast to the leadership of the CPC.[47] Despite all this, the CPPCC is a body without any real power.[48] While discussions do take place, they are all supervised by the CPC.[48]


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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 were long intervals between congresses, but since the 9th National Congress in 1969, congresses have been held regularly).[49] According to the party's constitution, a congress may not be postponed except "under extraordinary circumstances".[50] A congress may be held before the given date if the Central Committee so decides, or if "one third of the party organizations at the provincial level so request".[50] Under Mao, the delegates to congresses were appointed; however, since 1982 the congress delegates have been elected, due to the decision that there must be more candidates than seats.[51] At the 15th National Congress in 1997, for instance, several princelings (the sons or daughters of powerful CPC officials) failed to be elected to the 15th Central Committee; among them were Chen Yuan, Wang Jun and Bo Xilai.[52] The elections are carried out through secret ballots.[50] Despite this, certain seats are not subject to elections; instead, the outgoing Central Committee "recommends" certain choices to the party electorate.[53] These figures are mostly high-ranking members of the party leadership or special guests.[53] For instance, at the 15th National Congress, 60 seats were given to members who had 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.[53]

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 examining the report of the outgoing Central Committee; (4) examining the report of the outgoing CCDI; (5) discussing and enacting party policies; and (6) revising the party's constitution.[53] However, the delegates rarely discuss issues in length at the National Congresses; most discussion takes place before the congress, in the preparation period.[53]


According to the CPC-published book Concise History of the Communist Party of China, the party's first constitution was adopted at the 1st National Congress.[54] Since then several constitutions have been written, such as the second constitution, adopted at the 7th National Congress.[54] The constitution regulates party life, and the CCDI is responsible for supervising the party to ensure that it is followed.[55] The constitution currently in force was adopted at the 12th National Congress.[56] It has many affinities with the state constitution, and they are generally amended either at party congresses or shortly thereafter.[57] The preamble of the state constitution is largely copied from the "General Program" (the preamble) of the party constitution.[58]

Central Committee[edit]

The Central Committee is empowered by the party constitution to enact policies in the periods between party congresses.[59] A Central Committee is de jure elected by a party Congress, but in reality its membership is chosen by the central party leadership.[59] 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.[50] The Central Committee is required to meet at least once every year;[60] however, in the early years of the People's Republic there were several years when it did not convene at all; 1951–53, 1960, 1963–65, 1967, 1971, 1974 and 1976.[61]

While the Central Committee is the highest organ in the periods between party congresses, few resolutions cite its name. Instead, the majority of party resolutions refer to the "Communist Party Centre", an indirect way of protecting the powers of, and resolutions produced by, the Politburo, the Politburo Standing Committee and the General Secretary.[60] This method shields the central party leadership from lower-level bodies, reducing accountability, as lower levels can never be sure which body produced which resolution.[60] 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 other leading officials, despite the fact that the party constitution grants it those rights.[62] 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.[62] In contrast, in China, when the CPC dismissed Hu Yaobang (in 1987) and Zhao Ziyang in 1989, the Politburo, not the Central Committee, convened a special session.[60] Not only did the meeting itself break constitutional practices, since the CPC constitution clearly states that a Central Committee session must be called, but the meeting included several party veterans who were neither formal members of the Politburo nor of the Central Committee.[62] 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.[63]

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 in general commit wrongdoing.[64] CCDI organs exist at every level of the party hierarchy.[64] The CCDI is the successor to the Control Commission, abolished in 1968 at the height of the Cultural Revolution.[65] Although the CCDI was originally designed to restore party morale and discipline, it has taken over many of the functions of the former Control Commission.[66] The CCDI is elected by the National Congress, held every fifth year.[66]

Bodies of the Central Committee[edit]

Party leader[edit]

At the party's founding in 1921, Chen Duxiu was elected as the party leader, holding the position of Secretary of the Central Bureau. As the party expanded, the title changed several times over the next 3 years, until in 1925 the position of General Secretary was introduced.[67] The term General Secretary continued in general use until 1943, when Mao Zedong was elected as Chairman of the Politburo. In 1945, Mao was elected Chairman of the CPC Central Committee, the title he held for the rest of his life.[67] The office of General Secretary was revived in 1956 at the 8th National Congress, but it functioned as a lesser office, responsible to the office of the CPC Chairman.[68] 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."[69]

The office of Chairman of the Communist Party was abolished in 1982, and replaced with that of General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee.[70] 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.[71]

The party's leader holds the offices of General Secretary (responsible for civilian party duties), Chairman of the CMC (responsible for military affairs) and President of the PRC (a largely ceremonial position). Through these posts the party leader is the country's paramount leader.


The Politburo of the Central Committee "exercises the functions and powers of the Central Committee when a plenum is not in session".[72] It is formally elected at the first plenary meeting of each newly elected Central Committee.[72] In reality, however, Politburo membership is decided by the central party leadership.[72] During his rule, Mao controlled the composition of the Politburo himself.[72] The Politburo was de facto the highest organ of power until the 8th National Congress, when the PSC was established.[68] The powers given to the PSC came at the expense of the Politburo.[68] The Politburo meets at least once a month.[73] The CPC General Secretary is responsible for convening the Politburo.[71]

From 2003 onwards, the Politburo has been delivering a work report to every Central Committee plenum, further cementing the Politburo's status as accountable to the Central Committee.[74] Also, from the 16th National Congress onwards, the CPC has been reporting on meetings of the Politburo, the PSC and its study sessions.[75] However, the reports do not contain all the information discussed at the meetings; the end of the reports usually notes that "other matters" were also discussed at the meeting.[75]

In the Politburo, decisions are reached through consensus, not votes.[76] In certain cases, straw votes are used to see how many members support or oppose a certain case (these straw votes do not necessarily affect the ultimate decision).[76] Every member has the right to participate in the collective discussion.[76] It is the CPC General Secretary who convenes the Politburo and sets the agenda for the meeting.[76] Each Politburo member is told of the agenda beforehand, and is given materials by the General Secretary on the subject so as to be prepared for the discussions.[76] The first person to speak at the meeting is the member who proposed the agenda.[76] After that, those who know about the subject, or whose work is directly related to it, may speak.[76] Then those who doubt or oppose the agenda speak.[76] Lastly, the General Secretary speaks, and he usually supports the agenda, as he supported discussing it in the first place.[76] When the General Secretary is finished speaking, he calls for a vote.[76] If the vote is unanimous or nearly so, it may be accepted; if the vote is nearly unanimous, but members who directly work in the area discussed oppose it, the issue will be postponed.[77] When the Politburo enacts a decision without all the members' agreement, the other members usually try to convince their opponents.[77] In many ways, the CPC Politburo's decision-making process remains very similar to that of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after Nikita Khrushchev's removal.[78]

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.[79] It convenes at least once a week.[73] It was established at the 8th National Congress, in 1958, to take over the policy-making role formerly assumed by the Secretariat.[68] 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."[80] Despite formal rules stating that a PSC member must serve a term in the Politburo before advancing to the PSC, this rule has been breached twice, first in 1992 when Hu Jintao was appointed to PSC, and again in 2007 when Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang were appointed to it.[81] In reality, however, the PSC is not accountable to the Central Committee and has never been.[82]


A Female Soldier From The People's Liberation Army 1972

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.[83] In tandem with these its responsible for implementing the decisions of the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee.[83] The Secretariat was abolished in 1966 and its formal functions taken over by the Central Office of Management, but it was reestablished in 1980.[83] To be appointed to the Secretariat, a person has to be nominated by the Politburo Standing Committee; the nomination must be approved by the Central Committee.[84]

Central Military Commission[edit]

The Central Military Commission is elected by the Central Committee, and is responsible for the PLA.[85] The position of CMC Chairman is one of the most powerful in China, and the CMC Chairman must concurrently serve as CPC General Secretary.[85] Unlike the collective leadership ideal of other party organs, the CMC Chairman acts as commander-in-chief with the right to appoint or dismiss top military officers as he pleases.[85] The CMC Chairman can deploy troops, controls the country's nuclear weapons, and allocates the budget.[85] The promotion or transfer of officers above the divisional level must be validated by the CMC Chairman's signature.[85]

In theory, the CMC Chairman is under the responsibility of the Central Committee, but in practice, he reports only to the paramount leader.[85] This is in many ways due to Mao, who did not want other Politburo members to involve themselves in military affairs.[86] As he put it, "the Politburo's realm is state affairs, the CMC's is military".[86] This state of things has continued until today.[86] The CMC has controlled the PLA through three organs since 1937: the General Staff Department, the General Political Department and the General Logistics Department.[86] A fourth organ, the General Armaments Department, was established in 1998.[86]

National Security Commission[edit]

The Central National Security Commission (CNSC) was established at the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee (held in 2013).[87] Its purpose is to "co-ordinate security strategies across various departments, including intelligence, the military, foreign affairs and the police in order to cope with growing challenges to stability at home and abroad."[87] The idea of establishing a CNSC was first mentioned in the 1980s, but was muted "by vested interests that stand to lose power in a reshuffle".[87] Currently little is known of the body outside of the CPC, but it is generally believed to have strengthened the party's control over the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese armed forces.[88] On 24 January 2014 Xi Jinping, the current CPC General Secretary, was appointed CNSC Chairman, while Li Keqiang, the Premier of the State Council, and Zhang Dejiang, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC (head of parliament), were appointed CNSC deputy chairmen.[88]

Subordinate organs[edit]

There are several organs under the auspices of the Central Committee. The following are the most important:[50]

Lower-level organizations[edit]

Party committees exist at the level of provinces; autonomous regions; municipalities directly under the central government; cities divided into districts; autonomous prefectures; counties (including banners); autonomous counties; cities not divided into districts; and municipal districts.[105] These committees are elected by party congresses (at their own level).[105] Local party congresses are supposed to be held every fifth year, but under extraordinary circumstances they may be held earlier or postponed. However that decision must be approved by the next higher level of the local party committee.[105] The number of delegates and the procedures for their election are decided by the local party committee, but must also have the approval of the next higher party committee.[105]

A local party congress has many of the same duties as the National Congress, and it is responsible for examining the report of the local Party Committee at the corresponding level; examining the report of the local Commission for Discipline Inspection at the corresponding level; discussing and adopting resolutions on major issues in the given area; and electing the local Party Committee and the local Commission for Discipline Inspection at the corresponding level.[105] Party committees of "a province, autonomous region, municipality directly under the central government, city divided into districts, or autonomous prefecture [are] elected for a term of five years", and include full and alternate members.[105] The party committees "of a county (banner), autonomous county, city not divided into districts, or municipal district [are] elected for a term of five years", but full and alternate members "must have a Party standing of three years or more."[105] 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.[105]

A local Party Committee is responsible to the Party Committee at the next higher level.[105] The number of full and alternate members at the local Party Committee is decided by the Party Committee at the next higher level.[105] 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.[105] A Party Committee must convene for at least two plenary meetings a year.[105] 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."[105] The local Standing Committee (analogous to the Central Politburo) is elected at the first plenum of the corresponding Party Committee after the local party congress.[105] A Standing Committee is responsible to the Party Committee at the corresponding level and the Party Committee at the next higher level.[105] A Standing Committee exercises the duties and responsibilities of the corresponding Party Committee when it is not in session.[105]


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.[106]

To join the party, an applicant must be 18 years of age, and must spend a year as a probationary member.[106] In contrast to the past, when emphasis was placed on the applicants' ideological criteria, the current CPC stresses technical and educational qualifications.[106] However, applicants and members are expected to be both "red and expert".[106] To become a probationary member, two current CPC members must recommend the applicant to the local party leadership.[106] The recommending members must acquaint themselves with the applicants, and be aware of the "applicant's ideology, character, personnel records and work performance" while teaching them about the party's program and constitution, as well as the duties and responsibilities of members.[106] To this end, the recommending members must write a report to the local party leadership, reporting their opinion that the applicant is either qualified or unqualified for membership.[106] To become a probationary member, the applicant must take an admission oath before the party flag.[106] The relevant CPC organization is responsible for observing and educating probationary members.[106] Probationary members have duties similar to those of full members, with the exception that they may not vote in party elections nor stand for election.[106]

Ordinary CPC members marking the convening of the 18th National Congress.

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 then limited to CPC members.[106] Many joined the CPC through the Communist Youth League.[106] Under Jiang Zemin, private entrepreneurs were allowed to become party members.[106] According to Article 3 of the CPC constitution, a member must "conscientiously study Marxism–Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thoughts 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."[105] A member, in short, must follow orders, be disciplined, uphold unity, serve the Party and the people, and promote the socialist way of life.[105] Members enjoy the privilege of attending Party meetings, reading relevant Party documents, receiving Party education, participating in Party discussions through the Party's newspapers and journals, making suggestions and proposal, making "well-grounded criticism of any Party organization or member at Party meetings" (even of the central party leadership), voting and standing for election, and of opposing and criticizing Party resolutions ("provided that they resolutely carry out the resolution or policy while it is in force"); and they have 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."[105] No party organization, including the CPC central leadership, can deprive a member of these rights.[105]

Composition of the party[edit]

As of the 18th National Congress, farmers, herdsmen and fishermen make up 31 percent of the party membership; 9 percent are workers.[107] The second largest membership group, "Managing, professional and technical staff in enterprises and public institutions", makes up 23 percent of CPC membership.[107] Retirees make up 18 percent, "Party and government staff" make up 8 percent, "others" make up another 8 percent, and students are 3 percent of CPC membership.[107] Men make-up 77 percent of CPC membership, while woman make up 23 percent.[108] The CPC currently has 86.7 million members, making it the largest political party in the world.[1]

Communist Youth League[edit]

The Communist Youth League (CYL) is the CPC's youth wing, and the largest mass organization for youth in China.[109] According to the CPC's constitution the CYL is a "mass organization of advanced young people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China; it functions as a party school where a large number of young people learn about socialism with Chinese characteristics and about communism through practice; it is the Party's assistant and reserve force."[105] To join, an applicant has to be between the ages of 14 and 28.[109] It controls and supervises Young Pioneers, a youth organization for children below the age of 14.[109] The organizational structure of CYL is an exact copy of the CPC's; the highest body is the National Congress, followed by the Central Committee, Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee.[110] However, the Central Committee (and all central organs) of the CYL work under the guidance of the CPC central leadership.[105] Therefore, in a peculiar situation, CYL bodies are both responsible to higher bodies within CYL and the CPC, a distinct organization.[105] As of the 17th National Congress (held in 2013), CYL has 89 million members.[111]


According to the Article 53 of the CPC constitution, "the Party emblem and flag are the symbol and sign of the Communist Party of China."[105] At the beginning of its history, the CPC did not have a single official standard for the flag, but instead allowed individual party committees to copy the flag of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[112] On 28 April 1942, the Central Politburo decreed the establishment of a sole official flag. "The flag of the CPC has the length-to-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-make a number of standard flags and distribute them to all major organs".[112] According to People's Daily, "The standard party flag is 120 centimeters (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) is a yellow hammer-and-sickle 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 hammer-and-sickle are tools of workers and peasants, meaning that the Communist Party of China represents the interests of the masses and the people; the yellow color signifies brightness."[112] 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."[112] 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.[112]


It has been argued in recent years, mainly by foreign commentators, that the CPC does not have an ideology, and that the party organization is pragmatic and interested only in what works.[113] This simplistic view is wrong in many ways, since official statements make it very clear the party does have a coherent worldview.[113] For instance, Hu Jintao stated 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".[113] The CPC puts a great deal of effort into the party schools and into crafting its ideological message.[113] 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.[114] Under Deng this relationship was turned upside down, with decision-making justifying ideology and not the other way around.[114] Lastly, Chinese policy-makers believe that one of the reasons for the dissolution of the Soviet Union was its stagnant state ideology. They therefore believe that their party ideology must be dynamic to safeguard the party's rule, unlike the Soviet Union's communist party, whose ideology they believe became "rigid, unimaginative, ossified, and disconnected from reality."[114]

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: if Marx's words are still applicable, we will use them; for things he did not articulate clearly, we will spell them out; for what he did not say, we will boldly come up with something new."

Ye Xiaowen on the role of Marxist thought.[115]
Main articles: Marxism–Leninism and Maoism

Marxism–Leninism was the first official ideology of the Communist Party of China, and is a combination of classical Marxism (the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels) and Leninism (the thoughts of Vladimir Lenin).[116] According to the CPC, "Marxism–Leninism reveals the universal laws governing the development of history of human society." To the CPC, Marxism–Leninism provides a vision of the contradictions in capitalist society and of the inevitability of a future socialist and communist societies.[116] Marx and Engels first created the theory behind Marxist party building; Lenin developed it in practice before, during and after the Russian Revolution of 1917.[116] Lenin's biggest achievement came in party-building, through concepts such as the vanguard party of the working class and democratic centralism.[116] According to the People's Daily, Mao Zedong Thought "is Marxism–Leninism applied and developed in China".[116]

Mao Zedong Thought was conceived not only by Mao Zedong, but by leading party officials.[117] According to Xinhua, Mao Zedong Thought is "an integration of the universal truth of Marxism–Leninism with the practice of the Chinese revolution."[117] Currently, the CPC interprets the essence of Mao Zedong Thought as "Seeking truth from facts": "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."[117]

A monument dedicated to Marx (left) and Engels (right) in Shanghai, China

While analysts generally agree that the CPC has rejected orthodox Marxism–Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought (or at least basic thoughts within orthodox thinking), the CPC itself disagrees.[118] Some Western commentators also talk about a "crisis of ideology" within the party; they believe that the CPC has rejected communism.[118] 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."[118] According to Jiang Zemin, the CPC "must never discard Marxism–Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.” He said that “if we did, we would lose our foundation.”[119] He further noted that Marxism in general "like any science, needs to change as time and circumstances advance."[119] Certain groups argue that Jiang Zemin ended the CPC's formal commitment to Marxism with the introduction of the ideological theory, the Three Represents.[120] 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."[120] Marxism in its core is, according to Jiang Zemin, methodology and the goal of a future, classless society, not analyses of class and of the contradictions between different classes.[121]

Karl Marx argued that society went through different stages of development, and believed that the capitalist mode of production was the third stage.[122] The stages were: ancient, based mostly on slavery; feudal; capitalist; socialist; and the communist mode of production.[122] The attainment of true "communism" is described as the CPC's and China's "ultimate goal".[123] 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.”[123] In official pronouncements, the primary stage of socialism is predicted to last about 100 years, after which China will reach another developmental stage.[123] Some have dismissed the concept of a primary stage of socialism as intellectual cynicism.[123] 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".[123]

Rationale for reforms[edit]

Main article: Reform and opening up
China's nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) trend from 1952 to 2005

While Westerners have argued that the reforms introduced by the CPC under Deng were a rejection of the party's Marxist heritage and ideology, the CPC does not view it as such.[124] The rationale behind the reforms was that the productive forces of China lagged behind the advanced culture and ideology developed by the party-state. In 1986, to end this deficiency, the party came to the conclusion that the main contradiction in Chinese society was that between the backward productive forces and the advanced culture and ideology of China.[124] 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.[124] According to this logic, thwarting the CPC's goal of advancing productive forces was synonymous with class struggle.[124] The classical goal of class struggle was declared by Deng to have been achieved in 1976.[124] While Mao had also emphasized the need to develop productive forces, under Deng it became paramount.[125]

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, on par with natural laws.[126] He insisted that economic laws were no more negotiable "than the law of gravity".[126] Hu's conclusion was that the Party was responsible for the socialist economy's acting on these economic laws.[126] He 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".[126] 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."[126] This sentiment was echoed by Xue Muqiao; "practice shows that socialism is not necessarily based on a unified public ownership by the whole society."[126]

Reform and opening up would not have been introduced if not for the work of Deng Xiaoping (left), Chen Yun (centre) and Li Xiannian (right). The relationship between Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun and Li Xiannian, was described as "two and a half" in the 1980s; with Chen being considered roughly as Deng's equal, and with Li Xiannian "being half a step behind".[127]

The official communiqué of the 3rd plenum of the 11th Central Committee included the words: "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."[128] 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).[128] To know if a policy was obsolete or not, the party had to "seek truth from facts" and follow the slogan "practice is the sole criterion of the truth".[128] 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.[129] The resolution separated Mao the person from Maoism, claiming that Mao had contravened Maoism during his rule.[129] While the document criticized Mao, it clearly stated that he was a "proletarian revolutionary" (i.e. not all of his views were wrong), and that without Mao there would have been no new China.[129] 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, as well as Stalin's industrialization policies and the prominent role he gave to class struggle.[130] Su concluded that the "exploiting classes in China had been eliminated".[131] 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.[131] 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, neither of them sought a return to collectivized agriculture.[132]

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 a definition of the term.[133] At the 13th National Congress, held in 1987, Zhao Ziyang, the CPC General Secretary, claimed that socialism with Chinese 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."[134] 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.[135] Two years earlier, Su had tried to internationalize the term "primary stage of socialism" by claiming that socialism contained three different production phases.[135] China was currently in the first phase, while the Soviet Union and the remaining Eastern Bloc countries were in the second phase.[135] Because China was in the primary stage of socialism, Zhao argued that in "[China] for a long time to come, we shall develop various sectors of the economy, always ensuring the dominant position of the public sector."[135] Further, some individuals should be allowed to become rich "before the objective of common prosperity [pure communism] is achieved."[136] Lastly, during the primary stage of socialism, planning would no longer be the primary means of organization of the economy. Upon hearing this remark, Chen Yun, a conservative and the second-most powerful politician in China, walked out of the meeting.[137]

"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.[138]

Both Chen Yun and Deng supported the formation of a private market. At the 8th National Congress, Chen first proposed an economy where the socialist sector would be dominant, with the private economy in a secondary role. [139] He believed that 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 also supporting private property.[140] 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.[141]

Between the time of the 13th National Congress and the Tiananmen Square incident and the ensuing crackdown, the line between right and left within the CPC became clearer.[142] The rift became visible in the run-up to the 7th plenum of the 13th National Congress (in 1990), when problems arose concerning China's 8th Five-Year Plan.[143] The draft for the 8th Five-Year Plan, supervised by Premier Li Peng and Deputy Premier Yao Yilin, openly endorsed Chen Yun's economic view that planning should be primary, coupled with slow, balanced growth.[143] 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 guiding principle."[143] 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.[144] Li and Yao even went so far as to try to annul two key resolutions passed by the 13th National Congress: the theory of socialist political civilization, and the resolution that central planning and markets were equals.[144] Deng rejected the idea of reopening discussions on these subjects, and restated that reforms were essential for the CPC's future.[144] Not accepting Deng's stance, party theorist Deng Liqun, along with others, began promoting "Chen Yun Thought".[144] 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).[144] Chen Yun retaliated by naming Bo Yibo to succeed him as CAC chairman.[144] Indeed, when the 7th plenum of the 13th Central Committee did in fact convene, nothing notable took place, with both sides trying not to widen the ideological gap even further.[145] The resolution of the 7th plenum did contain a great deal of ideological language ("firmly follow the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics"), but no clear formulation of new policy was uttered.[145]

Private ownership of finished goods industries and service industries were allowed as a result of the reforms.

Chen Yun's thoughts and policies dominated CPC discourse from 1989 until Deng's Southern Tour in 1992.[146] 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.[146] The articles criticized those communists who believed that central planning and market economics were polar opposites, instead repeating the Dengist mantra that planning and markets were only two different ways in which to regulate economic activity.[147] By that time, the party had begun preparing for the 14th National Congress.[148] Deng threatened to withdraw his support for Jiang Zemin's reelection as CPC General Secretary if Jiang did not accept reformist policies.[148] However, at the 8th plenum of the 13th Central Committee, in 1991, the conservatives still held the upper hand within the party leadership.[148]

To reassert his economic agenda, in the spring of 1992, Deng made his famous southern tour of China, visiting Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai, and spending the New Year in Shanghai. He used his travels to reassert his economic policy ideas after his retirement from office.[149] On the tour, Deng made many 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.[149] The tour proved that amongst the party's grassroots organizations, support for reform and opening up was firm.[149] Because of this, more and more leading members of the central party leadership converted to Deng's position, amongst them Jiang Zemin.[150] 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 whether it worked.[34] Jiang's speech is notable since it introduced the term socialist market economy, which replaced Chen Yun's "planned socialist market economy".[34] In a later Politburo meeting, members voted unanimously, in old communist fashion, to continue with reform and opening up.[34] Knowing that he had lost, Chen Yun gave in, and claimed that because of new conditions, the old techniques of the planned economy were outdated.[34]

At the 14th National Congress, the thought of Deng Xiaoping was officially dubbed Deng Xiaoping Theory, and elevated to the same level as Mao Zedong Thought.[35] The concepts of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and "the primary stage of socialism" were credited to him.[35] At the congress, Jiang reiterated Deng's view that it was unnecessary to ask if something was socialist or capitalist, since the important factor was whether it worked.[151] Several capitalist techniques were introduced, while science and technology were to be the primary productive force.[151]

Three Represents[edit]

Main article: Three Represents
Numerous books (as seen in the picture) about the Three Represents have been published.

The term ″Three Represents″ was first used in 2000 by Jiang Zemin in a trip to Guangdong province.[152] From then until its inclusion in the party's constitution at the 16th National Congress, the Three Represents became a constant theme for Jiang Zemin.[152] In his speech at the anniversary of the founding of the PRC, 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."[152] By this time, Jiang and the CPC had reached the conclusion that attaining the communist mode of production, as formulated by earlier communists, was more complex than had been realized, and that it was useless to try to force a change in the mode of production, as it had to develop naturally, by following the economic laws of history.[153] While segments within the CPC criticized the Three Represents as being un-Marxist and a betrayal of basic Marxist values, supporters viewed it as a further development of socialism with Chinese characteristics.[154] 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[ing] socialism with Chinese characteristics."[155] Jiang contended that capitalists should be able to join the Party on the grounds that;[155]

"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.[156] This concept is generally considered to be Hu Jintao's contribution to the official ideological discourse.[157] It is considered a continuation and creative development of ideologies advanced by previous CPC leaders.[157] To apply the Scientific Outlook on Development on China, the CPC must adhere to building a Harmonious Socialist Society.[158] According to Hu Jintao, the concept is a sub-ideology of socialism with Chinese characteristics.[159] It is a further adaptation of Marxism to the specific conditions of China, and a concept open to change.[159]

Views on capitalism[edit]

"[...] their theory that capitalism is the ultimate has been shaken, and socialist development has experienced a miracle. Western capitalism has suffered reversals, a financial crisis, a credit crisis, a crisis of confidence, and their self-conviction has wavered. Western countries have begun to reflect, and openly or secretively compare themselves against China’s politics, economy and path."

Xi Jinping, the CPC General Secretary, on the inevitability of socialism.[160]

The CPC do not believe that they have abandoned Marxism.[161] The party views the world as organized into two opposing camps; socialist and capitalist.[161] They insist that socialism, on the basis of historical materialism, will eventually triumph over capitalism.[161] In recent years, when the party has been asked to explain the capitalist globalization occurring, the party has returned to the writings of Karl Marx.[161] Marx wrote that capitalists, in their search for profit, would travel the world in a bid to establish new international markets – hence, it's generally assumed that Marx forecasted globalization.[161] His writings on the subject is used to justify the CPC's market reforms, since nations, according to Marx, have little choice in the matter of joining or not.[161] Opting not to take part in capitalist globalization means losing out in the fields of economic development, technological development, foreign investment and world trade.[161] This view is strengthened by the economic failures of the Soviet Union and of China under Mao.[162]

Despite admitting that globalization developed through the capitalist system, the party's leaders and theorist argue that globalization is not intrinsically capitalist.[162] The reason being that if globalization was purely capitalist, it would exclude an alternate socialist form of modernity.[162] Globalization, as with the market economy, therefore does not have one specific class character (neither socialist or capitalist) according to the party.[162] The instance that globalization is not fixed in nature, comes from Deng's insistence that China can pursue socialist modernization by incorporating elements of capitalism.[162] Because of this there is considerable optimism within the CPC that despite the current capitalist dominance of globalization, globalization can be turned into a vehicle supporting socialism.[163] This event will occur through capitalism's own contradictions.[163] These contradictions are, according to party theorist Yue Yi from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, "that between private ownership of the means of production and socialised production. This contradiction has manifested itself globally as the following contradictions; the contradiction between planned and regulated national economies and the unplanned and unregulated world economy; the contradiction between well-organized and scientifically managed Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and a blindly expanding and chaotic world market; the contradiction between the unlimited increase of productive capacity and the limited world market; and the contradiction between sovereign states and TNCs."[164] It was these contradictions, argue Yue Yi, that led to the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, that has caused unbalanced development and polarization, and widened the gap between rich and poor.[165] These contradictions will lead to the inevitable demise of capitalism and the resultant dominance of socialism.[165]


Further information: Economy of China

Deng Xiaoping, the leading figure in the reform era, did not believe that the fundamental difference between the capitalist mode of production and the socialist mode of production was central planning versus free markets. He said, "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".[32] 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, because the only thing that mattered was whether it worked.[34] It was at this gathering that Jiang Zemin introduced the term socialist market economy, which replaced Chen Yun's "planned socialist market economy".[34] In his report to the 14th National Congress Jiang Zemin told the delegates that the socialist state would "let market forces play a basic role in resource allocation."[166] At the 15th National Congress, the party line was changed to "make market forces further play their role in resource allocation"; this line continued until the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee,[166] when it was amended to "let market forces play a decisive role in resource allocation."[166] Despite this, the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee upheld the creed "Maintain the dominance of the public sector and strengthen the economic vitality of the State-owned economy."[166]

Stance on religion[edit]

The CPC, as an officially atheist institution, prohibits party members from belonging to a religion.[167] Although religion is banned for party members, personal beliefs are not held accountable.[167] During Mao's rule, religious movements were oppressed, and religious organizations were forbidden to have contact with foreigners.[168] All religious organizations were state-owned and not independent.[168] Relations with foreign religious institutions were worsened when in 1947, and again in 1949, the Vatican forbade any Catholic to support a communist party.[168] On questions of religion, Deng was more open than Mao, but the issue was left unresolved during his leadership.[169] 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’."[170] It was because of Marx's writings that the CPC initiated anti-religious policies under Mao and Deng.[170] The Marxist view that religion would decline as modern society emerged was proven false (they believed) with the rise of Falun Gong.[169]

The popularity of Falun Gong, and its subsequent banning by state authorities, led to the convening of a three-day National Work Conference for Religious Affairs in 1999, the highest-level gathering on religious affairs in the party's history.[171] 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, not decreasing.[172] 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".[173] He added that "asking religions to adapt to socialism doesn’t mean we want religious believers to give up their faith".[173] Jiang ordered Ye Xiaowen to study the classical Marxist works in depth to find an excuse to liberalize the CPC's policy towards religion.[173] It was discovered that Friedrich Engels had written that religion would survive as long as problems existed.[173] With this rationale, religious organizations were given more autonomy.[173]

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.[174] Delegates of foreign communist parties still visit China; in 2013, for instance, the General Secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), Jeronimo de Sousa, personally met with Liu Qibao, a member of the Central Politburo.[175] In another instance, Pierre Laurent, the National Secretary of the French Communist Party (FCP), met with Liu Yunshan, a Politburo Standing Committee member.[176] In 2014 Xi Jinping, the CPC General Secretary, personally met with Gennady Zyuganov, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), to discuss party-to-party relations.[177] While the CPC retains contact with major parties such as the PCP,[175] FCP,[176] the CPRF,[178] the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia,[179] the Communist Party of Brazil,[180] the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist−Leninist)[181] and the Communist Party of Spain,[182] the party retains relations with minor communist and workers' parties, such as the Communist Party of Australia,[183] 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.[184] In recent years, noting the self-reform of the European social democratic movement in the 1980s and 1990s, the CPC "has noted the increased marginalization of West European communist parties."[185]

Ruling parties of socialist states[edit]

The CPC has retained close relations with the remaining socialist states still espousing communism: Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam and their respective ruling parties.[186] It spends a fair amount of time analyzing the situation in the remaining socialist states, trying to reach conclusions as to why these states survived when so many did not, following the collapse of the Eastern European socialist states in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.[187] In general, the analyses of the remaining socialist states and their chances of survival have been positive, and the CPC believes that the socialist movement will be revitalized sometime in the future.[187]

The ruling party which the CPC is most interested in is the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV).[188] In general the CPV is considered a model example of socialist development in the post-Soviet era.[188] 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.[188]

While the CPC is probably the organization with most access to North Korea, writing about North Korea is tightly circumscribed.[187] The few reports accessible to the general public are those about North Korean economic reforms.[187] While Chinese analysts of North Korea tend to speak positively 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.[189] There are those analysts who compare the current situation of North Korea with that of China during the Cultural Revolution.[190] Over the years, the CPC has tried to persuade the Workers' Party of Korea (or WPK, North Korea's ruling party) to introduce economic reforms by showing them key economic infrastructure in China.[190] For instance, in 2006 the CPC invited the WPK General Secretary Kim Jong-il to Guandong province to showcase the success economic reforms have brought China.[190] In general, the CPC considers the WPK and North Korea to be negative examples of a communist ruling party and socialist state.[190]

There is a considerable degree of interest in Cuba within the CPC.[188] Fidel Castro, the former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), is greatly admired, and books have been written focusing on the successes of the Cuban Revolution.[188] Communication between the CPC and the PCC has increased considerably since the 1990s, hardly a month going by without a diplomatic exchange.[191] At the 4th Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee, which discussed the possibility of the CPC learning from other ruling parties, praise was heaped on the PCC.[191] When Wu Guanzheng, a Central Politburo member, met with Fidel Castro in 2007, he gave him a personal letter written by Hu Jintao: "Facts have shown that China and Cuba are trustworthy good friends, good comrades, and good brothers who 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."[192]

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.[97] These relations are sought so that the CPC can learn from them.[193] For instance, the CPC has been eager to understand how the People's Action Party of Singapore (PAP) maintains its total domination over Singaporean politics through its "low-key presence, but total control."[194] 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."[194] While the CPC accepts that Singapore is a democracy, they view it as a guided democracy led by the PAP.[194] Other differences are, according to the CPC, "that it is not a 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."[195] Other parties the CPC studies and maintains strong party-to-party relations with are the 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.[196] The KMT 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.[197] However, several studies have been written on the KMT's loss of power in 2000, after having ruled Taiwan since 1949 (the KMT officially ruled China, then called the Republic of China, from 1928 to 1949).[197] 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.[197] 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, which passed from Hafez al-Assad to his son Bashar al-Assad, and the role given to the Syrian military in politics.[198]

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 been especially interested in Latin America,[198] as shown by the increasing number of delegates sent to and received from these countries.[198] Of special fascination for the CPC is the 71-year-long rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Mexico.[198] While the CPC 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, [198] the CPC concluded that the PRI failed because of the lack of inner-party democracy, its pursuit of social democracy, its rigid party structures that could not be reformed, its political corruption, the pressure of globalization, and American interference in Mexican politics.[198] 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.[199] There may have been some irritation over Hugo Chavez's anti-capitalist and anti-American rhetoric on the CPC's part.[199] Despite this, in 2013 the CPC reached an agreement with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the party founded by Chavez, for the CPC to educate PSUV cadres in political and social fields.[200] By 2008, the CPC claimed to have established relations with 99 political parties in 29 Latin American countries.[199]

European social democracy has been of great interest to the CPC since the early 1980s.[199] 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 CPC's relations with European social democratic parties were its first serious efforts to establish cordial party-to-party relations with non-communist parties.[199] The CPC credits the European social democrats with creating a "capitalism with a human face".[199] 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.[199] By the 1980s that view had changed, and the CPC concluded that it could actually learn something from the social democratic movement.[199] CPC delegates were sent all over Europe to observe.[201] It should be noted that by the 1980s most European social democratic parties were facing electoral decline, and were in a period of self-reform.[201] The CPC followed this with great interest, laying most weight on reform efforts within the British Labour Party and the Social Democratic Party of Germany.[201] The CPC concluded that both parties were reelected because they modernized, replacing traditional state socialist tenets with new ones supporting privatization, shedding the belief in big government, conceiving a new view of the welfare state, changing negative views of the market, and moving from their traditional support base of trade unions to entrepreneurs, younger members and students.[202]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sometimes referred to as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).



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Articles & journal entries
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