On July 1, 2021, China celebrated the centenary anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The founding congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) took place on July 1, 1921 at 108 Wantze Road (now 78 Xingye Road) in the French Concession area (now consisting of Xuhui and Luwan districts) in Shanghai and then moved to Jiaxing Zhejiang province onto a tourist boat on the South Lake after the French concession police came for them on the information of expionage. Present were 13 delegates including Mao Zedong. Chen Duxiu who could not attend the congress was elected the founding Chairman.
It was an event of historical significance, marking the protracted struggle of the Chinese people against foreign domination and imperialist aggressions. Since the founding of the CPC in 1921, it grew rapidly into a formidable political and military force amid the chaos of inter-war China. The CPC grew from a small party with about 50 members to a ruling party with more than 95 million members now. It has been called the most powerful political party that has ever been created. A recent article in Xinhua opined that the party's founding goal in 1921 was the 'great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation".
The pre-1949 history of the CPC was one of great heroism, unspeakable sufferings and sacrifices. Also, A century of subjugation and humiliations produced terrible poverty and sufferings for the Chinese people. Between 1839 and 1949 almost 100 million Chinese people died in wars and famines resulting from foreign interventions. From the Opium Wars beginning in 1839 through to the Japanese invasion in 1931 to the Second World War and then followed by the Civil War which lasted until 1949, the Chinese people continued their determined struggle to establish their country's sovereignty and determine its future.
The CPC led by Chairman Mao Zedong went through fighting a wrenching civil war against a corrupt nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) government and its imperialist backers. In 1934 the embattled Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) broke through the KMT enemy line and began its strategic retreat known as the Long March. After enduring starvation, aerial bombardment and regular skirmishes the Long March ended at the mountainous region of Yan'an which became the CPC's headquarters until seizing power in 1949. The Long March lasted 368 days and covered close to 10,000km. It was the longest continuous march in the history of warfare.
In 1949, under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong, China was able to put behind the long history of shame and humiliation that began with its defeat in the first Opium war in 1839-1842, which resulted in the ceding of Hong Kong to the British. The role of the CPC remains central in ending the humiliating subjugation of China in the 19th and 20th century by the imperialist powers and building new China.
Chairman Mao proclaimed the People's Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949 in Beijing. The seizure of the state power by the CPC, the defeat of the KMT and the proclamation of the People's Republic of China was the outcome of a momentous revolutionary upheaval led by the CPC that shook the most populous nation on earth.
The 1949 Chinese revolution was indeed the most momentous event of the 20th century. History has always been terribly unkind to failed revolutions, social, political and economic experiments, but in this instance the revolution has produced a spectacular result - the rise of China now as the engine of global growth.
At its founding in 1949, the PRC was one of the poorest countries in the world. China ranked 45th out of 52 countries in terms of per capita income in 1950. China accounted for 32.91 per cent of global GDP in 1820 but fell to 17.2 per cent of Global GDP in 1870 in the wake of the Opium wars and imperialist powers' scrambling to carve out China for economic domination and exploitation which produced terrible poverty and economic decline in the country.
The 1949 Chinese revolution not only ended the imperialist domination and exploitation, but also in response to social aspirations of such a revolutionary upheaval, eliminated what was socially and culturally backward such polygamy, concubinage, child marriage and foot binding. Illiteracy was practically abolished and life expectancy increased significantly, infant mortality rate also declined dramatically. A World Bank report even as back as in late 1980s recognised China's success in improving healthcare system through its health policies and the national health delivery system.
Also, following the 1949 revolution, the CPC had to restyle a revolutionary party into a governing institution. And that calls for a whole paradigm shift in the role of the party. The CPC as the governing party had to confront a disintegrated state, a destroyed economy and a society in deep turmoil. The initial task of the CPC as the governing party was to begin the reconstruction of China and the consolidation of post-revolutionary gains thus made. The CPC was able both to establish a new China which is politically united and a powerful state capable of thwarting imperialist aggressions. In the process there were progress and setbacks between 1949 and 1978.
In 1979 the CPC took another momentous decision to transform itself from a centrally planned economy manager to a market economy reformer. The party led by Deng Xiaoping took the bold decision to reform the economy by opening it up, thus charting a new path described as a new path to socialism with Chinese characteristics. In practical terms it can be simply described as establishing a socialist market economy which is open to the rest of the world as distinct from a capitalist market economy as seen in countries like the US and Japan
The CPC by undertaking such a far-reaching economic reform ushered in a breathtakingly rapid economic transformation which further reinforced the belief that the CPC was not only the only party that pulled it off but also the sole champion capable of leading China to modernity. Such a view was clearly articulated by President Xi Jinping when in his July 1, 2021 speech at the Tiananmen Gate said "China's success hinges on the Party…without the Communist Party of China, there would be no new China and no national rejuvenation".
The party has been in power for 72 years. As the party celebrates its century this year, it is the most confident moment of the party since the People's Republic was established in 1949 after the CPC's victory in the civil war. China is now not only a politically strong and cohesive country but also the second largest economy in the world. China achieved very rapid economic growth between 1978 and 2020 averaging at 9.2 per cent growth rate per annum-- a very rare feat if one looks into the recorded history of economic growth.
The country is expected to achieve the status of a high income country by 2025. That will make China the first country with a population above 1 billion ( China's population now stands at 1.4 billion, a population four times bigger than that of the US) achieving high income status in the world. The CPC is increasingly focusing on the road ahead rather than the rearview mirror.
China has prospered in the face of the global financial crisis and through the Covid-19 pandemic maintaining the growth momentum faster than any other major economy in the world. China now has emerged as the world's largest exporting nation and second largest importing country. In fact, China has now become the engine of global economic growth.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) China accounted for 28 per cent of all growth around the world in five years from 2013 to 2018, more than twice the share of the US. As such, according to the World Bank, over 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty. The World Bank further added that three out of four people worldwide who were lifted out of poverty live in China. On February 25, 2021, China's President Xi Jinping declared that his country of 1.4 billion had scored a complete victory in pulling people out of poverty. This massive poverty alleviation is the most noteworthy success stories of the contemporary China. In contemporary times, the people of China have been much richer and its industrial base is now widely diversified and technologically advanced.
But there have been costs associated achieving such spectacular successes such as income inequality, environmental degradation and official corruption. The CPC is acutely aware of those shortcomings and striving to correct them.
The collective goal of bringing about prosperity for the nation through rapid economic growth led to the emergence of rising income inequality. The 19th National Congress of the CPC held in 2017 saw a whole paradigm shift in the CPC policy in dealing with rising income inequality. The single minded focus on economic growth was remodeled to pursue the goal of achieving a more balanced economic development which is called common prosperity where benefits of economic growth will be equitably shared by the people
Also, China's environmental degradation is closely related to the country's pursuit of economic growth which has been necessary to alleviate poverty. But the government made serious efforts to halt further environmental deterioration and has already put in place a series of measures. In fact, President XI has recognised climate change as one of his government's top concern and introduces a series of policy initiative to deal with the issue such as reducing carbon intensity per unit of GDP by more than 65 per cent by 2030, among other measures.
Being the second biggest economy in the world, China does have its fair share of corruption like in the US, the UK, Japan and other developed countries. Successive Chinese leaders have long fought against it but President XI's anti-corruption campaign is the largest since China has turned into a market economy in the early 1980s. He has targeted families, political and state functionaries who had been able to use their standing to enrich themselves. President Xi also made it clear to the country's billionaires that he only cares about what these rich people do after they get rich - whether aligning their interests with those of the state.
Since the 1949 revolution China has made remarkable economic, social and political achievements. The tremendous progress China has made and the international status it now enjoys could not have been possible without the leadership of the CPC. The role of the CPC in determining the future is now not confined only within China but also encompasses the world as well.