How the Communist Party of China has changed in its first 100 years


On July 1, the Communist Party of China (CPC) turned 100 years old. During that time, it has grown from a group of intellectuals inspired by the 1917 Bolshevist-led revolution in Russia to one of the largest political parties in the world, with some 90 million members.

According to Rana Mitter, a professor of the history and politics of modern China at the University of Oxford, one of the factors behind the CPC's longevity compared with other political movements is its ability to adapt.

"I think it's fair to say that like many of the most successful political organizations around the world ... flexibility has been the key to success," he told CGTN Europe.



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The party has been influenced by world events from its birth in 1921, when the ideologies of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin and the events in Russia toward the end of World War I led to 50 founding members of the CPC holding the first National Congress.

That group was forced to become a war cabinet and work as part of a coalition with the Chinese Nationalist Party during Japan's occupation of parts of China during the 1940s. Then, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, it formed the People's Republic of China and became the sole ruling party that turned its attention to industry and agriculture.

Mitter said in light of these colossal changes, the founding members would be impressed by today's CPC.

"I think the founders of the Chinese Communist Party would be surprised and, in some ways, pleased … by what they see today," he said.

"I say that because, of course, they aimed to strengthen China. And I think they would look at China today as obviously a very economically influential militarily powerful country.

"But at the same time, I think that they would have to be honestly puzzled about the level of importance that consumerism and markets play in China today."

Mitter refers to Deng Xiaoping's move to an "Open" policy with the West in the 1980s and the most recent five-year plan that places great importance on the consumer economy, as evidence of the radical change the CPC has embraced.

"What I can say is that the contingencies, the complexities of the historical journey from 1921 to 2021 do provide one of the most fascinating historical journeys that any country in the world has seen in the last century," he added.


Cover picture: A crowd celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the CPC in Shanghai. /AFP/ Hector Retamal

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