The defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). To understand China’s development and governance, it is essential to have a good understanding of China’s history and the CPC.
When the CPC was founded a century ago, China was still haunted by the epithet, the Sick Man of Asia.
Rightly so. With an uninterrupted history dating back to more than 5000 years, the Chinese nation created a splendid civilization, made remarkable contributions to humanity, and became one of the world’s great nations. But with the Opium War of 1840, China was plunged into the darkness of domestic turmoil and foreign aggression; its people, ravaged by war, saw their homeland torn apart, and lived in poverty and despair. With tenacity and heroism, countless dedicated patriots fought, pressed ahead against the odds, and tried every possible means to seek the nation’s salvation.
The founding of the CPC in July 1921 was thus an epoch-making event in the history of the Chinese nation. From that moment on, the Chinese people have had in the CPC a backbone for their pursuit of national independence and liberation, of a stronger and more prosperous country, and of their own happiness; and the mindset of the Chinese people has changed, from passivity to taking the initiative. China has changed in ways without precedent under the leadership of the CPC. This was clearly demonstrated in three earthshaking events.
First, the CPC, firmly relying on the masses, completed a new style of democratic revolution through 28 years of painful struggle from 1921 to 1949 to achieve national independence and liberation of the people. The founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 ended a century of humiliation for the Chinese nation and marked China’s great transition from a millennial-old feudal autocracy to a people’s democracy.
Second, by firmly relying on the people, the CPC completed the socialist revolution and established a fairly complete industrial system and national economic system, accumulating experience for socialist construction. The establishment of socialism as China’s basic system in 1956 completed the broadest and most profound social transformation in the history of the Chinese nation. It created the fundamental political conditions and the institutional foundation for achieving all development and progress in China today.
Third, the CPC united the Chinese people and led them in launching the great new revolution of reform and opening up, in removing all ideological and institutional barriers to China’s development, and in embarking on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Thus was China able to stride ahead to catch up with the times.
These three major events have reshaped the future and destiny of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation. They gave China, an ancient civilization, a completely new look and created unimagined prospects for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, under the leadership of the CPC with General-Secretary Xi Jinping at its core, the historic achievements in China’s reform, opening up, and socialist modernization have touched every area and broken new ground; the historic changes in China over the past nine years remained profound and fundamental.
As the world’s largest political party with a membership of 92 million today, the CPC is the highest force for political leadership in China, the world’s most populous country with a population of over 1.4 billion, and yet it has a very humble beginning. When the 13 delegates were convened for its First National Congress 100 years ago, the CPC was only a small party with little more than 50 members nationwide in then old and backward China.
Always put people first — the CPC acts on it in spirit, and in letter. Renminbi, the Chinese counterpart of Kenya Shilling, is now a stand-alone word in English dictionaries. It literally means people’s currency in the Chinese language. And various state organs of China put PEOPLE first in their official designations. People’s Congress, People’s government, People’s Political Consultative Conference, People’s Court, People’s Procuratorate, People’s Liberation Army, you name it.
This is by no means accidental. In September 1948, one year before the founding of new China, an enlarged meeting of the CPC Political Bureau made it very clear that, all state organs of the upcoming new China should put the two Chinese characters REMIN (people) in their designations, so as to reflect the distinction between new China and then Nationalist Party regime. No wonder on October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao solemnly declared to the whole world: “The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China has been founded.” PEOPLE’s Government. PEOPLE’s Republic. It is always about the PEOPLE.
Over the seven decades since the founding of the PRC, the CPC has led the Chinese people in creating two miracles. The first is rapid economic growth. In only a few decades China has achieved a degree of industrialization that took developed countries several centuries. China is now the world’s second largest economy. The second is lasting social stability. China has maintained social harmony and stability for a long period of time, and the Chinese people live happy and stable lives. China is recognized as one of the countries whose people enjoy a strong sense of security.
It is fair to say that no other state and governance system in human history could have achieved these two miracles in such a short time.
Over the years, many independent opinion polls conducted by Western research institutes have invariably placed the approval and satisfaction ratings of the CPC and the Chinese government among the Chinese people at the top of world rankings.
With the founding of the PRC, great unity and unprecedented solidarity of all its 56 ethnic groups was a sharp contrast to the history of old China as a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society that was like a heap of loose sand.
The highest goal of Chinese Communists is to realize communism, but in each historical stage the CPC has a different programme of struggle that represents the interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people in that particular period.
Unity depends on ideals, convictions and discipline. Ideals cannot be realized without discipline. To the Chinese Communists, discipline and freedom form a unity of opposites; both are indispensable. That is why China remains united and organized through ideals, convictions and discipline.
Since its 18th National Congress, the CPC has shown unprecedented courage and resolve in advancing full and rigorous governance of the Party. It has built a set of effective systems for scrutinizing the exercise of power and enforcing Party discipline and state laws, and has sought out a path to resolve problems rooted in the Party’s long-term governance so as to avoid the historical cycle of rise and fall.
Everything the Chinese communists are doing is to improve the livelihood of the Chinese people, renew the Chinese nation, and promote peace and development for mankind. Going forward, the CPC will enhance exchanges with political parties of other countries to share practices of party-building and enhancing state governance and will conduct further exchanges and dialogue among civilizations.
(Zhou Pingjian is the Ambassador of China to Kenya)