Every year, on the 1st of July, the date marking the anniversary of the CPC, national media inform Chinese people about the statistics of the Party, such as the number of new members. But in 2021, the mentioned date is even more important: it marks the centenary of the Communist Party.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) was founded on the 1st of July 1921, in Shanghai. At the end of July, 12 representatives participated in the First National Congress, held in the French Concession of Shanghai. Encouraged by the increasing scale of popular protests in China and by the Russian Revolution of 1917, the political objective of the CPC since its foundation has been the dictatorship of the proletariat (Samarani, 2017). That being said, the Chinese Communist Party has always had the ability of adapting its ideology to an ever-changing social context. For example, under the administration of Deng Xiaoping (1978-1997) and the Reform and Opening, a long list of changes was introduced to facilitate foreign investment. Nevertheless, through the Four Basic Principles (socialism; dictatorship of the proletariat; leadership of the Communist Party; Marxism-Leninism-Maoist thought) the roots of the ideology were reaffirmed (Lavagnino & Mottura, 2019).
It was in this period, during the XIII National Congress in 1987, that Deng Xiaoping first envisaged the Three-step development strategy. The first step would see the doubling of China’s GDP between 1981 and 1990, and the second step envisaged another doubling between 1991 and 2000, thus creating a “moderately prosperous” way of life. The third step, to be completed by 2021, expected per capita GDP to reach the level of a moderately developed country (Onnis, 2020). After his election in 2012, Xi Jinping, the current President of the PRC, introduced another goal to be achieved by the new government: pursuing the “Chinese dream”. The aim is to build a moderately prosperous society in every field by 2021, thus getting rid of poverty, and then working towards a modern socialist country that’s culturally advanced, democratic, and in harmony (Samarani, 2017).
To the Chinese government, deadlines are of crucial importance: the objectives envisaged by Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping, to be completed by the 1st July 2021, are among the main reasons why this is such an important date. It is indeed essential to make Chinese people aware of all the achievements that were made thanks to the governmental actions. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (RPC), the State Council released a paper titled “China and the world in the New Era”, describing the unprecedented development and achievements of China during the recent years, such as poverty elimination, global importance, and economic growth. In fact, despite the challenges recently posed by the pandemic, China’s GDP has grown by 175% since 1978, with the GDP per capita currently amounting to USD $10,216 (The World Bank Group, 2021). Moreover, in November 2020, Guizhou was officially declared the last Chinese province to overcome absolute poverty, thereby allowing China to fulfill its promises and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (Onnis, 2020).
During the Conference on education held in Beijing in February, Xi Jinping emphasized the crucial role of education for the new phase of Chinese development. He also noted that all Party members should study the CPC’s history and theories, engage in an honest behavior, and do a lot of work to welcome the Centenary with outstanding achievements (Xinhua, 2021b). It is to be noted that education in China has always been a fundamental tool for economic development, social stability, and the fulfillment of political goals: since the times of Confucius, human resources have been valued not only for their skills, but also for their moral integrity and, today, innovation. Becoming a member of the Party is a particularly long and difficult process, given that quality is prioritized over quantity (Lavagnino & Mottura, 2019).
The Party-wide campaign on history learning was mentioned again during a press conference on the 23rd of March 2021 by Wang Xiaowei, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee. During the conference, he and other members of the Party also listed a number of further activities to be carried out in order to celebrate the Centenary (Xinhua, 2021a).
Besides holding a large-scale gala performance, a grand gathering, and a major exhibition in order to show the CPC’s achievements, Wang Xiaowei and Fu Xingguo (deputy head of the Organization Department) also announced incentives for Party members, such as the “Glorious 50 years in the Committee” medal, awarded to veteran members, and the July 1st medal, awarded to the members who made outstanding contributions to the Party. Both honors will be assigned for the first time ever. To remark once again the importance of education and loyalty for those who hold prominent roles in the Party, the CPC Central Committee will host seminars and hold a symposium on theoretical study. Visits from role models will be organized, to encourage volunteering and sense of responsibility within the members (CGTN, 2021).
As we can see, the leading role of ideology is an essential pillar for the celebration of the Centenary, together with the importance of people’s wellbeing. Here’s why the CPC encouraged the involvement of the Chinese people: there will be several interacting activities around the themes of revolutionary history, poverty relief achievements, and rural vitalization, whereas adolescents will be educated on the history of the Party through textbooks and dedicated class lectures. Party members will also carry out practical activities at the community level in order to improve people’s wellbeing and public services. Concerning the cultural involvement at the grassroots level, the minister of culture and tourism, represented by Hu Heping, promised to revive some of the long-lasting classic works, and even introduce new literary and artistic works, especially 100 stage performances, focusing not only on the history of revolution but also on contemporary themes, including the fight against the pandemic (CGTN, 2021).
During and after the centenary celebration, “red tourism” will be boosted and encouraged. “Red tourism” is a term that defines tourist interest towards revolutionary sites and artifacts, such as the translation of “The Communist Manifesto” and the revolutionary city of Yan’an. Besides further developing memorials and museums, the CPC is willing to organize a series of selected red tours, including study tours for college students (CGTN, 2021).
Finally, during the conference, Qu Qingshan, head of the Institute of Party History and Literature, underlined the long lasting stability of the CPC and its great contributions for the Chinese people, as well as the previously mentioned ability of adapting to face new risks and challenges. A clear example is the Coronavirus pandemic that has been overcome thanks to the prompt execution of orders and compliance with prohibitions, the mobilization of all sectors, and long-term solutions and investments (Colarizi, 2021). Harmony and stability have been attributed to four powers: the power of the leadership of the Communist Party, the power of ideology (Marxism and socialism with Chinese characteristics), the strength of the system, and the strength of the people (CGTN, 2021). Without any doubt, the centenary of the CPC, beside carrying a huge cultural value, represents a new beginning for China, with the “New Era” described on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the RPC. According to the paper released by the State Council, China is ready to lead global development and pursue mutual cooperation (State Council of RPC, 2019), also thanks to the crucial role played by the Communist Party during the last century.
Valeria Medeghini is a 21-year-old Italian student. She's been studying Chinese language and culture since high school and she's currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in Intercultural mediation in Milan. She's passionate about China-EU relations and China's politics for environmental sustainability. You can find her on Instagram as @valeriamedeghini or on LinkedIn.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not represent the views of European Guanxi.
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CGTN, Live: Press conference on celebrating centenary of CPC founding[Online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUP7xsEzEWc
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