The Communist Party of China celebrates its 80th birthday on July 1. Even the most cynic radicals and the most obstinate anti-Communist crusaders must admit that the Party remains and will continue to be the leading force in China.
To imagine a China without the Communist Party at the helm is nightmarish.
Over time, the basis of popular endorsement for the Party's leadership has shifted. Early on, the people expressed great gratitude to the founding of the People's Republic for liberation. Now there is widespread confidence in the Party's resolve and ability to lead this nation of 1.3 billion towards common prosperity.
Between the 1911 revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen that overthrew the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the founding of New China in 1949, more than 300 political parties and social groups tried to rid the nation of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism. Only the Communists managed to rally and maintain popular support, leading to a new and promising era for China.
The task of moving from revolution to governance after 1949 proved a challenge for the Party. The achievements and contributions made by the Party have been tremendous. There were trials and errors, such as the "great leap forward" in the late 1950s and the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), which resulted in substantial damage. But the Party learned from these blunders and corrected itself.
If it were not for the Party's willingness to improve itself, the nation might still be fumbling its way in outdated ideological fetters. From the reform and opening up policies to the new socialist market economy, and to the impending entry to the World Trade Organization, every major move on the nation's way to further prosperity follows a step forward created by the Party.
Three generations of the Party leadership have led the nation. Mao Zedong tried not to follow Soviet-style socialism, instead exploring a Chinese way of development. Deng Xiaoping made every decision based on his sense of whether it would enhance national might, increase productivity and improve the people's quality of life.
President Jiang Zemin instructed that the Party should represent the fundamental interests of the people as well as to comply with the trends of advanced productive forces and civilizations.
The profound changes since 1978 have further legitimized the Party's leadership. Now that the nation's gross domestic product has skyrocketed as promised, the Party now pledges an even more ambitious obligation: to build China into a moderately advanced country by 2050.
Party-sponsored reforms, from political structure changes to efforts to root out corruption, help broadcast the key message that the Party won't tolerate any impediments towards healthy modernization.
Party leaders are aware of the lessons to be learned from the failure of Communist parties in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and from the decline of the once-strong Qing Dynasty in China.
The Party will "advance with the times," as leaders have said in recent remarks. That's what will keep it and China strong. From a core group of 53 who founded the Party in 1921, there are now 64.5 million members.
The Party's ability to recruit the cream of the national populace is a testament to its principle of serving the people and its wise willingness to change and improve with the times.
Corrupt members of the Party do exist. About 473,000 Party members have been disciplined since 1989.
But members of the Communist Party also account for more than 85 per cent of all model workers ever to receive the national commendation for their contributions to the nation.
And the Party continues to appeal to the new generation. Of all new members recruited in 2000, 74 percent were younger than 35. Nearly 7.7 million more were being considered at year's end.
With its readiness to improve, the Communist Party of China relieved itself of the fates that befell Eastern Europe.
With its readiness to improve, it has led the country onto a track of rapid progress, winning greater popularity among the public.
With its readiness to improve, the whole nation is all optimistic about the future of China under its leadership.
(China Daily 06/30/2001)