CPC at 90: Innovation key to success

By Swaran Singh
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, June 16, 2011
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Nothing seems more critical for the peaceful development of China than the smooth evolution of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and smooth transition of its leadership. China's history of the last 90 years confirms this.

But with the rise of China and ever-expanding globalization, the impact of the CPC's future trajectory has become equally critical for the countries that interact with China. This is especially true of its immediate neighbors such as India. The future of countries like India, seen as another rising power, surely depends on China's continued peace and stability. India, therefore, has direct stakes in the smooth evolution of the CPC.

The CPC represents one of the very few communist parties in the world that have survived several internal and external challenges. The cascading downfall of several communist governments in the 1990s led to some serious innovations and soul-searching within the CPC leadership. The CPC is the largest communist party in the world. And, with the rise of China, the CPC has also come to be recognized as one of the most resourceful political forces in human history.

Experts are engaged in deconstructing the unique phenomenon of the CPC and what ensures its success, which continues to provide inspiration and opportunities for people in as well as outside China.

The larger question of its impact on the shaping of world history has been hotly debated, too. The answer perhaps lies in the recent evolution of the CPC within the larger canvass of modern history. All political parties and ideologies have survived by adapting to changing circumstances. The same is true of what was originally conceived as the scientific theory of Karl Marx, who remains the fountainhead of communism of all hues and colors.

To begin with, Marx expected the rise of monopoly capitalism to automatically result in a proletarian revolution. With free-market competition resulting in an ever lesser number of people controlling the means of production, the relations of production were to dictate the capitalist class to cut costs by using labor at minimal prices, just enough to keep the workers' body and soul together. And when the choice was between death by starvation and a political revolt, it was but rational to expect the workers to overthrow capitalist regimes.

Vladimir Lenin was the first to put this theory into practice. But he was to do so in Czarist Russia that had largely missed out on Europe's industrial and mercantile revolutions, as well as on Renaissance and Protestantism and was not a model of monopoly capitalism. Lenin was convinced that Russia could not achieve a communist revolution based on Marxist dialectics. He, therefore, made the first important "innovation" in Marxist theory by explaining how the proletariat would need a vanguard, a communist party. Later, he created Communist International, which Josef Stalin explained was a must to support the proletariat of the world.

Chairman Mao Zedong was to lead a communist revolution in a semi-feudal, agrarian society that had been subject to hundreds of years of intervention by European capitalist powers and Japan. Deng Xiaoping introduced new ideas that led to China's opening up to the outside world and becoming a socialist market economy. Jiang Zemin oversaw the peaceful return of Hong Kong and Macao under a new paradigm of one-country, two systems, and the same model is presented for the unification of Taiwan.

The hallmark of President Hu Jintao's tenure has been China's participation in and leading of various multilateral forums, expanding transparency at home and granting new rights to the Chinese people. Experts describe this as China's move toward greater democracy, and the "Beijing consensus" and "China model" are now being debated across the world.

China's unprecedented economic rise since the 1990s, the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and collapse of the East Bloc were to provide a major push for the CPC leadership to reinvent itself. This resulted in rapid evolution of not only the CPC, but also of Chinese politics, society and even culture. With the epithet of "Chinese characteristics" and "socialist market economy", the CPC has since introduced several new formulations such as "peaceful development", "spiritual civilization" and "harmonious world".

Recent years have seen an increase in CPC membership. The continued high economic growth and nationalism are normally described as the twin pillars of the CPC's continued legitimacy, a legitimacy that has put to rest the "China bubble-bust" theory of the early 1990s.

The CPC has expanded its relations with more than 600 political parties across the world, and become far more cosmopolitan and transparent about sharing information on the challenges it faces such as skewed regional development, pervasive unemployment, rising rural unrest and crime, and widening income divide.

The past decades have also seen the CPC seriously engaging other political forces at home in its plans, helping develop non-governmental organizations and civil society, and paying greater attention to the demands of the growing middle class. The ever-expanding shades of opinions, stronger scrutiny of CPC policies, hundreds of new print and online media and even greater offer of choices in everyday life present a new trend in Chinese politics with the CPC at its helm.

From its days of class struggle and continuous revolution, the CPC has moved to ensuring peaceful development and building a harmonious society. Change, they say, is the only permanent reality. And the fact that the CPC has continued to innovate and re-invent itself is what makes the rise of China one of the top events of this century.

The author is a professor of international studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.


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