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The Chinese Communist Party at 100: From 12 delegates to an emerging superpower

Over the past few weeks, flash mobs have been popping up across China.

Carrying red and yellow flags, singers and musicians have repeatedly broken into renditions of ‘Sing a Folk Song for the Party’ – a 1963 ode to the Communist Party of China, commonly called the CCP – in parks and squares across the country.

But far from impromptu performances, the scripted and heavily managed public demonstrations of patriotic pride are part of a months-long campaign to cement support for the authoritarian government ahead of its centenary this week.

On 1 July, the date picked as the anniversary of the party’s formation, it will be roughly 100 years since 12 delegates came together to form a new party that would decades later become one of the longest-ruling political powers in the world.

100th anniversary in Shanghai. ” src=”https://sl.sbs.com.au/public/image/file/14025394-8d02-4492-8260-61b48149aa74″ alt=”People stand outside a display commemorating the 100th anniversary in Shanghai. ” width=”700″ height=”466″ />

People stand outside a display commemorating the 100th anniversary in Shanghai.

AFP/Getty Images

In the century since, China has emerged as a global superpower in a world entirely unrecognizable from when it was formed.

Coinciding with the flash mobs has been a big gala featuring military displays, performances depicting a whitewashed version of communist history, and messages from Chinese astronauts in space, all set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began more than a year ago in China.

The pandemic was given equal showbiz treatment in the celebrations, reframed as a victory for the party with performers wearing masks and personal protective equipment.

But underneath the positive statements, some China experts say, is a concerted effort to maintain control of the narrative of the country’s history.

A mass gala celebrating the 100th anniversary in Beijing.

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“We won’t see any internal dissent or second-guessing of the party because the party controls all of the media and means of getting information,” said Michael Shoebridge, director of defense, strategy, and national security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank established by the Australian government.

“It’s a party-centered celebration.”

What exactly is the Chinese Communist Party?

The Chinese Communist Party is the sole governing party of the People’s Republic of China and has been so since it took power following a decades-long civil war in 1949.

Unlike Australia’s democratic government, the party is a political monopoly influenced by Marxist-Leninist doctrine.

“The current power of the Chinese Communist Party is an illegitimate government established by force,” said Chongyi Feng, an associate professor of China studies at the University of Technology Sydney.

Mao Ze Dong at Beijing Airport in 1963.

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“There’s no election – not to mention a regular election – there’s no popular election to elect the government.”

“It’s the power imposed on the Chinese population for 70 years already.”

Despite recent challenges for the party at home and abroad, including the pandemic and international outrage at widespread human rights abuses, it currently has over 91 million members in a country of almost 1.4 billion. Two thousand three hundred fifty-four delegates from the member base are selected to join the Party Congress, which meets yearly to pass laws and assign key leadership positions.

The final decision-making power lies with the seven-member standing committee and Xi Jinping, the party’s general secretary and president of the People’s Republic of China since 2012.

The 68-year-old leader consolidated his power in 2018 when the National People’s Congress removed presidential term limits, making Mr. Xi president for life – if he wanted it – and elevating him to the status of the party’s founder, Chairman Mao Zedong.

100th-anniversary celebrations at the Birds Nest in Beijing.

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Under Mao, China suffered a bloody civil war, widespread famine, and 36 million deaths caused by a series of agricultural and industrial reforms known as the Great Leap Forward and a cultural revolution that destroyed much of China’s traditional culture and widespread political persecution.

“What the Chinese Communist Party is trying to do now under Xi Jinping is to revert to the totalitarian law under Mao,” Dr. Feng said. “The current government is trying to eliminate any current or potential threat to maintain its monopoly on political power in China.”

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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