Wednesday, June 30, 2021 11:37 am
By Olalekan A. Babatunde
Tomorrow July 1 marks the hundredth anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The centenary is the epitome of a period of momentous changes and reflections in the development of China and of course, worldwide. The history is a reminder of the emergence of modern political parties around the end of the 18th century where a group of individuals came together to set ideological or policy goals and programmes that would advance the lives of their people and for the betterment of the country. Such act and pledge elicit enormous responsibility and commitment.
When Grigori Voitinsky, Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao led the preliminary organization and recruitment that became CPC in 1921 in Shanghai, it was clear to the team the kind of future they envisioned and positioned for their compatriots. With only 57 members during its first National Congress in July 1921, CPC has grown to 92 million in 2021, and thus makes it the largest Marxist ruling party in the world. The CPC’s ideas and values are at the foundation of modern-day China.
The party’s accelerated development and monumental contribution to the country and the world calls for a big jamboree. It is with joyous celebrations and fulfilment for China, and its friends and well-wishers when they look back at this historical journey nowadays, especially the way the party has evolved, survived and the achievements it has made within and outside the country. When it comes to CPC’s achievements, there are plenty of reference points. A few of them are worth mentioning.
From an African point of view, which is founded on what was read, heard, and observed even in China, one cannot but quickly review the lessons that emerged over the decades of CPC’s leadership of China and present the prospects of a better life and shared future for humanity. The experience shows that CPC understands the importance of democracy. That is, party politics is about the people. The Chinese are at the centre of political decisions and actions. It is a bottom-up structure where you find grassroots associations, youth, opinion leaders and think tanks contributing to the day-to-day affairs of the party at the National Peoples Congress.
While in China in 2019, I saw strong evidence that illustrates genuine love of political leaders for their people. Equal treatment and opportunity are given to all citizens. The rights of all Chinese, residents and visitors are protected through the principles of equity, fair play and justice. Nationalism is tied to their identity. I was blown away by this nationalism expressed by the people. They are rational, patient, good-natured and hardworking. The citizens obey the authorities by being law-abiding, patriotic and proud ambassadors of the country around the world. Whenever you travel around the world, it is easier to notice the Chinese returning to their homeland cheerfully. The younger generation has experienced only prosperity and not hardship. China has produced the highest number of billionaires in the era of globalization than any other country. This deed could not have been possible without the example set by the pragmatic leaders, active members and enthusiastic followers.
Because of this feat, CPC has “legitimized” itself into the minds of the people. It gained the trust of the people and enjoyed strong grassroots support that had made it to outlive the National Party, warlords and foreign aggression, which had troubled the country prior to the 1949 Revolution. According to Rana Mitter, a History Professor while speaking on the CPC’s 100th year on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN on Sunday June 27, “China has survived great turmoil in the last 100 years of its existence”.
Likewise on the same programme, Jianyang Fan, a staff writer at the New Yorker, said the “century of humiliation” has given way to “century of rejuvenation” for China. China is indeed a toast of the world.
Contrary to the popular notion that China has one political party in CPC, in reality, there are nine political parties in the country that provide the people of the country with choices to make effective and more evolved decisions for the central government. I have met members of some of the other parties.
In their ideological concept of “socialism with the Chinese characteristics” and the “reform and opening up policy” of 1979 under Deng Xiaoping, the CPC has demonstrated that representative democracy can be localized in line with history and culture of the people. China that has been in existence for over 2000 years and still remains one entity cannot be taught on how to manage its 1.4 billion people and diversity. Such leadership and management has been the pivot upon which China stands since the emperors’ periods. The CPC has over the century proven that continuity in governance and development can be achieved with charismatic leaders and followers. Chairman Mao Zedong was exemplary in laying the foundation of lofty ideals, discipline and missions.
Though it is not a mere achievement to have survived up to now amid stiff geopolitics of the world, CPC steered China to become the world’s 2nd economy and improved the living standards of peoples around the world through trade, investment, grants, loans and a host of others in education, commerce, industrialization, peace and security, science and technology.
One cannot but give kudos to the visionaries and upholders of this idea of democracy. While China has become a nation of everyone’s dream, the world is now more than ever before convinced that democracy can be tailored to a nation’s circumstances and thrives.
Also, under the leadership of CPC, China has eradicated poverty by lifting the remaining 98.99 million people out of extreme poverty in 2020 and built people-centred projects. The party’s General Secretary, President Xi Jinping who has seen China increasingly assert itself in global politics, says his country has achieved the “miracle” of eradicating extreme poverty. Just last month, China launched first three-man crew to live on its new space station. According to the Ambassador of China to Nigeria, Mr CUI Jianchun, CPC’s two-step strategy would make China realize socialist modernization in 2035, and “…turn to be a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful in the middle of this century.”
However, as CPC celebrates its centenary and prospects for the future, the party must endear itself more to the hearts and minds of its people in order to continue to gain their trust. The coronavirus pandemic that has posed the biggest test to the party is opening up more challenges globally that have to be steadily and rationally managed. Another herculean diplomatic move is to mitigate the increasing strained relations with the West on the multiple fronts: Hong Kong, Taiwan, allegations over origin of coronavirus and human rights abuses of the Uighurs, Artificial Intelligence, 5G and the South China Sea. Both parties may stumble into war at the slightest provocation.
Perhaps in Africa, it is only the African National Congress (ANC), the South Africa’s ruling party that can be likened to CPC in history, principles and epoch-making events. Founded in 1912 as the SA Native National Congress but renamed as ANC in 1923, it spearheaded the fight to eliminate apartheid and fought for the voting rights of Black Africans and Coloured (persons of mixed race). During Chairman Mao, CPC had engaged in a number of activities with ANC. But through the existing relations and cooperation with Africa, the CPC’s leadership vision of shared future and prosperity for humankind can be expanded to enable the continent to overcome poverty, violence, climate change and pandemic. More long-term strategies like the FOCAC and Belt and Road Initiative should be vigorously pursued with the African leaders. History will always remember CPC for bringing out the best in people. While I congratulate the People’s Republic of China on this milestone, and as CPC continues to get better, I have no doubt that there is so much to look forward to as CPC journeying to bicentenary.
*Dr. Babatunde is a Fellow, Nigeria’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja.