Addressing a highly-choreographed ceremony from the balcony of Tiananmen Gate, President Xi Jinping said that no foreign force will be allowed to bully China.
“Chinese people will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us. Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Xi said in his belligerent speech to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Over 7 decades in power
In power since 1949, the CCP has controlled China for almost as long as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union controlled the USSR before the 1991 collapse.
The all-powerful party enjoys authority over the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, and can dictate the laws it wants to pass or amend.
Chinese courts and law enforcement agencies report to the party and the heads of state media outlets like Xinhua are senior officials in the CCP’s Propaganda Department.
The military is directly under the command of President Xi Jinping, who also holds the titles of general secretary of the CCP and chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission.
In a nutshell, the party and the government mean pretty much the same thing in China.
Strength to strength
The CCP’s membership count has been growing at a brisk pace with thousands aspiring to join the party every year. This is primarily because CCP membership is a ticket to upward mobility and confers prestige in official circles.
Application to join the CCP is a laborious process that typically begins in university and lasts two to three years. The process has several stages, culminating in an oath-swearing in front of the party’s hammer-and-sickle flag.
As of 2021, the party had over 95 million active members in its rank and file.
In the ten years since 2011, the CCP added nearly 12 million members to its ranks. However, it’s still far behind the BJP, which is the largest political party in the world with 180 million members.
Who makes up the CCP …
From peasants to blue-collar workers to professionals, the CCP draws members from all walks of life.
Farmers, fishermen, herders and retirees are numerically superior as opposed to students and industrial workers.
More than half the members have tertiary-level education.
An age-wise breakdown of CCP’s members shows that the party has even representation of all age groups.
Like many other political outfits in the world, the CCP has a sizeable representation of members who are 61 and above. As of 2019, it had 26.6 million members aged 61 or above.
Trust of citizens
Despite being an authoritarian party, the CCP enjoys considerably high levels of trust among the Chinese people.
A survey in 2020 revealed that 82% of the people said they trusted the ruling party.
In 2019, the trust levels had reached 90%. The sharp dip could perhaps be due to China’s messy handling of the Covid outbreak during its early days.
But the overall trust remains high compared to 2016.
According to a GZERO Media report, most Chinese don’t live in fear of the CCP, whose nationalist appeals, development success story and containment of Covid have endowed it with a surprising degree of popular legitimacy.
Corruption rot runs deep
The Chinese may be very trusting of the ruling party, but corruption remains a big rot within the CCP.
Despite Xi’s austere anti-corruption drive, graft cases against CCP officials rose six-fold from 2009 to 2019. In 2018, more than 6.38 lakh officials were charged with corruption.
Ahead of the centenary celebrations, Xi admitted that corruption remains the biggest risk to the party’s governance.
Anti-corruption has actually been a key plank of Xi’s administration since 2012 when he assumed power. Even today, Xi continues to flaunt corruption as the major threat to the CCP’s continuation in power.
The numbers indicate that the Xi-led CCP has managed to keep up its austere anti-corruption image over the years.
Almost all officials accused of graft have either faced administrative or party punishment.
According to official figures, over 2.6 million officials including top military generals were punished or purged for corruption and abuse of power by the CCP since 2012.
Human rights schism
The world has been talking about widespread human rights violations in China for long. The government’s brutal crackdown on the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang and the controversial security law in Hong Kong have drawn global criticism in recent months.
According to Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), under Xi, the CCP has pushed to shape all religions to conform to the officially atheist party’s doctrines and the majority Han-Chinese society’s customs.
The CFR said that CCP members have been recruited since 2014 to stay in Uighur homes and report on any perceived “extremist” behaviors, including fasting during Ramzan. The officials have destroyed thousands of mosques, often claiming the buildings were shoddily constructed and unsafe for worshippers.
However, the people of China have a vastly different view of the human rights situation in the country.
A majority of the Chinese people agree that everyone in China enjoys the same basic human rights as others. Only 13% of people believed that human rights are not equal for all.
This bodes well for the CCP, which invests enormous resources in propaganda and censorship systems.
According to a report on The Diplomat, many Chinese don’t know much about the situation in Xinjiang since they don’t read any of the Western news. Others are vaguely aware of the accusations, but don’t believe them and think it’s Western propaganda.
Call it ignorance or effective propaganda, most people in China think their views align with those of the state.
A 2019 Ipsos survey revealed that compared to other nations, a higher percentage of the Chinese population believes that the political system does a good job of representing the views and interests of the citizens.
But what about alternative political voices?
Most of the world knows China as a one-party state. In reality, it has as many as eight other political parties.
China Democratic League, China National Democratic Construction Association, Jiusan Society, Chinese Peasants and Workers’ Democratic Party, China Association for the Promotion of Democracy, China Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang, China Zhi Gong Dang, Taiwan Democratic Self-government League are the eight non-communist parties in the country.
According to Human Rights Watch, these parties “play an advisory rather than an oppositional role”. This is clear from the membership strength of these parties.
The China Democratic League, a socialist and progressive outfit that on paper is the second-largest party in the country, comprises just over 3.2 lakh odd members.
The Chinese foreign ministry’s website describes the non-communist outfits as “friendly parties that coexist over a long period of time, engage in mutual supervision, show utter devotion to each other, and share honor and disgrace, weal and woe with the CCP.”
Eyeing second century
Firmly entrenched in all aspects of life, the CCP is now eyeing another century of dominance in the world’s most populous country.
In his address to the partymen, President Xi exhorted everyone to work hard to ensure that the Communist Party continues its rule in the next century of its existence.
“On the new march to a fully established modern socialist nation, keep moving toward the goals of the second century,” Xi said ahead of the centenary celebrations.
Xi himself is expected to continue in power for life, thanks to a constitutional amendment which scrapped term limits for presidency.
With a firm grip on power, it’s clear that Xi and CCP are likely to remain the mainstays of Chinese politics in the foreseeable future.
( With inputs from agencies)