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Communist Party of China

The Communist Party of China (CPC), also known as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Although nominally it exists alongside the United Front,[1] a coalition of governing political parties, in practice, the CPC is the only party in the PRC,[2] maintaining a unitary government and centralizing the state, military, and media.[3] The legal power of the Communist Party is guaranteed by the national constitution.[3] The current party leader is Hu Jintao, who holds the title of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China.

The party was founded in July 1921 in Shanghai.[4][5][6] After a lengthy civil war, the CPC defeated its primary rival, the Kuomintang (KMT), and assumed full control of mainland China by 1949.[7] The Kuomintang retreated to the island of Taiwan, where it still remains to this day.

The party has fluctuated between periods of reformism and political conservatism throughout its history. Both before and after the founding of the PRC, the CPC's history is defined by various power struggles and ideological battles, including destructive socio-political movements such as the Cultural Revolution. At first a conventional member of the international Communist movement, the CPC broke with its counterpart in the Soviet Union over ideological differences in the 1960s. The Communist Party's ideology was redefined under Deng Xiaoping to incorporate principles of market economics, and the corresponding reforms enabled rapid and sustained economic growth.

The CPC is the world's largest political party,[8] claiming over 80 million members[9] at the end of 2010 which constitutes about 6.0% of the total population of mainland China. The vast majority of military and civil officials are members of the Party.[10] Since 1978, the Communist Party has attempted to institutionalize transitions of power and consolidate its internal structure. The modern party stresses unity and avoids public conflict while practicing a pragmatic and open democratic centralism within the party structure.



The party's organizational structure was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt afterwards by Deng Xiaoping, who subsequently initiated "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" and brought all state apparatuses back under the rule of the CPC.

Theoretically, the party's highest body is the National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which meets at least once every five years. The primary organs of power in the Communist Party which is detailed in the party constitution include:

  • Central Committee, which includes:
    • The General Secretary, which is the highest ranking official within the Party and usually the Chinese paramount leader.
    • The Politburo, presently consisting of 25 full members (including the members of the Politburo Standing Committee); see current members of the Politburo for a complete list.
    • The Politburo Standing Committee, which currently consists of nine members; see current members of the Politburo Standing Committee for a complete list.
    • The Secretariat, the principal administrative mechanism of the CPC, headed by the General Secretary of the Central Committee;
    • The Central Military Commission (a parallel organization of the government institution of the same name);
  • The Central Discipline Inspection Commission, which is directly under the National Congress and on the same level with the Central Committee, charged with rooting out corruption and malfeasance among party cadres.

Organizations under the Central Committee

Other central organizations directly under the Party Central Committee include:

  • General Office[11]
  • Central Organization Department;
  • Central Publicity Department;
  • Central International Liaison Department;
  • Central United Front Work Department;
  • Central Policy Research Office;
  • Central Taiwan Work Office;
  • Central External Publicity Office;
  • Central Security Office;
  • Central Party School;
  • People's Daily;
  • Seeking Truth From Facts;
  • Party History Research Centre;
  • Party Research Centre;
  • Central Compilation and Translation Bureau.

In addition, there are numerous commissions and leading groups. Usually those commissions and leading groups have jurisdiction on both Party and State apparatus, and include ranking leaders up to the President of the People's Republic of China and the Premier of the State Council. The most important of them are:

  • Central Political and Legislative Affairs Commission;
  • Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilization;
  • Central Commission for Comprehensive Management of Social Order;
  • State Commission for Public Sector Reform;
  • Central Leading Group for Financial Work;
  • Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs;
  • Central Leading Group for Taiwan Affairs;
  • Central Leading Group for Foreign Affairs;
  • Central National Security Leading Group;
  • Central Leading Group for Rural Work;
  • Central Leading Group for Party Building;
  • Central Leading Group for Propaganda and Ideological Work;
  • Central Leading Group for Combating Pornography and Illegal Publications;
  • Central Leading Group for Preventing and Handling the Problem of Heretical Organizations (related to Falun Gong);
  • Central Leading Group for Preserving Stability;
  • Central Leading Group for Cultural System Reform;
  • Central Leading Group for Hong Kong and Macao Affairs;
  • Central Leading Group for Combating Bribery;
  • Central Leading Group for Protection of Party Secrets;
  • Central Leading Group for Advancing Grass-roots Party Organization and Training Party Members;
  • Central Leading Group for Tibet Work;
  • Central Leading Group for Xinjiang Work;
  • Central Anti-Corruption Guidance Group.

Every five years, the Communist Party of China holds a National Congress. The latest happened on October 19, 2007. Formally, the Congress serves two functions: to approve changes to the Party constitution regarding policy and to elect a Central Committee, about 300 strong. The Central Committee in turn elects the Politburo. In practice, positions within the Central Committee and Politburo are determined before a Party Congress, and the main purpose of the Congress is to announce the party policies and vision for the direction of China in the following few years.

The party's central focus of power is the Politburo Standing Committee. The process for selecting Standing Committee members, as well as Politburo members, occurs behind the scenes in a process parallel to the National Congress. The new power structure is announced obliquely through the positioning of portraits in the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Party. The number of Standing Committee members varies and has tended to increase over time. The Committee was expanded to nine at the 16th Party National Congress in 2009.

There are two other key organs of political power in the People's Republic of China: the formal government and the People's Liberation Army. The Party's main bodies to oversee the PLA are the Central Military Commission and the General Political Department.

There are, in addition to decision-making roles, advisory committees, including the People's Political Consultative Conference. During the 1980s and 1990s there was a Central Advisory Commission established by Deng Xiaoping which consisted of senior retired leaders, but with their death this has been abolished since 1992.


The flag of the Communist Party of China
The flag of the Communist Party of China
Political theorists have identified two groupings within the Communist Party[12] leading to a structure which has been called "one party, two factions".[13] The first is the "elitist coalition" or Shanghai clique which contains mainly officials who have risen from the more prosperous provinces. The second is the "populist coalition", the core of which are the tuanpai, or the "Youth League faction" which consists mainly of officials who have risen from the rural interior, through the Communist Youth League. Minor informal groupings include the reformist Qinghua clique, and the derogatorily-termed Crown Prince Party of officials benefiting from nepotism. The interaction between the two main factions is largely complementary with each faction possessing a particular expertise and both committed to the continued rule of the Communist Party and not allowing intra-party factional politics threaten party unity. It has been noted that party and government positions have been assigned to create a very careful balance between these two groupings.

Within his "one party, two factions" model, Li Chen has noted that one should avoid labelling these two groupings with simplistic ideological labels, and that these two groupings do not act in a zero-sum, winner take all fashion. Neither group has the ability or will to dominate the other completely.[14]


The party was small at first, but grew intermittently through the 1920s. Twelve voting delegates were seated at the 1st National Congress in 1921, as well as at the 2nd (in 1922), when they represented 195 party members. By 1923, the 420 members were represented by 30 delegates. The 1925 4th Congress had 20 delegates representing 994 members; then real growth kicked in. The 5th Congress (held in April May 1927 as the KMT was cracking down on communists) comprised 80 voting delegates representing 57,968 members.

It was on October 3, 1928 6th Congress that the now-familiar full and alternate structure originated, with 84 and 34 delegates, respectively. Membership was estimated at 40,000. In 1945, the 7th Congress had 547 full and 208 alternate delegates representing 1.21 million members, a ratio of one representative per 1,600 members as compared to 1:725 in 1927.

After the Party defeated the Nationalists, participation at National Party Congresses became much less representative. Each of the 1026 full and 107 alternate members represented 9,470 party members (10.73 million in total) at the 1956 8th Congress. Subsequent congresses held the number of participants down despite membership growing to more than 60 million by 2000.[15]


Location of the first Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in July 1921, in Xintiandi, former French Concession, Shanghai. Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The CPC has its origins in the May Fourth Movement of 1919, where radical political systems like anarchism and Communism gained traction among Chinese intellectuals.[16] Stalin opposed the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang because he wanted to expand Soviet influence in the province.[17] The CPC's ideologies have significantly evolved since its founding and establishing political power in 1949. Mao's revolution that founded the PRC was nominally based on Marxism-Leninism with a rural focus based on China's social situations at the time. During the 1960s and 1970s, the CPC experienced a significant ideological breakdown with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev, and later, Leonid Brezhnev. Since then Mao's peasant revolutionary vision and so-called "continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat" stipulated that class enemies continued to exist even though the socialist revolution seemed to be complete, giving way to the Cultural Revolution. This fusion of ideas became known officially as "Mao Zedong Thought", or Maoism outside of China. It represented a powerful branch of communism that existed in opposition to the Soviet Union's "Marxist revisionism".

Following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, however, the CPC under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping moved towards Socialism with Chinese characteristics and instituted Chinese economic reform. In reversing some of Mao's "extreme-leftist" policies, Deng argued that a socialist country and the market economy model were not mutually exclusive. While asserting the political power of the Party itself, the change in policy generated significant economic growth. The ideology itself, however, came into conflict on both sides of the spectrum with Maoists as well as progressive liberals, culminating with other social factors to cause the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests. Deng's vision for economic success and a new socialist market model became entrenched in the Party constitution in 1997 as Deng Xiaoping Theory. Chinese communists celebrate Stalin's birthday, 1949 The "third generation" of leadership under Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji, and associates largely continued Deng's progressive economic vision while overseeing the re-emergence of Chinese nationalism in the 1990s. Nationalist sentiment has seemingly also evolved to become informally the part of the Party's guiding doctrine. As part of Jiang's nominal legacy, the CPC ratified the Three Represents into the 2003 revision of the Party Constitution as a "guiding ideology", encouraging the Party to represent "advanced productive forces, the progressive course of China's culture, and the fundamental interests of the people." There are various interpretations of the Three Represents. Most notably, the theory has legitimized the entry of private business owners and quasi-"bourgeoisie" elements into the party.

The insistent road of focusing almost exclusively on economic growth has led to a wide range of serious social problems. The CPC's "fourth generation" of leadership under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, after taking power in 2003, attempted reversing such a trend by bringing forth an integrated ideology that tackled both social and economic concerns. This new ideology was known as the creation of a Harmonious Society using the Scientific Development Concept.

The degree of power the Party had on the state has gradually decreased as economic liberalizations progressed. The evolution of CPC ideology has gone through a number of defining changes that it no longer bears much resemblance to its founding principles. Some believe that the large amount of economic liberalization starting from the late 1970s to present, indicates that the CPC has transitioned to endorse economic neoliberalism.[18][19][20][21] The CPC's current policies are fiercely rejected as capitalist by most communists, especially anti-revisionists, and by adherents of the Chinese New Left from within the PRC.

The Communist Party of China comprises a single-party state form of government; however, there are parties other than the CPC within China, which report to the United Front Department of the Communist Party of China and do not act as opposition or independent parties. Since the 1980s, as its commitment to Marxist ideology has appeared to wane, the party has begun to increasingly invoke Chinese nationalism as a legitimizing principle as opposed to the socialist construction for which the party was originally created. The change from socialism to nationalism has pleased the CPC's former enemy, the Kuomintang (KMT), which has warmed its relations with the CPC since 2003.[22]

Political ideology and stances

Regional corruption and reform

The leaders of the Communist Party of China realize that there are serious problems with political corruption within China and with maintaining the trust of the Chinese people because of it. However, attempts made in closed-door sessions at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 17th Communist Party of China's Central Committee in September 2009 to grapple with these problems produced inconclusive results, although a directive which requires disclosure of investments and property holdings by party and governmental officials was passed.[23]

Relationship with competing ideologies

Trotskyists argue that the party was doomed to its present character, that of petty-bourgeois nationalism in the 1920s, because of the near-annihilation of the workers' movement in the KMT betrayal of 1927, which was made possible by Stalin's order that the Communists join with the KMT in a centrist coalition, effectively disarming it, which opportunity the KMT swiftly exploited to defeat the communist revolution.[24] This slaughter forced the tiny surviving Party to switch from a workers' union- to a peasant, guerilla-based organization, and to seek the aid of the most heterodox sources: from "patriotic capitalists" to the dreaded KMT itself, with which it openly sought to participate in a coalition government, even after the Japanese general surrender in 1945.[25] Chinese Trotskyists from Chen Duxiu onward have called for a political revolution against what they see as an opportunist, capitalist leadership of the CPC. Mao Zedong meets with President Nixon, February 29, 1972 Marxists also existed in the Kuomintang party. They viewed the Chinese revolution in different terms than the Communists, claiming that China already went past its feudal stage and in a stagnation period rather than in another mode of production. These Marxists in the Kuomintang opposed the Chinese communist party ideology.[26]

Maoists and other 'anti-revisionists' viciously attack the changes after Mao Zedong's death, calling them the precise "capitalist road" Mao had pledged to fight during the early existence of the PRC. They do not hold any allegiance to the CPC. An example of a well-known group, until recently armed, that looks to Mao's principles is the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) who the current CPC has publicly opposed. Also, some Maoist groupings attack even some of the shifts and changes that occurred while Mao was still alive and in leadership, like his 1972 welcoming of Richard Nixon (see lesser evil for more on this event). The Chinese New Left, which encompasses these Maoists and other postmodernists is a current within China that seeks to "revert China to the socialist road" i.e., to return China to the socialist system that existed before Deng Xiaoping's reforms.

Some of the opponents of the Party within the Chinese democracy movement have tended not to argue that a strong Chinese state is inherently bad, but rather that the Communist leadership is corrupt. The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 represented a controversial point in criticism of the Chinese Communist Party by Chinese students within China.[27]

Another school of thought argues that the worst of the abuses took place decades ago, and that the current leaders were not only unconnected with them, but were actually victims of that era. They have also argued that, while the modern Communist Party may be flawed, it is comparatively better than previous regimes, with respect to improving the general standard of living, than any other government that has governed China in the past century and can be seen in a more favourable light compared with most governments of the developing nations. As a result, the CPC has recently taken sweeping measures to regain support from the countryside, with limited success.

In addition, some scholars contend that China has never operated under a decentralized democratic regime in its several thousand years of history, and therefore it can be argued that the present political structure, albeit not up to Western moral or political standards, is the best possible option when compared to the alternatives. A sudden transition to democracy, these experts contend, would result in the economic and political upheaval that occurred in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and that by focusing on economic growth, China is setting the stage for a more gradual but sustainable transition to a more politically liberal system. This group sees mainland China as being similar to Franco's Spain in the 1960s, and South Korea during the 1970s when South Korea was run by corrupt, authoritarian regimes. This school of thought also brings together some unlikely political allies. Not only do most intellectuals within the Chinese government follow this school of thinking, but it is also the common belief held amongst pro-free trade liberals in the West.

Many observers from both within and outside of China have argued that the CPC has taken gradual steps towards democracy and transparency, hence arguing that it is best to give it time and room to evolve into a better government that is more responsive to its people rather than forcing an abrupt change with all the deleterious effects such a loss of stability might entail.[28] However, other observers (like Minxin Pei) question whether these steps are genuine efforts towards democratic reform or disingenuous measures by the CPC to retain power.[29]


The CPC is officially atheist, and prohibits party members from holding religious beliefs (though this ban is, in many cases, unenforceable).[30]

The Party's United Front Work Department coordinates with the State Administration for Religious Affairs to manage the country's five officially sanctioned religions. Unregistered religious groups face varying degrees of suppression under the Communist Party.[31]

Current leadership

The Members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China are:

  1. Hu Jintao: CPC General Secretary, PRC President, Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
  2. Wu Bangguo: Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
  3. Wen Jiabao: Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China
  4. Jia Qinglin: Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
  5. Li Changchun: Chairman of the CPC Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilization
  6. Xi Jinping: Top-ranked Secretary of CPC Central Secretariat, Vice President of the People's Republic of China, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission
  7. Li Keqiang: First-ranked Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China
  8. He Guoqiang: Secretary of Central Commission for Discipline Inspection
  9. Zhou Yongkang: Secretary of Political and Legislative Affairs Committee

Members of the Politburo of the CPC Central committee: Wang Lequan, Wang Zhaoguo, Hui Liangyu, Liu Qi, Liu Yunshan, Li Changchun, Wu Yi, Wu Bangguo, Wu Guanzheng, Zhang Lichang, Zhang Dejiang, Luo Gan, Zhou Yongkang, Hu Jintao, Yu Zhengsheng, He Guoqiang, Jia Qinglin, Guo Boxiong, Cao Gangchuan, Zeng Qinghong, Zeng Peiyan, Wen Jiabao.

Alternate member of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee: Wang Gang

Members of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee: Zeng Qinghong, Liu Yunshan, Zhou Yongkang, He Guoqiang, Wang Gang, Xu Caihou, He Yong.

Historical leaders

Between 1921 and 1943 the Communist Party of China was headed by the General Secretary:

  • Chen Duxiu, General Secretary 1921 1922 and 1925 1927
  • Qu Qiubai, General Secretary 1927 1928
  • Xiang Zhongfa, General Secretary 1928 1931
  • Li Lisan, acting General Secretary 1929 1930
  • Wang Ming, acting General Secretary 1931
  • Bo Gu, a.k.a. Qin Bangxian, acting General Secretary 1932 1935
  • Zhang Wentian a.k.a. Luo Fu, acting General Secretary 1935 1943

In 1943 the position of Chairman of the Communist Party of China was created.

In 1982, the post of Chairman was abolished, and the General Secretary, at this time held by the same man as the post of Chairman, once again became the supreme office of the Party.

  • Hu Yaobang, General Secretary 1982 1987
  • Zhao Ziyang, General Secretary 1987 1989
  • Jiang Zemin, General Secretary 1989 2002
  • Hu Jintao, General Secretary since 2002


Though the CPC charges a limited due on its members for its expenditure, its total amount would be insignificant for the continued operation of this hegemony. The actual ratio of membership dues among the total amount is less than 1/11. While the budget constitutes of limited amount of donations and business operations owned by the party, its majority comes from the grant of national treasury,[32] the same way that supports the other 8 subordinative registered parties, which making a bizarre exception among modern political parties. However, unlike the governmental departments, there is not even a de jure procedure for legal supervision of such grants as for now. Proposals for reformation has since been put aside untouched.

See also

  • Chinese democracy movement
  • Communist Party of the Republic of China
  • Kuomintang
  • Government of the People's Republic of China
  • Taiwanese Communist Party
  • List of PRC political parties


  • Crown Prince Party
  • Shanghai clique
  • Tsinghua clique
  • Tuanpai



External links

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