The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is of course, correctly, in the first place an event for China. People in China, equally, naturally rightly look at it first from a national viewpoint – it is the CPC which has led China’s national rejuvenation.
By John Ross
Published on Learning From China, June 30, 2021
The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is of course, correctly, in the first place an event for China. People in China, equally, naturally rightly look at it first from a national viewpoint – it is the CPC which has led China’s national rejuvenation.
In essence, at its foundation, the CPC made a promise to China’s people. If the methods and organisation the CPC proposed were adopted China would be taken from the extraordinary national suffering, disintegration and humiliation it suffered in the almost a century after Western countries, and then Japan, launched aggression against China from the 1840s onwards. The incredible intensity of that national suffering, and the struggles to overcome it, may be seen in the fact that between 1839 and 1949 almost 100 million Chinese people died in wars which directly resulted from foreign intervention, or civil wars, famines and other disasters related to that intervention.
It is clear that in national terms that the CPC’s promise of national rejuvenation to the Chinese people has been kept. After a century in which foreign armies trampled across China, China has become an extremely powerful state which no country dare attack. After 1949, for the first time for many generations, the Chinese people, and no one else, would decide their country’s fate. China’s national independence was fully restored. All these factors of national rejuvenation are far over and above the social data analysed below as China’s regaining of its right to decide its own national affairs was the precondition for all other achievements.
But, for a series of important reasons, it is also significant to look not only at the national framework but at the international context of this 100th anniversary of the CPC.
- First, because accurate judgement of this international context, and of international comparisons, casts further light on China’s national development, making even clearer the true scale of the extraordinary achievements of the CPC in China’s own rejuvenation.
- Second, because it reveals the ways in which the fate of China is inextricably linked with that of humanity as a whole. Such an analysis clearly reveals that that the CPC, by leading China’s national rejuvenation, plays a leading role not only in the progress of its own country but in the progress of the whole of humanity. China’s domestic achievements, its national rejuvenation, is on such a huge scale that they help shape the overall global situation. This determines not only the domestic but the global significance of the CPC.
- Third, these facts mean that the CPC, in order to lead the Chinese people has to, and already has, taken into account not only the situation in China but also the international one. This similarly directly relates to recent discussion on China’s international communications which has been taking place – most notably, of course, at the Politburo study meeting on 31 May chaired by Xi Jinping.
This specific aim of this article, therefore, is to contribute to discussion of the significance of the 100th anniversary of the CPC by placing it in this international context.
China in the context of a grave international crisis
This interaction between China’s rejuvenation and the international situation is also of particular significance at present because not only China but humanity as a whole faces a fundamental crossroads in global development which affects every country on the planet – as will be seen this is not in the slightest a rhetorical exaggeration but a literal reality. On the one hand, with the CPC’s leadership, China’s national rejuvenation has proceeded at an unprecedented pace. But simultaneously various international forces are attempting to block China’s development – as seen clearly in the new “cold war” launched against China by powerful US circles. Furthermore, the overall international context in which this attempted US cold war is unfolding is that humanity today faces a series of great crises which will inevitably personally affect billions of people – and the worst of which are literally capable of eliminating a large part of humanity.
The first, and most direct, manifestation of this is that certain international questions are so powerful that they immediately affect China’s own fate – the threat of nuclear war, climate change, the global economic situation, pandemics, to name only the most powerful. Neither China, nor any other individual country, can by themselves escape the consequences of this international situation. The consequences that would flow from nuclear war are too well known to need elaborating – nuclear war would eliminate a large part of humanity. But even without such a war scientists estimate that well within a decade decisive action must be taken to deal with climate change or humanity faces uncontrollable risks which at a minimum would gravely affect the condition of life of billions of people and in the most extreme developments would gravely threaten human civilization.
In the shorter term, less catastrophic, but threatening millions of lives, the Covid19 pandemic internationally is not under control, and, in addition to its large-scale loss of life, this has produced the greatest global economic downturn since the Great Depression. This economic downturn will in turn produce great human suffering – the World Bank estimates it will push around 100 million people into poverty globally and hundreds of millions will suffer falls in incomes or loss of jobs.
In summary Xi Jinping’s statement that China faces “major changes unseen in a century”is precisely accurate and in no sense exaggerated. A century ago, the world faced changes which fundamentally reshaped it – the US assuming the position previously held by Britain of being the world’s dominant financial and economic power, revolution in Russia and the establishment of the USSR, the creation of the CPC and the beginning of the Chinese revolution, then a great economic crisis, followed by the rise of militarism and fascism which culminated in the greatest war in world history which was necessary to defeat them. Today the specific issues are different but their consequences for humanity are as great – in particular nuclear war, in an immediate sense, and the consequences of uncontrolled climate change over a longer period, which is capable of rendering parts of the planet uninhabitable and creating a general crisis of the present forms of human civilisation, are on the same scale of fundamental historical threats to humanity as fascism.
Given this situation, in addition to other threats and possibilities that could be mentioned, Xi Jinping has therefore repeatedly underlined the inevitable interrelation of China’s domestic situation with this international context, referring to: “this global village of ours, where countries’ interests and future are so interconnected.” Therefore, from the positive angle: “The Chinese people are well aware that China’s development has benefited from the international community.”  The reverse however equally applies – China would be unable to escape the consequences of serious adverse international developments. China’s interaction with the rest of the world is therefore of critical importance both globally and for China’s own progress.
This, however, overlaps with another question. Due to the success of China’s national rejuvenation, and in order to attempt to block this, the US has launched numerous attacks on China. These are not only economic and military but also in the sphere of propaganda. The study session of the CPC Politburo on 31 May directly dealt with these issues of international communication by China. For reasons that will be analysed such international communication regarding China is directly tied to the issue of an accurate international understanding of the scale of achievements of the CPC.
The CPC’s achievements in international perspective
While, as will be seen, the most important issue is the correct estimation in international terms of the achievements of the CPC, nevertheless, it is useful to start with the secondary, relative to this, but still significant issue of China’s international communication.
At the study session of the Politburo on 31 May President Xi Jinping outlined the key features of this issue. That China needs “to develop a voice in international discourse that matches China’s comprehensive national strength and international status”. That China must have a “reliable, admirable and respectable image.” President Xi Jinping stressed that this meant improving China’s capacity for engaging in international communication to present a true, multi-dimensional and panoramic view of the country.
People’s Daily noted that: “In August 2018, General Secretary Xi Jinping proposed at the National Propaganda and Ideological Work Conference to take the initiative to publicize the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, take the initiative to tell the story of the Chinese Communist Party’s governance of the country, the story of the Chinese people’s struggle to realize their dreams, and China’s persistence in peace. Develop the story of win-win cooperation and let the world understand China better.
“In the collective study speech of the Politburo [on 31 May 2021], General Secretary Xi Jinping also emphasized the need to strengthen the propaganda and interpretation of the Communist Party of China, to help foreign people realize that the Communist Party of China really strives for the happiness of the Chinese people.”
As will be seen, these are the key issues for the international communication of China, and they relate directly to the achievements of the CPC in its 100 years of development. This is what is fundamental as the precise starting point for international communication – not the sometimes superficial discussion which exists in the foreign media, and even parts of the Chinese media, which discusses in terms that China’s international communication should be “softer”, “harder”, discussion of the desirability or not of “wolf warriors” etc.
This directly interrelates with the question of the achievements of the CPC itself – because the starting point of any analysis of the international communication of China, must be to start by an objective evaluation of the achievements of the CPC and of China during the leadership of the CPC.
China’s is the greatest social achievement in the history of humanity
In discussion in the Chinese media of the study session of the Politburo on 31 May it was noted that: “due to the cultural tradition of humility of the Chinese nation, China is not a country that loves promoting itself to other nations… Our nation believes that as long as the works have been done nicely, the words would be unnecessary, and then the sincere compliments from others will emerge automatically.”
But while “modesty” may be a personal virtue the issue is quite different in relation to major international issues. As always in serious matters, there is no virtue in “optimism”, no virtue in “pessimism”, no virtue in “boasting”, no virtue in “modesty”. There is only a virtue in realism. Therefore, the starting point of any examination of the international significance of the CPC and of China’s international communication must be a strictly objective examination, without exaggeration in any direction, of the achievements of China during the period of the CPC – and in particular of China’s achievements since the creation of the People’s Republic of China.
Any examination of the facts regarding this arrives at a clear conclusion which may be simply stated. The CPC has been responsible for leading by far the greatest improvement in the conditions of the greatest proportion of humanity in the whole of human history. This is not boasting, a rhetorical statement, or one by an overheated patriot, or a dogmatic Marxist. It is simply a statement of fact. But such a gigantic human fact necessarily has the greatest implications not only for China but for the world and provides a starting point for international comparisons and analysis. It also provides the starting point for any international communication of China.
The scale of the CPC’s achievement
That such a statement of the historical achievements of the CPC is no sense an exaggeration, in no sense boasting, may be seen even setting aside such gigantic primarily national achievements for China itself as the removal of all foreign forces from Chinese soil, the effective reunification of China after the period of foreign invasions and civil wars, the creation of military forces so powerful that for the first time for over a century the people of China, and they alone, will determine the fate of the country. The scale of social and economic achievement in China are quite literally on a scale never seen in any other country in human history. This is not merely a fact, but it must be the starting point of all those involved in the international communications of China. This reality may be easily established.
In 1949 China was almost the world’s poorest country – only two Asian and eight African countries had lower per capita GDPs than China. By 2020 China had not only eliminated absolute poverty and achieved “moderate prosperity” by its own domestic criterion, but it was on the brink of becoming a “high-income economy” by international World Bank standard – this goal will be achieved by 2023.
This is not simply, or even primarily, an economic achievement, its most important consequence is gigantic improvements in human living standards, life expectancy, education, culture, the ability to take real choices in life and innumerable other dimensions of human welfare.
As is well known this unparalleled improvement in the life of humanity was achieved in two waves which were different but interrelated – it is extremely important both objectively and for international communication to stress their interrelation as one of the more subtle means of international attacks on China is to attempt to separate them by the theory of “historical nihilism” by which one or other of these phases is denigrated and its achievements denied.
From 1949-1978 the basis of China’s economic achievement was laid in the creation of the foundations of modern industry. But over and above that its overall impact was that China accomplished the largest “social miracle” in human history. As is well known to economists, average life expectancy is the best overall indicator of social conditions as it takes all positive developments (rising incomes, good education, good health provision, environmental protection), subtracts all negative ones (poverty, lack of education, poor health provision, environmental damage) and reduces them to a single number – average life expectancy. In 1949 China’s people lived three years less than the world average, by 1978 they lived over five years longer than the world average. In short, in 1949-78 China went from a country with living conditions well below the world average to those well above it. As China in 1978 was 22% of the world’s population never in human history had such an immense step forward in relative social conditions of such a large proportion of humanity taken place.
Then from 1978, with the introduction of “reform and opening up”, China achieved the fastest economic growth every achieved by a major country in human history. From 1978 to 2020 China’s annual average GDP growth was 9.2% – its economy grew in size more than 40 times. No other country in history has achieved such a high growth rate over such a sustained period. The “socialist market economy” which achieved was in line with Marx but was also in practical terms an historically unprecedented economic system. The correct reforms in the introduction of this socialism market economy, of reform and opening up, allowed China to avoid the economic stagnation which had struck the USSR by the 1970s. The CPC’s success was therefore not purely practical but also in the realm of theory – the conceptualisation and introduction of an economic system which has proved itself the most successful in the history of humanity. Whereas the policies introduced from Gorbachev onwards in the USSR resulted in national and economic catastrophe for Russia, by opening up the way to the restoration of capitalism under Yeltsin, China’s “reform and opening up” ensured the success of socialism in China. Furthermore, while there is not the space to analyse this issue at length here, this was only one of the great theoretical achievements of the CPC which produced a quite different and successful outcome compared to the USSR. In summary the success of the CPC was not only practical but deeply theoretical.
Xi Jinping put it very precisely on these two periods of China’s post-1949 development:
“The two phases – at once related to and distinct from each other – are both pragmatic explorations in building socialism conducted by the people under the leadership of the Party. Chinese socialism was initiated after the launch of reform and opening up and based on more than 20 years of development since the socialist system was established in the 1950s after the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded. Although the two historical phases are very different in their guiding thoughts, principles, policies, and practical work, they are by no means separated from or opposed to each other. We should neither negate the pre- reform-and-opening-up phase in comparison with the post-reform-and -opening-up phase, nor the converse.”
For such a large country to go in only just over 70 years, a single lifetime, from such poverty to a high-income economy is historically without parallel.
It is clear that no other country in human history has even come close to delivering the benefits of such economic development to such a large proportion of the world’s population. The first country in human history to experience rapid economic growth was Britain at the time of the Industrial Revolution – this was 2% of the world’s population. The US, after its Civil War, experienced rapid growth that affected 3.2% of the world’s population. The Soviet Union’s rapid growth after 1929 was with 8.4% of the world’s population. But China at the beginning of its rapid economic growth was 22% of the world’s population. China’s economic growth therefore benefitted an almost three times greater proportion of humanity than any other country which had ever experienced rapid economic development.
In terms of the benefit to the population in average living standards, between 1978 and 2020 China’s household consumption grew by 1,800 percent – average household consumption in China increased 18 times. The next large country after this was Indonesia, at a 920% increase in the same period. China improved household consumption more than twice as much as any other large country.
To understand the global impact of such an unprecedented development it is simply necessary to note that China has a bigger population than all other countries with high income economies put together – China is nearly 18% of the world’s population, while all existing high-income economies are 16%. China entering the ranks of high-income economies will therefore more than double the number of people in the world living in high income economies – a globally transformative event.
China has eliminated absolute poverty, lifting 853 million people out of World Bank internationally defined poverty – three out of four people lifted out of poverty in the world. In summary global poverty reduction is above all due to China.
As already noted, beyond the direct effects of economic development, the best index of a country’s overall living conditions is average life expectancy. By far the most important factor in this is per capita GDP – statistically it accounts for 73% of life expectancy. However, 27% is not accounted for by per capita GDP. Therefore, it is possible to measure the effect of other social conditions by whether life expectancy is above or below that which would be expected for a country with that level of per capita GDP.
The US population, for example, on average lives two years less than would be expected from US per capita GDP. In China, the average life expectancy is over two years more than would be expected from its per capita GDP. Therefore, for China non-directly economic factors (health, schooling, the environmental situation, etc.) are even better than the economic growth development.
These data confirm that the aim of development is not to have the economy grow rapidly as an end in itself. The aim is to improve the conditions of the people – and the data shows that the lives of the Chinese people were improved even more than was indicated by China’s literally unparalleled economic data.
The globally transformative impact of China’s development
To return to the starting point, therefore, international comparisons shows that China under the CPC’s leadership has achieved the greatest improvement in living conditions of the greatest number of people in human history. Or as Xi Jinping stated in his speech on 95th anniversary of the CPC’s founding: “The largest developing country in the world has escaped poverty… and has become the second largest economy in the world… creating an earth-shattering development miracle in the history of human social development, and bringing new and vigorous vitality to the Chinese nation.”
In summary, the CPC did not merely deliver on a national promise to the Chinese people in a geopolitical, cultural and other sense. It produced the greatest improvement in the conditions of the largest proportion of humanity in history. That is not rhetoric, it is just the record of 100 years. These are the fundamental facts on which any assessment of the 100th anniversary of the CPC must be based.
The interrelation of national rejuvenation and international communication
The above establishes the objective facts of the role of the CPC in China’s national rejuvenation and explains the extremely high level of popular support given to China’s government – even Western opinion poll studies regularly show over 90% support of the Chinese population for China’s government. This is easily the highest for any country in the world and far above that in Western countries. However, to understand both the objective situation of China, the global significance of the CPC, and the task of global communications it is necessary to clearly understand the difference between China’s international situation and its domestic one. The central core of this, around which everything else must be organised, it not technical. It is a question of what is the objective international, and not only Chinese significance, of the CPC and therefore what is the content of must be said in international communication – to put it in the vocabulary of Western public relations, what is the “narrative” that must be told?
In regard to this, Marxism has a strictly realistic view of human consciousness and understanding – without any element of idealism or romanticism. It does not believe that the overwhelming majority of human beings act on the basis of abstract moral criteria – either in their day-to-day activity or in achieving socialism. What are experienced as the psychological “common sense” or “moral” views of different sections of humanity are in fact expressions of their material self-interest.
This has an immediate implication. Certainly, a relatively small number of people in every country can and will act on the basis of the general interests of humanity or for support of other countries – these are the “vanguard” in every country. But, unlike the vanguard, the masses in every country act on the basis of their own material interests. For the mass of the people of China, therefore, the national rejuvenation of China is in their immediate material interests and therefore China’s national rejuvenation can be the slogan inspiring the broadest mass of the Chinese people.
But outside China the situation is different. A relatively small vanguard internationally will support the national rejuvenation of China because they believe it is in the interests of China, or because they believe it is in the general interests of humanity, or both. It is very necessary to communicate to such forces because they are a stable source of support for China and because such a “vanguard”, in terms of the more than six billion people in the world outside China, is itself tens of millions of people. But the mass of the population globally, that is billions of people, cannot be rallied behind causes which do not touch them directly or does not correspond to their self-interest.
Therefore the “national rejuvenation” of China, while it is the entirely correct slogan for the mass of the people of China, cannot be the mass basis of China’s international communication. To have mass appeal it is necessary that those outside China see that China’s development is also in their own interests well as China’s.
The key to this international understanding is precisely the concept of a “common destiny of humanity” developed by Xi Jinping, and which is the core principle guiding the CPC’s foreign policy in the present world situation. This expresses objective reality, it is the basis of the international as well as the Chinese significance of the CPC and is also the key to China’s international communications. This concept explains the objective reality of global economy and society and therefore of the material interests of the mass of the population of the world in all countries.
The basis of the concept of the common destiny of humanity
The origins of the concept of common destiny of humanity in the foundations of both classical Western economic thought and Marxism are clear. Marx took from Adam Smith the understanding that division of labour (which Marx more accurately designated as “socialisation of labour”) was the most fundamental force of economic development. Smith himself noted that without social division of labour humanity, that is if it had remained resting on individual production, would have remained in an extremely primitive state of underdevelopment – more precisely non-development. As Smith put it in the opening sentence of The Wealth of Nations: “The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is directed, or applied, seem to have been the effect of the division of labour.”
As Marx stressed the progressive development of human society was based on the increasing division/socialisation, of labour. As Marx noted: “How far the productive forces of a nation are developed is shown most manifestly by the degree to which the division of labour has been carried. Each new productive force… causes a further development of the division of labour.” 
Humanity, starting with small scale localised production, progressed via increasing division/socialisation of labour to culminate in modern globalisation production – in which humanity is linked with a planetary scale of interconnected production. It is this globalised scale of division/socialisation of labour which makes possible the colossal development of modern production and therefore the enormous material advancement of humanity. But this division/socialisation of labour therefore also produces a “common destiny of humanity” because every country’s development in such a globalised system becomes increasingly interconnected, directly and indirectly, with the development of other countries.
This reality is, therefore, certainly a clear implication of Marxism. But it was first explicitly formulated and conceptualised by the CPC and is a cornerstone of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This analysis of a common future for humanity is therefore an outstanding example of the creative development of Marxism – firmly rooted in fundamental Marxist concepts, and classical Chinese and Western thought, but developing this in striking new ways that directly relate to and reflect contemporary realities.
As a consequence of this analysis, as Xi Jinping put it on the 95th anniversary of the founding of the CPC: “The purpose of China’s foreign policy is to maintain world peace and promote common development… China is willing to expand the intersection of interests with other countries, promote the construction of a new type of international relations with cooperation and win-win at the core, and promote the formation of a community with a shared future for humanity.” 
National rejuvenation and human liberation
Xi Jinping’s formula immediately establishes the understanding of the relation between China’s national rejuvenation and humanity. As the fate of every country is interdependent this consequently necessarily equally applies to China itself. Therefore, as Xi Jinping put it: “Our responsibility is… to pursue the goal of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, so that China can stand firmer and stronger among the world’s nations, and make new and greater contributions to mankind.” Or as Xi Jinping put it at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties meeting in 2017: “The CPC is a political party dedicated to the wellbeing of the Chinese people and to the progress of human society.”
This, therefore, is both the basis of analysis of the international significance of the CPC and of China’s international communications. It is necessary to bring China’s international communication into line with and practically and professionally execute Xi Jinping’s key concept. That is to identify, and present in the most mass understandable way possible, the ways in which China’s national rejuvenation intersects with, and is in line with, the general interests of humanity.
The development of Marxism
Within this overall framework of understanding for international communication the difference between China’s “national rejuvenation”, which is the correct basis of a mass line in China, and the “common destiny of humanity”, which is the basis of a mass line outside China, a number of more detailed issues arise. One is the use of Chinese concepts – rather than acceptance of the false framework of Western capitalist thought.
People’s Daily noted: “General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that it is necessary to strengthen top-level design and research layout, build a strategic communication system with distinctive Chinese characteristics.” In their analysis of Xi Jinping’s speech similarly Yang Sheng and Liu Xin noted Xi stressed greater efforts to construct China’s own discourse and narrative, interpreting China’s practices by its own theories.
From the author’s own experience this is crucial. Because he is not Chinese, Chinese journalists wrongly assume that he may share Western criticisms of China and therefore some say to him what they actually think but do not dare to say in public. There has been a significant improvement in the present period, with some outstanding examples of China’s journalists communicating China’s reality internationally, but particularly in the past I was horrified to find out how some journalists in Chinese international communications in fact accepted an anti-CPC framework – supporting Western ideas of the superiority of the Western political system, supporting capitalism and not socialism etc.
Such an acceptance of false Western framework is fatal not only for judging the international significance of the CPC but for international communication. The most elementary rule of any mass propaganda, agitation or communication, for example an election campaign of which I have had numerous experiences, is that the side which sets the terms of the debate wins the election. So the first and most fundamental struggle is to establish the terms of the debate. If China’s international communication accepts the framework or Western analysis, such as Western fake definitions of “human rights”, then China’s defeat in international communication is inevitable. It is therefore vital to construct China’s own discourse and narrative, interpreting China’s practices by its own theories which are far more objective, realistic and more correspond to reality than those of the West.
Marxism is the foundation of the success of the CPC
The issue of Marxism is directly raised within that framework. The entire basis of the CPC’s extraordinary success is based on Marxism and its integration with Chinese reality. As President Xi Jinping has stressed, the key to the CPC’s achievements is its ability to integrate Marxism with China’s reality: “In 1921, after the May Fourth Movement, the Chinese Communist Party was born in the process of integrating Marxism-Leninism with the Chinese labour movement under the background of the Chinese nation’s internal and external troubles and social crisis.
“The Communist Party was born in China, which was a great event that broke new ground. This ground-breaking event has profoundly changed the direction and process of the development of the Chinese nation in modern times, profoundly changed the future and destiny of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, and profoundly changed the trend and pattern of world development.” 
This ability of the CPC to fuse Marxism with Chinese reality enabled the simultaneous defeat of the century long direct foreign aggression against China and opened the way for China’s socialist modernisation. Securing of real national independence formed the CPC’s original great international policy goal. As Xi Jinping put it: “This great historical contribution is that our party united and led the Chinese people in a 28-year bloody battle to defeat Japanese imperialism, overthrow the Kuomintang’s reactionary rule, complete the new democratic revolution, and establish the People’s Republic of China. The significance of this great historical contribution was to completely end the history of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal society of old China, to completely end the situation of the fragmentation of old China, and to completely abolish the unequal treaties imposed on China by the great powers and all the privileges of imperialism in China. China made a great leap from the feudal despotism which had existed for thousands of years to people’s democracy.” 
As Xi Jinping has stressed, therefore, the ongoing success of the CPC depends on its continuing adherence to Marxism: “we must adhere to the guiding position of Marxism, adhere to the close integration of the basic principles of Marxism with the reality of contemporary China.”  Consequently: “Marxism is the fundamental guiding ideology for our party and nation. If we deviate from or abandon Marxism, our party will lose its soul and lose its direction. On the fundamental issue of upholding the guiding position of Marxism, we must be firm and unwavering, and we must not waver in the slightest at any time and under any circumstances.”  In summary, as Xi Jinping stated: “what we want to build is socialism with Chinese characteristics, not any other ideologies.” 
However, this integration of Marxism with China’s reality was not a process carried out by abstract discussion. It was achieved because every political position taken was tested out in practice in huge social struggles. Due to the huge scale of these struggles mistakes were ruthlessly punished and policies which corresponded to reality were proven to be correct – precisely as Mao Zedong outlined in his famous work “On Practice”. In the culmination of these as Xi Jinping succinctly summarized:
“In 1911, the revolution led by Sun Yat-sen overthrew the autocratic monarchy that had ruled China for several thousand years. But once the old system was gone, where China would go became the question. The Chinese people then started exploring long and hard for a path that would suit China’s national conditions. They experimented with constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentarism, multi-party system and presidential government, yet nothing really worked. Finally, China took the path of socialism.”
In line with this even within the CPC initially a tremendous struggle took place to arrive at the correct line. In the first period of the CPC’s development errors of dogmatically following advice from the USSR existed. Only after significant struggles did the correct views of Mao Zedong achieve unchallenged dominance within the CPC. This reality was analysed in the “Resolution on certain questions in the history of our party since the founding of the People’s Republic of China” adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on June 27, 1981. This noted: “The erroneous tendency of making Marxism a dogma and deifying Comintern resolutions and the experience of the Soviet Union prevailed in the international communist movement and in our Party mainly in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and this tendency pushed the Chinese revolution to the brink of total failure. It was in the course of combating this wrong tendency and making a profound summary of our historical experience in this respect that Mao Zedong Thought took shape and developed.”
The CPC is the creation of immense social struggles
This, indeed, is a rule of the development of socialism and Communist Parties. Because the resistance of capitalism is so great and completely ruthless, involving immense social struggles to overturn it, inevitably there will initially be attempts by progressive forces to achieve victories by what falsely might seem “easier” or alternative routes rather than engaging in the arduous struggle which can alone lead to victory. Only when these false “short cuts” have resulted in failure does it become clear which road is correct and social forces adopt the correct road. This has already been noted for China, but Lenin similarly noted it for Russia.
“Bolshevism arose in 1903 on a very firm foundation of Marxist theory. The correctness of this revolutionary theory, and of it alone, has been proved, not only by world experience throughout the nineteenth century, but especially by the experience of the seekings and vacillations, the errors and disappointments of revolutionary thought in Russia. For about half a century—approximately from the forties to the nineties of the last century—progressive thought in Russia, oppressed by a most brutal and reactionary tsarism, sought eagerly for a correct revolutionary theory, and followed with the utmost diligence and thoroughness each and every “last word” in this sphere in Europe and America. Russia achieved Marxism… through the agony she experienced in the course of half a century of unparalleled torment and sacrifice, of unparalleled revolutionary heroism, incredible energy, devoted searching, study, practical trial, disappointment. verification, and comparison with European experience…
“Bolshevism… went through fifteen years of practical history (1903–17) unequalled anywhere in the world in its wealth of experience. During those fifteen years, no other country knew anything even approximating to that revolutionary experience, that rapid and varied succession of different forms of the movement—legal and illegal, peaceful and stormy, underground and open, local circles and mass movements, and parliamentary and terrorist forms. In no other country has there been concentrated, in so brief a period, such a wealth of forms, shades, and methods of struggle of all classes of modern society, a struggle which, owing to the backwardness of the country and the severity of the tsarist yoke, matured with exceptional rapidity.” 
The similarity of Lenin’s analysis to Xi Jinping’s of how China achieved the road of socialism is obvious. The same process has occurred with every other success in achieving socialism – only via an intense social struggle, and the test of political lines not in discussion but in practice, could a political force capable of leading such a progressive struggle be created. Thus, for example, in Vietnam an immense struggle of the Vietnamese people against first French and then US imperialism was necessary to lead to the success of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). In Cuba the victory of the revolution in 1959, led by Fidel Castro, was preceded by the defeat of Castro’s attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. History confirms that a force capable of leading such huge social struggles cannot be created via abstract theoretical discussion but only via huge material social struggles.
It is for this reason that so far, with the fundamental exception of the Russian revolution, that it is only in developing countries, the Global South, such as China but also including other countries, that forces capable of leading a successful struggle for socialism have been created. In the Global North, the imperialist countries, capitalist social relations are as yet too stable for such a mass socialist leadership to emerge.
It is because it takes such an immense national and social effort to create an organisation capable of successfully leading such a struggle that the CPC has to be so safeguarded and developed – and any attempt to undermine it is so dangerous. The CPC is the organisational product of the struggle of literally hundreds of millions of Chinese people and of tens of millions vanguard fighters. It is in such enormous social struggles, on which the fate of nations depends, that the correctness of political lines is determined. The organisation that led these struggles is the crystallisation and embodiment of these immense struggles in which hundreds of millions of people participated and in which it took immense effort to succeed. That is why any weakening, denigration, or internal decay of such a party, in the case of China the CPC, is an immense setback in the first place for China but also for the whole of humanity.
The historical decay of the CPSU, and then its overthrow, led to a national catastrophe for Russia, to what Vladimir Putin rightly called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century” the disintegration of the USSR.Capitalism and separatism destroyed the USSR, and reduced Russia from leading a state with a population of 288 million to one with 143 million. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia’s economy contracted by almost 40%, male life expectancy dropped by six years to only 58 by 1998, and in 2008 Russia’s population was 5.3 million less than in 1991. Russia’s GDP growth over the period from 1991, the last year of the USSR, to 2013 was a mere 0.8% a year – compared to China’s 9.2%. In Ukraine, the second largest state of the former USSR, the result was worse. In 2020, Ukraine’s GDP was still 31% below its level in 1991 – i.e. Ukraine experienced net negative growth over a 29 year period. Major wars in the former USSR took place in Chechnya, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in Georgia, and in the Ukraine. The disintegration of the USSR destroyed Russia’s geopolitical position, and it is probable Russia will never regain it. A similar national historical catastrophe would hit China if the CPC degenerated or collapsed, leading to the CPC’s overthrow.
All this is, in the field of politics, an example of the fundamental formula of Marx regarding the goal of human society: “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” Marx was not a follower of sentimental “egalitarianism”. He did not say “in future society everyone will be equal, there will be no differences between people or social forces.” He said: “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” A Mao Zedong, a Lenin, or a Fidel Castro have exceptional abilities – which serve the interests of their countries and of all humanity. The CPC, as an organisation, has equally demonstrated itself to be correct. The respect felt for such leaders and organisations is a rational expression by the people of how these leaders and organisations expressed the interests of the masses.
United front and interaction
It has already been noted that the foundation of the CPC’s success was its adherence to Marxism, and the integration of Marxism with China’s reality. Therefore, the systematic understanding by China of Marxism, and the education of China in Marxism, is essential for China’s success. But, once again, there is a difference between the domestic situation in China and its requirements in international communication.
Apart from other socialist states, such as Vietnam or Cuba, the majority of the world’s population sill lives in capitalist countries. Within capitalism Marxism, even although it is correct, cannot be a dominant ideology or the understanding of the majority of the population. Furthermore China, in communicating with the majority of the world’s population, cannot base itself on a socialist system – as this does not yet exist in most countries. Therefore, China’s international communication, in order to affect the mass of the population, has to be expressed not only in Marxist but in non-Marxist terms. This is why, for example, it is necessary in international communication to explain China’s gigantic social and economic achievements in precise factual terms – the masses outside China will not respond to abstract Marxism but they will understand China’s concrete achievements.
This goal of internationally explaining China’s and the CPC’s achievement is entirely possible for two reasons. The first, the subjective and pedagogic one, is that a correct analysis of society can typically also be explained in non-Marxist terms – Marxism is much more precise and succinct in its reasoning but nevertheless it is frequently possible to express reality, not so precisely and at greater length, in non-Marxist terms. The second, and much more powerful reason, is that Marxism is not just a study about a future socialist or communist society. It includes a study of all the progressive trends which exist at whatever stage society has achieved. Therefore, the positions of Marxism are able to intersect with other progressive trends – this forms the basis of the united front approach of the CPC.
China is, of course, well aware of this from its own national history. The CPC was the core, and by far the most powerful force, within the struggle for the national rejuvenation of China. But the CPC never claimed it was the sole force fighting at different stages for China’s rejuvenation. In the war against Japan the CPC actively sought to collaborate with all forces fighting against Japanese militarism. In the creation of the PRC, while this struggle was led by the CPC, it also collaborated with other forces. To take only one of the most famous examples the “Resolution on certain questions in the history of our party since the founding of the People’s Republic of China” noted the outstanding role within this struggle of Madame Soong Ching-ling. But other non-CPC forces played a valuable role in the fight for the national rejuvenation of China.
It is, therefore, necessary to understand simultaneously the fundamental and leading role of the CPC, but also that the CPC itself, to play that role, consciously sought to create united action, a united front, of all those forces which take a progressive position on a major struggle.
This position, which was applied by the CPC on the national terrain, is equally fundamental in the global situation today – both for issues directly relevant to China’s national rejuvenation and those regarding the overall global situation.
The present global situation
To understand the objective international significance of the CPC, and how crucial the international communication of its policies is not only for China but for the world, and why the two are inseparably interrelated, it is necessary to examine the precise present and developing global situation.
Marxism, of course, analyses that eventually the entire world will make the transition to socialism – as socialism is a superior system of social organisation to capialism. But to deal with concrete problems of the coming period the issue of time scale must be considered – otherwise abstract truth can lead to errors regarding the current situation.
In Marxist analysis the global transition to socialism will be prolonged. The appropriate unit of measurement for this process is centuries – it is 150 years since the working class first took power in the Paris Commune, it is 104 years since a socialist society was first consolidated in Russia in 1917, it is 72 years since the creation of the People’s Republic of China, it is over 60 years since the Cuban people achieved socialism etc.
In line with this Marxist analysis of a prolonged period of global transition to socialism, there are today a number of countries which have already established socialism, a number of countries that have consciously chosen to embark on a path towards socialism, but the majority of the world remains capitalist. However, some of the key problems which are a great threat to humanity, in some cases an extreme threat, must be solved in a far shorter period of time than it will take for global socialism to be established. In some cases, as analysed at the beginning of this article, these extremely serious problems must be solved in a few years, that is in a period during which while socialism is showing that it is the most dynamic force internationally, as shown most strikingly in China’s achievements, but nevertheless the majority of the world will still live under capitalism.
Directly, in relation to China, the US openly calculates that it has only a short period of time, perhaps less than a decade, to slow down or halt China’s economic and social development or China will have become so strong that this will be impossible. It is for this reason that the US is putting such urgency into attempting to launch a cold war against China.
Internationally, the threat of nuclear war threatens the existence of human civilisation in its present form. Similarly, science concludes that decisive steps must be taken to limit carbon emissions within the next half decade to the next decade, or climate change will embark on such a high path of development that it will threaten the life situation of billions of people or even the present form of organisation of civilisation. Less cataclysmic, but affecting billions of people, the threat created by Covid19 must be contained – not only in terms of its direct effects on health but in terms of the scale of global economic downturn it has created.
Given that these problems must be solved in a far shorter period of time than it will take to make an international transition to socialism this means that they must be solved while capitalism still exists – indeed during a period when capitalism will be the largest global system. This, therefore, means China is faced with a complex situation in which it must make alliances with non-socialist forces – in order to both create the best international conditions for its own development and to participate in dealing with severe international crises which inevitably affect China itself.
This does not mean that China and other socialist countries will not continue to develop more dynamically than capitalist ones. Or that other countries cannot embark on a struggle to create socialism. Or that mass pressure is not required on the capitalist class, within capitalist countries, to achieve progressive outcomes. But it means that a situation has to exist which has some similarities to World War II, in which countries with different social systems, and not simply socialist but capitalist forces within capitalist countries, came together to fight a grave threat to humanity – in the 1930s and World War II that threat was fascism, and today it is threats such as climate change, nuclear war, the Covid19 pandemic and global economic downturn.
The CPC’s foreign policy is crucial not only for China but for humanity
It is not possible here to go into all the detailed questions of such policies of united action/united front as this would require an entire article of its own. But several interrelated general conclusions can be drawn.
The first is that, precisely due to gigantic scale of its achievement, the CPC, to achieve the national rejuvenation of China, has to increasingly take into account the international impact of its actions. As Xi Jinping noted: “Our country will move closer to the center stage of the world and make a greater contribution to humanity.”  This has a precise meaning – that the CPC plays an increasing role not only in the fate of China but in the fate of humanity. The CPC’s extraordinary success in pursuing the national rejuvenation of China has now built China into a country playing an increasingly decisive role in the world and, for reasons already outlined, this international situation will affect the fate of China itself.
The gigantic successes of the CPC during the 100 years of its development, outlined above, means the CPC, from the point of view of China’s national development, therefore now faces even greater challenges and responsibilities. While Xi Jinping stressed that Marxism was the CPC’s foundation, he simultaneously noted that Marxism had to develop not only in terms of its integration with Chinese society but also in line with the overall new unfolding development of not only of Chinese but global society: “in the face of the characteristics and practical requirements of the new era, Marxism is also facing the problem of further Sinicization, modernization, and popularization. Marxism does not end truth but opens up the road to truth. Engels had said long ago: ‘Marx’s entire worldview is not a doctrine, but a method. What it provides is not a ready-made dogma, but a starting point for further research and a method for such research.’” 
Therefore, as Xi Jinping put it: “We must examine the practical basis and practical needs of the contemporary development of Marxism with a broader perspective, adhere to the problem-oriented approach, insist on focusing on what we are doing, listen to the voice of the times, and further promote the development of Marxism in contemporary China. The combination of reality has continuously opened up a new realm for the development of Marxism in the 21st century, allowing contemporary Chinese Marxism to radiate a more brilliant light of truth.” 
The objective historical significance of the CPC
Finally, the facts given at the beginning of this article make clear that the CPC has become by far the most powerful force in the world not only for China’s rejuvenation but for socialism and for human progress in the most material sense. Furthermore, as already seen, China’s national rejuvenation increasingly means resolving questions which are international in scope. That is, in order to achieve China’s national rejuvenation, the CPC will act not only as the vanguard of China but as the vanguard of humanity. That is, as Xi Jinping put it: “Our responsibility is… to pursue the goal of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, so that China can stand firmer and stronger among the world’s nations and make new and greater contributions to mankind.” And that: “The CPC is a political party dedicated to the wellbeing of the Chinese people and to the progress of human society.” China’s national rejuvenation and the progress of humanity are not unconnected goals but are inseparably linked.
In order to avoid any misunderstanding regarding the consequences of this it, naturally, does not mean that an individual Chinese person is superior to citizens of another country any more than China’s leaders regard China as superior to other countries. The meaning of Mao Zedong’s famous words in 1949 that “The Chinese people have stood up”, was not one of China’s superiority to other countries but it was certainly a promise that in every respect – economic, political, social, cultural, moral – China’s national rejuvenation would restore it to full equality with every other country.
As Xi Jinping has stressed: “civilizations are equal, and such equality has made exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations possible… no civilization is perfect on the planet. Nor is it devoid of merit. No single civilization can be judged superior to another…. Both history and reality show that pride and prejudice are the biggest obstacles to exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations…. Every civilization is unique . Copying other civilizations blindly or mechanically is like cutting one’s toes to fit one’s shoes – impossible and highly detrimental. All achievements of civilizations deserve our respect and must be cherished.”
A number of countries have produced leaders and figures who are rightly regarded globally as heroes not only of their own countries but of all progressive human civilisation. Xi Jinping, for example, said of Fidel Castro on his death: “He has made immortal historic contributions to the Cuban people and to world socialist development. Comrade Fidel Castro is a great figure of our times and will be remembered by history and people… The great Comrade Fidel Castro will be remembered forever.”
Nevertheless, due to their sheer size, two events since the foundation of Marxism dominated the world. The first was the Russian revolution led by Lenin, the second was the Chinese revolution led by Mao Zedong. Therefore, as socialist theory progresses inextricably linked with practice, the development of Marxism itself may be divided into three great periods.
- The creation of Marxism by Marx and Engels – which created a revolutionary progress in human thought, establishing a new comprehensive and realistic view of the development of human society and of the eventual success of socialism, but created during a period when socialism could only be theoretically foreseen and analysed, but in which it was too early for its consolidation to be achieved.
- The development of Marxism-Leninism – Lenin developed Marxism to analyse the rise of imperialism, the practical onset of the epoch of socialist revolution, and the successful establishment of the means by which in practice socialism could be achieved in an imperialist country.
- The development of Mao Zedong Thought – Mao Zedong, starting from Marxism-Leninism, for the first time showed practically how socialism could be achieved in a developing country, in fact the largest developing country in the world, and in order to do so made many profound developments of Marxist theory itself. Building on this, other CPC leaders made important contributions to Marxism, the most recent being Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. But these of course developed and did not overturn Mao Zedong Thought.
With the degeneration, and then overthrow, of the CPSU this meant that the CPC is the strongest socialist force in the world – achieving this position due to its extraordinary successes during its 100 years of development. If the extraordinary achievement of the Russian revolution of 1917 inaugurated the international Soviet period of the development of socialism, the historically unparalleled achievements of the CPC have ushered in what is the global Chinese period of the development of socialism.
There is no contradiction between the fact that the CPC’s goal is the rejuvenation of China and the fact that its actions now have a global impact not only on the global development of socialism but in interaction with numerous other progressive forces. As the “Resolution on certain questions in the history of our party since the founding of the People’s Republic of China” put it Mao Zedong personally was not only a great leader of the Chinese people but: “He made major contributions to the liberation of the oppressed nations of the world and to the progress of humanity.” Similarly, today, for the reasons analysed, the CPC is the leading force in the national rejuvenation of China – but in doing so it has also become the leading force in the liberation of humanity. This is not rhetoric, it is the consequence of the gigantic achievements of the CPC analysed at the beginning of this article. So gigantic was the struggle of the Chinese people to rejuvenate their country that they created, in the CPC, a force which was not only capable of leading that rejuvenation, but which became the most powerful force for the whole liberation of humanity – and which to achieve the national rejuvenation of China is necessarily forced to play such a leading role internationally.
To return to the beginning of this analysis, the reasons for the necessity to make a strictly objective estimate of the significance and achievements of the CPC, without any exaggeration in any direction, is therefore clear. Without this it is impossible to arrive at an objective analysis. And such an analysis is vital because, precisely due to its achievements of the CPC, China is approaching its full national rejuvenation. Exactly in order to try to stop this the most powerful reactionary forces on the planet are now launching an attack on China – this is what lies behind the new cold war and other US attacks on China. This is developing, as already analysed, in the context of serious international threats not only to China but to humanity. The fate not only of China, but in a significant part the fate of the world depends, on the decisions which will be taken over the coming years by the CPC. The fortunate reality is that the achievements of the CPC in the 100 years of history has shown that there is no political party in the world better equipped to undertake this task.
Such a conclusion is not an idealisation, it is a sober political reality. It did not “descend from the skies” and it is not a “miracle”. It is a product of the tremendous historical struggle of the Chinese people. For over 180 years, since the beginning of foreign intervention in China, the Chinese people had to fight for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. From 1839 to 1949, as a result of the direct and indirect effect of this foreign intervention, around 100 million Chinese people died – the largest struggle for national and human liberation in history. For the first 80 years of that struggle the Chinese people sought for but could not find a leading force that could deliver them from this struggle. In 1921, with the foundation of the CPC, the Chinese people did forge such a leadership. Now the CPC, founded 100 years ago by a handful of people, will play a decisive role in deciding not only the fate of China but the fate of the world.
The above is not an exaggeration, it is just a fact. In the national rejuvenation of China, the CPC has achievements in the last 100 years which are unparalleled not only in the history of China but in the history of humanity.
The present developing global situation shows that China , and humanity, will have at least as great a need of the CPC in the many years to come.
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