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Chinese communist party

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Chinese communist party

Communist Party of China
Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng
Chinese name 中国共产党
General Secretary Xi Jinping[1]
Politburo Standing Committee Xi Jinping
Li Keqiang
Zhang Dejiang
Yu Zhengsheng
Liu Yunshan
Wang Qishan
Zhang Gaoli
Founded July 1, 1921 (1921-07-01)
Headquarters Zhongnanhai, Beijing
Youth wing Communist Youth League
Young Pioneers
Membership  (Late 2012) 85,127,000[2]
Ideology Marxism–Leninism,
Deng Xiaoping Theory,
Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
International affiliation Comintern (formerly)
International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties
National People's Congress
2,157 / 2,987
Party flag
Political parties

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,[3] a coalition of governing political parties, in practice, the CPC is the only party in the PRC,[4] maintaining a unitary government and centralizing the state, military, and media.[5] The legal power of the Communist Party is guaranteed by the national constitution. The current party leader is Xi Jinping,[1] who holds the title of General Secretary of the Central Committee.

Since becoming an institution of the state, aside from official commitment to communism and Marxism-Leninism, the party also has de facto unrecognized factions including consumerist and neoliberal figures including business people on the right who effectively support capitalism (although they have been subject to purges and repression in the Cultural Revolution and later, after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests), as well as factions on the left that oppose the right in the party, and other factions.[6]

The party was founded in July 1921 in Shanghai.[7][8][9] After a lengthy civil war, the CPC defeated Republic of China Armed Forces and assumed full control of mainland China by 1949.[10] The government of Republic of China retreated to the island of Taiwan, where it still holds power to this day.

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.[11]

The CPC is the world's largest political party,[12] claiming over 80 million members[13] 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.[14] 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 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:

Organizations under the Central Committee

Other central organizations directly under the Party Central Committee include:

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, before being reduced to 7 members at the Congress of 2012.

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.


Political theorists have identified two groups within the Communist Party,[16] a structure which has been called "one party, two factions".[17] The first is the "elitist coalition" or Shanghai clique which is composed mainly of 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 to 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 Cheng 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.[18]


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.[19]


Investigations and prosecutions of cadre who are suspect of corruption are conducted confidentially in a system run the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection which is separate from ordinary Chinese law enforcement and courts which are subject to influence by local cadre. According to The New York Times the system is called "shuanggui" and is greatly feared by corrupt party functionaries. According to The New York Times suspects are subjected to severe physical and psychological pressure. The system has resulted in successful investigation and prosecution of a number of corrupt cadre including some very powerful party officials. There is little sympathy by the Chinese public for corrupt officials who get caught up in the system, but also skepticism regarding its effectiveness.[20]


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.[21] Stalin opposed the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang because he wanted to expand Soviet influence in the province.[22] The CPC's ideologies have significantly evolved since its founding and establishing political power in 1949. Mao Zedong'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 in 1976, however, the CPC under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping moved towards Socialism with Chinese characteristics and instituted Chinese economic reform.[23] 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.[24] 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.

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-"bourgeois" 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 socialist 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.[25][26][27][28] In the 2000s, CPC leaders debated changing the party's name to remove the "Communist" label, but ultimately decided against it, fearing the emergence of a splinter Communist party.[29] 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. The continued dominance of the CPC, as with the parties of the last communist states (all in Asia and Latin America), can be attributed in part to its anti-colonial and "national liberation" credentials, burnished by its participation in events such as the Anti-Japanese War and the Korean War. According to historian of Communism Archie Brown, the memory of the Cultural Revolution, where a form of mass political mobilization turned against the Party and resulted in chaotic destruction, may account for the reticence of educated Chinese to press for an end to one-party rule.[29]

Political ideology and stances

Regional corruption and reform

The leading officials of the PRC have realised and acknowledged that there are severe issues related to political corruption within Mainland China. They've also realised that this jeopardises to an extent their targets of maintaining the trust of the Chinese people. 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.[30]

Relationship with competing ideologies

Trotskyist perspectives allegedly perceive the party as having been doomed to its present character - that of, what this point of view has labelled as 'petty-bourgeois nationalism - in the 1920s, because of the near-annihilation of the workers' movement in the KMT betrayal of 1927. Joseph Stalin's order then that the Communists join with the KMT in a centrist coalition effectively disarmed the Communist Party, which opportunity the KMT swiftly exploited to defeat the communist revolution.[31] This slaughter forced the tiny surviving Party to switch from a workers' union to a peasant, guerilla-based rebel group, 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.[32] Chinese Trotskyists from Chen Duxiu (1879-1942) onwards have called for a political revolution against what they see as the opportunist, capitalist leadership of the CPC.

Marxist perspectives from within the Kuomintang throughout history have shown a tendency to recount the Chinese revolution in different terms than the Communists of the CPC, with its adhereants controversially claiming that China already went past its feudal stage and had reached a period of stagnation rather than another mode of production. These Marxists in the Kuomintang thus opposed the CPC's ideology.[33]

Some[which?] Maoist and other so-called "anti-revisionist" perspectives are often able to criticise the changes made after Chairman Mao Zedong's death, claiming them to be them the exact "capitalist road" that Chairman Mao had pledged to fight during the early years of the PRC. An adherent of such a perspective, thus, would not necessarily sympathise or empathise with the CPC. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is an example of a well-known group, until recently armed, that adheres to Mao's ideologies, whom the CPC, as the de jure ruling power of the PRC, has officially denounced. Also, some Maoist groups even attack some of the shifts and changes that occurred when Mao Tse-Tung was still alive and in power, such as his 1972 welcoming of US president Richard Nixon. 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 of the 1980s, that favoured more allegedly 'capitallist'-type policies as opposed to Mao's original principle of Mao Tse-Tung Thought (or Maoism).

Some perspectives of the Party that favour the Chinese democracy movement would prefer not to regard a strong authoritarian government of mainland China as inevitably bad, but rather to publicise and focus upon the corruption of the Communist leadership and how to resolve it, as opposed to emphasising upon the negatives of CPC dictatorship and alternatives that would increase freedom in the PRC, although these perspectives are not documented as well as others and aren't as well known. The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 represented a controversial point in criticism of the Chinese Communist Party by Chinese students within China.[34]

Other perspectives often hold that that the worst of the abuses took place decades ago, and that the current leaders not only had no connection with them, but were actually victims of that era. People adhering to such minority perspectives would plausibly claim, 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 (except, perhaps the Republic of China government in Taiwan, a major economic centre in Asia) in the past century and emerges 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 scholarly opinions[which?] contend that China has never operated under a liberalised democratic regime in its several thousand years of history, and therefore the present political structure, albeit not up to Western moral or political standards, may possibly represent the best possible option when compared to the alternatives. A sudden transition to democracy, as per some plausible perspectives, would result in the sort of economic and political upheaval that occurred in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and that by focusing on economic growth, China has started setting the stage for a more gradual but sustainable transition to a more democratic and liberal system of politics. This group sees mainland China as resembling Franco's Spain in the 1960s, or South Korea during the 1970s when corrupt, authoritarian regimes ran that country. This perspective also, as per some perspectives[which?], brings together some unlikely political allies. Not only do some intellectual perspectives within the PRC authorities, as per some opinions, claim that this could be the case, but it is also plausibly a thought occurring amongst pro-free trade perspectives in the West.

Observers of some perspectives[which?] - both from within and outside of China - may argue that the CPC has, though not all perspectives would agree, taken gradual steps towards democracy and transparency, and hence may advocate giving it time and room to evolve into a better government - more responsive to its people - rather than forcing an abrupt change which could in theory effect a major loss of stability.[35] 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.[36]


The CPC, as an officially atheist institution, prohibits party members from holding religious beliefs. Although religion is banned for members of the state, personal beliefs are not held accountable.

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.

Current leadership

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

Members of the Politburo of the CPC Central committee:

Members of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee:

Historical leaders

Main article: List of leaders of the Communist Party of China

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.


The CPC charges a limited due on its members, receives donations, and operates some businesses, from which it derives money. But the majority of the Party's budget is supposed to come from a grant by the national treasury,[37] the same way that the other 8 subordinate parties are supposed to be funded. There is no official and public process for the grants to the Party, however.

Internet presence

As of 2010, the party has no standalone website.[38] Richard McGregor, author of The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers, recalled that when he asked Lu Weidong, a teacher at the party school in Yan'an, why this is the case, Lu responded that the idea of the party having its own website was "redundant" and that "All the important media is owned by the Party, so we have no need to set up a website."[39]


See also

People's Republic of China portal
Politics portal


  • McGregor, Richard. The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers. Harper Perennial: New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-06-170876-3. Originally published in 2010 by Allen Lane, a Penguin Books imprint.
  • Yoshihiro, Ishikawa. The Formation of the Chinese Communist Party translated by Joshua A. Fogel (Columbia University Press; 2012) 503 pages; A study of the party's creation that documents its foreign associations; draws on newly released documents in Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.


External links

  • News of the Communist Party of China,
  • , official newspaper
  • "Ninety years since the founding of the CCP – a Trotskyist apraisal", International Committee of the Fourth International
  • Join the Party – slideshow by The First Post
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • Monthly Review article from May 2002
  • Life magazine

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