At 100, China’s Communist Party looks to cement its future

It will be eulogising the past and solidifying the future of Chinese President Xi Jinping as China’s Communist Party will celebrate its 100th birthday on 1 July.

Its members have been exhorted to remember the primitive homes where Mao Zedong and his followers lived and the early days of struggle in the inland city of Yan’an.

From the 1930s, when the party established itself, China has galloped economically and emerged as the nation of salubrious cities with global markets in Beijing, Shenzhen, dotted with skyscrapers and other high-tech centres.

“By linking the party to all of China’s accomplishments of the past century, and none of its failures, Xi is trying to bolster support for his vision, his right to lead the party and the party’s right to govern the country,” said Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

This week’s celebrations focus on two distinct eras – the early struggles and recent achievements – circumventing over the nearly three decades under Mao from the 1950s to 1970s, when mostly catastrophic social and economic policies left millions dead and the country impoverished.

To that end, a spectacular outdoor gala attended by Xi in Beijing on Monday night relived the Long March of the 1930s – a retreat to Yan’an that has become of party lore – before moving on to singing men holding giant wrenches and women with bushels of wheat.

But it also focused on the present, with representations of special forces climbing a mountain and medical workers battling Covid-19 in protective gear.

The party has long invoked its history to justify its right to rule, said Joseph Fewsmith, a professor of Chinese politics at Boston University.

Shoring up its legitimacy is critical since the party has run China single-handedly for more than 70 years – through the chaotic years under Mao, imploding of the Soviet Union and through the unexpected adoption of market-style reforms.

Many Western policymakers and analysts believed that capitalism would transform China into a democracy as its people prospered, following the pattern of former dictatorships such as South Korea and Taiwan.

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