New Delhi: On Thursday, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will mark its centenary amid much fanfare and glitzy shows even as the rest of the world will continue fighting the pandemic that is claiming lives and livelihoods.
India, additionally, has been engaged in a bitter border standoff with China in the eastern Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since April 2020. So far, both sides have been able to disengage only in the Pangong Tso region.
According to former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, the stand-off would not have continued for so long if it didn’t have sanction from the top echelons of the CCP in order to show New Delhi how powerful Beijing is in all aspects.
From Mao Zedong’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ that turned out to be a disaster to Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Period of Reform and Opening Up’ and to present-day President Xi Jinping’s Vision 2035, the CCP has had its own trials and tribulations even as the future has been carefully planned.
Last year, the CCP had unveiled an ambitious 14th five-year plan (2021-2025), which included China’s short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. It also includes a robust blueprint aimed at addressing the challenges it faces strategically and arresting the negative transatlantic public opinion.
On 1 July, the Chinese will see mesmerising light shows, colourful performances, glittering flowerbeds to mark the centenary of a political party that is now also suffering from great dilemma and much anxiety that have the potential to adversely impact its long-term prospects.
History & structure of CCP
The CCP is one of the world’s largest political organisations — it claims to have an estimated 90 million members, but was surpassed a few years ago by India’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
China follows a system of democratic socialism — the CPC is in total control of the country, from the government to the police to the military.
Since its foundation in 1921 in Shanghai, the CPC was mired in deep differences, until a civil war erupted with rival Kuomintang. The Communists finally grasped power in 1949 under the leadership of Mao Zedong.
The party’s guiding principles are enshrined in its constitution, the general programme of which states: “The Communist Party of China takes Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development as its guide to action.”
The Central Committee, the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) are its three key pillars.
The Central Committee, the party’s executive organ, rests on five main pillars — International Liaison Department, United Front Works Department, Organisation Department, Publicity Department and Party Central Academy.
However, the main power rests with Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), which comprises seven top-ranking leaders — President Xi Jinping; Premier Li Keqiang; NPC chairman Li Zhanshu; Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference chairman Wang Yang; Wang Huning, executive secretary of the secretariat and director of the Policy Research Office; Discipline Inspection Commission chairman Zhao Leji; and Executive Vice-Premier Han Zhen.
The National Party Congress selects the Central Committee members. The Central Committee selects the Politburo, which has about 200 members. The Politburo selects the 24-member PSC. These 24 are regarded as the most powerful members of the party.
The State Council is the highest executive and administrative organ of government in China. It is composed of the premier, four vice-premiers, state councillors, and the secretary general. Ministries, commissions, and other groups are under the State Council.
The State Council is similar to executive bodies in other countries whose members are elected by and accountable to the legislature.
“The State Council is responsible for carrying out the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as well as the regulations and laws adopted by the NPC. The State Council has the power to submit proposals on laws to the NPC and to formulate administrative measures. China’s President is the official head of state but has no day-to-day governance duties,” according to a Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report.
Apart from the president, it is headed by Vice President Wang Qishan and Premier Li, and has four vice premiers, five state councilors and six ministers selected by the State Council.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Minister of National Defence Wei Fenghe are two of the five State Councillors.
Central Military Commission
According to China Today, the Central Military Commission (CMC) directs the armed forces of the country, and is composed of the chairman, vice chairmen and members. The CMC chairman, currently President Xi himself, is elected to the same length of term as the legislature, the NPC, but there is no restriction on his or her tenure of office.
In other words, it is through the CMC that the party and the government maintain their control over the military.
China’s armed forces consist of the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force and the militia.
Xi Jinping’s leadership
Xi Jinping was elected general secretary of the Central Committee at the 18th Party Congress in 2012.
Ever since Xi was promoted to the top position in November 2012, he has unleashed his vision of the ‘China Dream’. He has said of it: “To realise the Chinese road, we must spread the Chinese spirit, which combines the spirit of the nation with patriotism as the core and the spirit of the time with reform and innovation as the core.”
In October 2017, the Chinese President presided over the 19th National Congress of the CPC as the “most powerful leader in decades”, securing a second five-year term.
According to a report by Council on Foreign Relations, at that meeting, CPC “reaffirmed Xi’s dominance and elevated new officials to support him in setting the agenda for the second-largest economy in the world”.
The NPC amended the constitution in March 2018 and changed the tenure of the president, “paving the way for Xi to remain officially in power beyond 2022”, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ report.
The CSIS report stated: “Following the 19th Party Congress in October 2017 and the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress in March 2018, there was some substantial turnover in China’s leadership in the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council … The PSC meets more frequently and often makes key decisions with little or no input from the full Politburo.”