With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

At 100 Years Old, it's Time to Recognize the Chinese Communist Party is Here to Stay

On July 1, the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its centenary. For those in the West banking on its demise, they’re sorely mistaken. Because while the party may have committed some significant missteps throughout its rule, it is still a formidable force that will remain a threat to the United States and Western allies for years to come.

The party has fared exceptionally well compared with other totalitarian parties and the states they built. Those who look to Russia for a historical parallel for China’s Communist Party mistake its staying power. Lenin’s party and the Soviet Union were in death throes at a comparable point in their life cycle. China under the C.C.P. has been recognized only relatively recently by the West as its most formidable adversary, not just militarily and ideologically, but also technologically and economically. The party has deeply Chinese roots. It exists on a continuum with China’s long dynastic history. It’s not going anywhere.

The C.C.P. is colossal, highly hierarchical and regimented. From its inception in 1921 with only 12 members, it has expanded to over 90 million, averaging almost 20 percent growth a year for 100 years. To maintain control and effectively rule the 1.4 billion population, the party leadership still uses centuries-old tactics but has refined them with high-tech techniques. For example, the sweeping surveillance the C.C.P. conducts on the Chinese people today is the legacy of the ubiquitous people-on-people watch system known as the “baojia” scheme, invented in the Qin Dynasty, revived in the Song dynasty, and perfected and used on a large scale during the Qing dynasty. The C.C.P. merely added the digital cameras. There has been no obvious opposition to such a surveillance system in China, at least among the Han Chinese. But that ought not to be a surprise: A Chinese Big Brother has been watching for 2,000 years.

For the recalcitrant, punishment awaits. (See the crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement and the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang). The last two Chinese dynasties, Ming and Qing, were also particularly repressive, and long-lasting — together they survived more than 540 years. A long line of prior dynasties and emperors had already trained the people to be opportunistically oppressive to those below one’s status and submissive to those above it. But aside from the big stick, there are carrots too. Faithful party members are richly rewarded.

Read entire article at New York Times