Vigor and Vitality: The Secret of the CPC’s Success
By CHU YIN
Visitors to the CPC Anti-corruption Achievements Exhibition on January 21, 2015, held in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province. IT is often hard for researchers of the multi-party system to comprehend the phenomenon of longterm one-party rule. Influenced as they are by the ideology of liberalism, most critics associate long-term single-party rule with rife corruption, bureaucracy, and dogmatism, leading to social stagnation or even collapse. This is indeed the common theoretical basis of the so-called, much vaunted “China collapse.”
Observation of the facts over recent decades shows that the Communist Party of China (CPC) has neither rigidified nor putrefied as such detractors surmise, but acquired through constant reforms a contemporary vitality in tandem with China’s rise.
Pragmatic Universal Responsibility
The CPC’s “cultural gene” helps it to successfully avoid dogmatism. In many single-party ruled states, solidification of hierarchy and consequent ideological ossification are indeed serious problems. Most communist-led countries, such as the former Soviet Union and certain third world countries, fell into such rigid predicaments after their victorious revolutions. Having lost sight of the ideal of emancipating all humankind, once passionate communist leaders gradually degenerated into doctrinaires content with monopolizing power and using ideological slogans to camouflage social conflicts. This ultimately resulted in the failure of the communist movement in these countries.
What makes the CPC exceptional in this regard is that, unlike certain rebels who seek only to wield power, it is a pragmatic party with a strong sense of universal responsibility whose governance benefits the people. Since the birth of the CPC, leaders like Li Dazhao, Chen Duxiu, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping have laid great store on maintaining the balance between ethical principles and real life. For Westerners, the binary opposition of consciousness and materialism often creates a high degree of fragmentation between ideology and social life, but for Chinese people, the unity of opposites is the means to achieving a suitable balance.
Thanks to this cultural gene, the CPC has fortunately avoided ideological deadlock and formulated a survival principle imbued with oriental wisdom, wherein practice is the sole criterion for testing truth. In other words, it helps CPC members to constantly bear social practice in mind throughout the pursuit of communism, so ensuring that their policies never become rigid dogma far removed from real life. During the CPC revolution and its governance, there indeed appeared a number of ivory-towered doctrinaires who made major mistakes. But such deviations were never prolonged or continuous phenomena. At the critical moment the spirit of pragmatism always helped the CPC put matters right. The rectification of Wang Ming’s radicalism in revolutionary times, and the correcting of the mistakes of the “cultural revolution” during the period of reform and opening-up signify this pragmatic spirit. At present, the ongoing supply-side reform is the latest case in point.
Learning Capacity in Complex Situations
China’s diversity and complexity coupled with the CPC’s learning capacity guarantee the party’s vitality. Compared to other degenerate one-party ruled governments, the CPC can learn from mistakes and acquire knowledge from complex new situations. This is undoubtedly the key to its longstanding success. China is a vast land with a complicated social constitution and close global connections, all of which have determined the CPC’s highly complex and diversified governance environment. This complexity requires that the CPC maintain an open attitude towards political practice, and also offers sufficient scope for the trial and competition of different administrative approaches. Compared with the communist party in other countries, the success of the CPC mainly depends on its adaptation to a complex environment. During the Anti-Fascist War and the War of Liberation periods, this was apparent in the military strategies and lines of thought on work as practiced in various revolutionary base areas. During the period of reform and opening-up, it was manifest in institutional innovations and development paths in different regions, of which Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was the most representative pilot.
Deep integration into the global market, wide participation in global affairs, and a proactive response to the complex modern world are now mandatory missions for the CPC. During this course, it is imperative for the CPC to draw on advanced technology, systems and concepts to enhance China’s competitiveness.
The CPC’s talents selection, training system, and inner-party democracy act as internal guarantees of its vitality. On the one hand, compared with the communist party in other countries, there is no trace of nepotism or class solidification in the CPC’s selection of talents. Traditional Chinese culture stresses justice and opposes partiality and cronyism. This was also a fine tradition among the early altruistic CPC revolutionary leaders. The top leaders have all risen through the ranks from the grassroots positions rather than experienced meteoric rises due to reputation or connections. On the other hand, the selection of grassroots cadres has always been stringently conducted on the basis of performance appraisal. Without outstanding achievements, it is difficult to stand out amid such fierce competition. To avoid fortuitousness due to regional disparities, grassroots cadres must prove their adaptability and governance capacity through assignment exchanges or work in other areas.
In addition to a fair and competitive selection mechanism, the CPC’s systematic training is also far superior to that of other countries. Different from the loose social bonds of other political parties, the CPC has from the start established a precise and consistent system for cultivating talents. It maintains not only a close connection with social organizations and institutions of higher learning, but also its distinct ideology and values. The CPC training system can maintain a strong mobilization capacity by rapidly implementing the central committee’s will. It can moreover continuously provide a preeminent team of talents and acquire valuable knowledge from grassroots practice.
Self Renewal Through Inner-party Democracy and Opening-up
It is worth noting that the CPC’s inner-party democracy constitutes a significant systemic guarantee of its rethinking and solving of problems. Although the strict CPC discipline and sense of organization to some extent inhibits confrontational and dramatic debates, it has no effect on constructive debates on major issues, either in theory or practice. During the past decades, whether in the form of criticisms of fault lines during revolutionary times, or reflections on the “Great Leap Forward” and “cultural revolution,” debates have never stopped. Even the supreme leader must be subject to supervision and criticism from the inner-party democracy, which never allows any individual will to supersede organizational commitments. It is inner-party democracy that helped the CPC to rapidly correct errors and achieve upgrades through reflection.
Reform and opening-up offers the CPC the external conditions through which to stay active. In a one-party ruled country, although the ruling party might not face adequate challenges within the country, fierce international competition will promote its constant self-learning and self-enhancement. The CPC’s legitimacy links not only to the superiority and justice of the socialist system, but also to the country’s modernization process and great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Promoting China’s development and progress has indeed become one of the crucial components of the CPC’s legitimate foundation. It is thus impossible for the CPC to choose seclusion as a means to maintaining the security of its regime.
More importantly, since reform and opening-up has dramatically changed society and greatly improved people’s living standards, the policy has been generally accepted by society as a whole as politically correct. Reform is thus not just a method but also a goal. The CPC must keep to the path of reform and opening-up and acquire new knowledge and concepts along it. The collision and integration between the country and the world will eventually lay dynamic foundations for socialism with Chinese characteristics.
During the course of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and to meet people’s growing material and spiritual needs, the CPC must achieve self-renewal through practice – the source of the CPC’s legitimacy. In other words, the CPC will not stand still and refuse to make progress, but gain boundless vitality through its governance of both domestic and international affairs.
CHU YIN is an associate professor at the University of International Relations.
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