At the opening ceremony of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party in 2017, the President of China, Xi Jinping, emphasised on the need for enhancing socialism with Chinese characteristics. This crucial meeting has once more drawn attention to China’s choice of governance which is often frowned upon because of its ‘one party’ rule, and the dominant word, ‘Communism,’ reminiscent of the iron curtain era. However, China has continued to explain its modified form of communism, and its political system with several variants that makes it appear complicated. BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes.
The political system of China, from afar appears complex and incomprehensible and has kept the rest of the world on its toes. Nevertheless it is crucial to understand what type of political system has driven China’s economy, pushing it nearly neck to neck with the United States of America and making it the world’s largest investor.
In spite of what most regard as a disagreeable system of governance, communism, socialism continues to play a great role in the world’s second largest economy.
In China, the communist system is not dripping with totalitarian rule or tyranny that has albeit been connected to the word in the past. According to The Roadmap of The 18th CPC National Congress and The Chinese Dream compiled by Huang Huaguang and Luan Jianzhang, “In a period of revolution and war, the communists placed the emphasis on revolution, creating an impression that communism is equivalent to violent revolution.” However this is not the case for China’s communism.
Oxford Advanced learners’ dictionaries has described Communism as ‘a political movement that believes in an economic system in which the state controls the means of producing everything on behalf of the people. It aims to create a society in which everyone is treated equally.’ However, as China continues to develop, it does not embrace completely this form of Communism. And if it does not, then what form of Communism does it practice?
“The political system in China is quite typical. We learn from the West, but ‘Chinalised,’ it as the Chinese own,” Professor of International Studies, Renmin University, Wang Yiwei in an interview told LEADERSHIP.
“Communism in Chinese is very similar to the old, ancient mentality, ‘the earth and the heaven,’ great harmony. It’s not the same as your understanding of communism in English. I suggest that we should change the name of the Communist Party to Chinese pinyin, ‘Gong Chan Dang,’ because it gets many confused and misunderstood because of the name. We are not the Communism you imagine, we are very Chinese,” he said.
At the Opening of the 19th National Congress, recently held at the Great Hall of the People, the General Secretary of the Communist Party Of China (CPC), President Xi Jinping, emphasised on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a new era in China, a new type of socialism synonymous and beneficial to China in all aspects.
He also stressed on enhancing Socialism with Chinese characteristics for the benefit of the country, mentioning that the Party has actively developed socialist democracy and advanced law-based governance.
In the book, The Roadmap of The 18th CPC National Congress and The Chinese Dream, Karl Marx had named the world’s first fledgling proletarian regime what he called, ‘the Paris Commune,’ showing partial illustrations that, at the very beginning, communism was indeed related to ‘social harmony.’
“It means development, achievement, open reform conducted by the Communist Party. So in everything, I think we should understand the Chinese achievements from the Chinese political system, particularly the Chinese Communist Party, that’s what I always emphasize on,” Professor Wang disclosed.
People from different backgrounds and culture will continue to see things differently, until they learn and understand each other. An example is the colour red, while in some countries depict ‘danger,’ in China it is a symbol of ‘good.’
The Deputy Director of China Radio International (CRI), Professor Xia Jixuan who lectured a class of China Africa Press Centre journalists participating in the 2017 programme shed light on this aspect using the word, ‘propaganda’ as an example. The word, ‘Propaganda,’ in Chinese is not a form of ‘manipulation’ as it means in English, but rather ‘publicity,’ keeping the people informed. Similarly, Xia explained the pinyin for a Dragon in China as, ‘Long,’ which usually symbolises good, and not an evil creature!
China is currently governed by the ruling party, officially called the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Communist Party membership is reportedly the largest with 90 million, and represents the people. There are in general, nine (9) political parties in China. The information gathered from experts state that the Communist Party members do not practice any religion, and China is reported as the only country that rose so quickly to development as a secular nation. The CCP or CPC is said to have an open system.
“Communism remains a theoretical subject although it’s been put forward by Marx over a century ago,” Xia said to LEADERSHIP. He also believes that Communism requires at least two conditions to thrive, namely a highly-developed society in which people no longer worry about material life, everybody can get what he or she needs, as well as a highly-civilised society in which people are no longer selfish or greedy.
“You care about others and in return, your need is taken care of by others,” he expressed, giving further examples. “Communism is derived from the concept of common ownership of property and the principle of sharing. For example, today, if you want three cars (a sedan to drive in down-town, a SUV to travel in the countryside, a truck to pick up bigger things like furniture), you have to have the money to buy them as your private property. But in communism, you don’t need the money to buy three cars. They are public properties for you to use, whenever you need a sedan, you can drive it while the truck might be used by another person and the SUV by a third person,” Xia explained.
“If the society does not reach the development level, it is impossible to expect people to behave unselfishly. At the same time, if people are not ready for the highly-civilised society, a superintendent mechanism, such as the government, is needed to educate people and cultivate the common or collective spirit. Only when people are free to act on their own, but not forced to behave in such way, can communism be realised,” he averred.
Explaining how the history of communism evolved in China, Professor Xia noted, “After the People’s Republic of China was set up in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party led the Chinese people through a successful transition from a country ruled by foreign imperialists and colonialists as well as by local war-lords and corrupt officials.
“But then, CCP leadership made a mistake, thinking that China can enter into communism by pushing the country’s industrial and agricultural output while changing people’s minds and behaviors. When China’s material supply could match the needs of its fast growing population, the government did not slow down its pace to realise communism but made education in communism a top priority. The mistake went to extremes during the Culture Revolution when Leftist mentality ruled. Fortunately, the mistake was stopped when China ended the Culture Revolution and began reforms and opening up,” he said.
“From what China has experienced over the past 30 plus years, I can say that it’s very important to maintain a balance between material development and civic education in a society. Right now, China is still a developing country, it is impossible to turn China into a “communism society”. So, I think the Party and government is doing the right thing by trying to push economic development first while encouraging the spirit of sharing and selflessness,” he disclosed.
While a localised form of communism pushes economic development effectively in China, what is the simplest way to convey its meaning to outsiders? A staff at the China Africa Press Centre who chose anonymity told LEADERSHIP, “The Communist Party of China (CPC) was founded in July 1921. The Communist Party of China is the vanguard of the Chinese working class as well as the Chinese people and the Chinese nation. It is the core leadership for the cause of Socialism with Chinese characteristics.
“The Party represents the development trend of China’s advanced productive forces, the orientation of China’s advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. The basic line of the Communist Party of China at the primary stage of socialism is to lead the people of all ethnic groups in a concerted, self-reliant and pioneering effort to turn China into a prosperous, strong, democratic and culturally advanced modern socialist country by making economic development our central task while adhering to the Four Cardinal Principles and persevering in the reform and opening up,” he explained.
Communism/socialism has been known to fail in the past, taking for instance the case of the USSR and the East European countries. How has China been able to modify its form of Chinalised communism/socialism to make it work? The staff responded, “First of all, I would like to say, there would never be such a thought of ‘failure’ for Communism or Capitalism. During the world financial crisis, everyone had criticisms on the shortcomings of Capitalism, but have we seen the fall of any developed countries? Vice-versa.
There is a Chinese saying, that only the man who wears the shoes knows whether they fit him or not. A good policy or a good political system must adapt itself to history, the real background of the country where it is being executed. Chinese Communist Party is a party with vivid capacity which allows itself to follow the will of the Chinese people and save no efforts to make it accomplished,” the staff expressed.
According to The Roadmap of The 18th CPC National Congress and The Chinese Dream compiled by Huang Huaguang and Luan Jianzhang, “…the CPC avoided retracing the steps of the USSR and East European countries, where the party collapsed and the nation disintegrated; on the contrary China achieved extraordinary success.”
As the ruling party, the weight of the country’s leadership is on the shoulders of the CCP. Bearing such massive responsibility, CCP is said to meticulously select its members. What are the criteria if any of becoming a CCP member?
“Any Chinese worker, farmer, member of the armed forces, intellectual or any advanced element of other social strata who has reached the age of eighteen and who accepts the Party’s Programme and Constitution and is willing to join and work actively in one of the Party organisations, carry out the Party’s decisions and pay membership dues regularly may apply for membership in the Communist Party of China,” he said, adding that new Party members must be admitted through a Party branch, with the principle of individual admission adhered to.
“An applicant for Party membership must fill in an application form and be introduced by two full Party members. The application must be accepted at a general membership meeting of the Party branch concerned and approved by the next higher Party organisation, and the applicant must undergo observation for a year-long probationary period before being granted full membership.
Every Party member, irrespective of position, must be organised into a branch, cell or other specific unit of the Party to participate in the regular activities of the Party organisation. Party members are free to withdraw from the Party. When a Party member asks to withdraw, the Party branch concerned shall, after discussion by its general membership meeting, remove his name from the Party rolls, make the removal public and report it to the next higher Party organisation for the record.”
According to the New World Press’ book, ‘Keywords To Understand China’, the political development under socialism with Chinese characteristics is said to have evolved over time as the Chinese people made sustained efforts to build a better society under the leadership of the CPC by integrating the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s specific conditions,’ a domestication of Marxism to suit China and facilitate its progress in development.
The book further stressed on the key features of such a process, to involve leadership by the CPC, ownership by the people, and the rule of law.
“It is informed by continued efforts to improve the system of people’s congresses, multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC, regional ethnic autonomy and community-level self-governance. Its objective is to continuously improve and develop the socialist political system,” it said.
Political pundits have also expressed that in terms of checks and balances in the Chinese political system, the CPC sets up an internal measure to address such issues as they arise.
President Xi Jinping is a member of the Communist Party of China, and the general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC, making him answerable to not just the Party, but the Peoples Congresses. The presidential tenure is for five years that is renewable.
Now the people’s congresses is another topic, a strong wheel in the political system that ensures that the people’s voices is being heard and the government listens and responds.
The ‘Lianghui’ two meetings, National Peoples Congress (NPC) and the China Peoples Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), held annually, is for the purpose of hearing the voice of the people and at the same time, listening to what the government has accomplished. For example; it sets agendas, while addressing the needs and concerns of its people. Members of the committee of the CPPCC are elected for a duration of 5 years, after which they are replaced. Some members of these committee in plenary sessions, present reports and then field questions from journalists on all aspects of society, ranging from politics, culture, health, education and so on.
The New World Press has pointed it out as, ‘Representing the fundamental core of China’s political fabric, the system of people’s congresses ensures that the people are masters of the country. State power is exercised by the people through the National People’s congresses. The preeminence of the NPC as the highest organ of state power is enshrined in China’s Constitution. Heads of executive, judicial and procuratorial organs are elected or appointed by people’s congresses, responsible to them and subject to their oversight.’
It further explained that, ‘The decision-making on major public affairs is within the purview of people’s congresses. The executive branch is responsible for implementing the laws, resolutions and decisions adopted by people’s congresses. Courts and procuratorates exercise their respective judicial and procuratorial powers independently, free from the intervention of executive organs, social groups or individuals. The First Session of the First NPC, held in September 1954 marked the official establishment of the system of people’s congresses nationwide.’
Wang had previously in a lecture, described Communism in China as a ‘Chinalised Socialism,’ which simply focuses on domesticating socialism to suit China. However in the end, what works for ‘A’ may not work for ‘B’. As Wang advises, countries in Africa are better off finding what political system works best for them, putting to consideration the situation, features and surroundings. “In the lessons as I shared, it is best to be yourself. Everything should be localised. In my presentation, I always highlight the word, ‘Chinalised,’ it means localized,” he averred.
Similarly, and in conclusion, Huang Huaguang and Luan Jianzhang in their compilation of The Roadmap of The 18th CPC National Congress and The Chinese Dream pointed out, ‘…the advanced stage of communism cannot begin until its primary stage ends. In China, we name the primary stage of communism or socialism as socialism with Chinese characteristics, which at present is the common ideal of the Party members and the people of China.”