This reflection on the history of the CPC, written by Qu Qingshan – Director of the Central Institute of Party History and Literature of the CPC Central Committee – was originally published in Qiushi. It provides an overview of each generation of leadership of the CPC (under Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping) and describes how they each feed in to an overall trajectory towards an advanced socialism and national rejuvenation. It highlights the party’s clear position that Marxism must continue to provide the ideological base of its work: “If we deviate from Chinese socialism, all our previous efforts will go up in smoke”.
As General Secretary Xi Jinping has said, the past century has witnessed the Communist Party of China (CPC) work with devotion in pursuit of its founding mission, blaze new trails while enduring bitter hardships, and strive toward a brighter future. Since its founding in 1921, the CPC has surmounted one obstacle after another and achieved victory after victory by relying closely on the people. In this ancient land of China, it has brought about epic milestones in the history of human development and made groundbreaking contributions to the Chinese nation.
Through tenacious struggle, the CPC united and led the Chinese people in transforming China from the “sick man of East Asia” to a nation that had stood up.
For China, the 20th century began with humiliation as the Eight-Nation Alliance occupied Beijing. At the time, there seemed to be nothing but a bleak and devastating future lying ahead for the Chinese nation. But this was a nation that had once produced a magnificent civilization, and it would not resign itself to this humiliating existence. The eruption of the October Revolution brought Marxism-Leninism to China. On the basis of these advanced theories, the CPC was founded in 1921, arriving on the historical stage to lead the Chinese people in changing their fate and advancing toward national rejuvenation.
During the New Democratic Revolution (1919-1949), confronted with the three mountains of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism, Chinese Communists with Mao Zedong as their chief representative developed Mao Zedong Thought by combining the basic tenets of Marxism with the actual practice of the Chinese revolution. Uniting and leading the Chinese people through 28 years of bloody struggle, they successfully blazed a Chinese revolutionary path by using rural areas to encircle the cities and seizing state power with military force. After defeating the imperialist aggression of Japan, overthrowing the reactionary rule of the Kuomintang, and completing the New Democratic Revolution, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established in 1949. This brought an end to the old China’s semi-colonial, semi-feudal society and state of disunity, eliminated all the unequal treaties imposed upon China by the great powers and all privileges enjoyed by the imperialists in China, and signified that the Chinese people had stood up.
During the period of socialist revolution and development (1949-1978), Chinese Communists with Mao Zedong as their chief representative united and led the whole Party and the entire nation in completing socialist revolution, establishing socialism as China’s basic system, and advancing socialist development. This completed the broadest and most profound social transformation in the history of the Chinese nation, laying down the political and institutional foundations necessary for achieving all the development and progress that China would later enjoy, and providing valuable experience as well as the theoretical and material basis for developing socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Through tenacious struggle, the CPC united and led the Chinese people in making the impressive leap from standing up to growing prosperous.
After the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in 1978, Chinese Communists with Deng Xiaoping as their chief representative conducted a thorough review of positive and negative experiences since the founding of the PRC. On this basis, and by drawing lessons from the history of world socialism, they established Deng Xiaoping Theory. The historic decision was made to shift the focus of the Party and the nation to economic development and to launch the reform and opening up drive, and it was made clear that China would follow its own path and build socialism with Chinese features. Chinese Communists brought the essence of socialism to light, set the basic line for the primary stage of socialism, provided sound answers to a series of fundamental questions on building Chinese socialism, and formulated the development strategy for basically achieving socialist modernization by the middle of the 21st century through a three-step approach. They thus succeeded in founding socialism with Chinese characteristics.
After the Fourth Plenary Session of the 13th CPC Central Committee in 1989, Chinese Communists with Jiang Zemin as their chief representative upheld the Party’s basic theory and guideline, deepened their understanding of what socialism is and how to build it and what kind of Party to build and how to build it, and gathered valuable experience in governing the Party and the country. On this basis, they developed the Theory of the Three Represents. In the face of complex international and domestic situations and serious difficulties being experienced by socialism around the world, they safeguarded Chinese socialism, defined the goals and basic framework of reforms for building a socialist market economy, established the basic economic and distribution systems for the primary stage of socialism, opened up new prospects for reform and opening up across all fronts, and advanced the great new project of Party development, thus successfully launching Chinese socialism into the 21st century.
After the 16th National Congress of the CPC in 2002, Chinese Communists with Hu Jintao as their chief representative continued to take Deng Xiaoping Theory and the Theory of Three Represents as their guide. Against new demands of development, they explored and answered major questions, including what kind of development to pursue and how to pursue it in a new situation, thus forming the Scientific Outlook on Development. Taking advantage of an important period of strategic opportunity, they carried out practical, theoretical, and institutional innovations in the process of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Emphasizing people-centered, comprehensive, balanced, and sustainable development, they formulated an overarching plan for the cause of Chinese socialism, which aimed at safeguarding and improving public wellbeing, promoting social fairness and justice, building a harmonious world, and strengthening the governance capacity and pioneering nature of the CPC. Through these efforts, they successfully upheld and developed Chinese socialism from a new historic point of departure.
Through tenacious struggle, the CPC has united and led the Chinese people in making the impressive leap from standing up and becoming prosperous to growing strong.
Since its 18th National Congress in 2012, Chinese Communists with Xi Jinping as their chief representative have integrated theory with practice to systematically address the major questions of our times, which are what kind of Chinese socialism should be upheld and developed in the new era and how we should go about doing this, thereby giving shape to Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Implementing the Five-sphere Integrated Plan and the Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy, we have made concerted efforts to carry out a great struggle, develop a great project, advance a great cause, and realize a great dream. By upholding a people-centered concept of development and following the general principle of pursuing progress while ensuring stability, we have improved and developed the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, strengthened the CPC’s overall leadership, and modernized China’s governance system and capacity. In the process, we have solved many tough problems that were long on the agenda but never resolved, accomplished many things that were wanted but never got done, and propelled the cause of the Party and the country toward historic achievements and changes. We thus achieved historic success in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and made significant new strides toward the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
China’s economic strength has risen to new heights, with total economic output surpassing 100 trillion yuan in 2020. This means China is the second largest economy in the world and makes up roughly 17% of the world economy. Per capita GDP has broken the US$10,000 mark, putting China into the category of upper-middle income countries according to World Bank standards. There have been major breakthroughs in continuing reform, while the Chinese socialist system has been further refined. Considerable advances have been made in building democracy and the rule of law, as well as in modernizing China’s governance system and capacity. Living standards have improved significantly, higher education has entered the stage of being widely accessible, and new success has been achieved in creating urban jobs. We have built the world’s largest social security system, with a basic medical insurance system that covers more than 1.3 billion people and basic old-age insurance that covers nearly 1 billion people. Our environmental protection endeavors have undergone historic, pivotal, and sweeping changes. Historic breakthroughs have been made in reform of national defense and the armed forces, and we have broken new ground and scored new victories in major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics for the new era. We have achieved overwhelming success in our fight against corruption as we have further advanced strict Party self-governance. It is particularly worth noting that we have accomplished the enormous task of eliminating absolute poverty, thus bringing about yet another miraculous achievement that will go down in history.
These feats have fully demonstrated the CPC’s capacity to lead and govern, illustrated the marked advantages and vitality of the Chinese socialist system and China’s national governance system, and displayed the value and strength in practice of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.
Chinese socialism represents a fundamental achievement made by the CPC and the people through struggle, creation, and accumulation.
On the historical journey from standing up, to becoming prosperous, to growing strong, the CPC pioneered the path, theories, and system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and developed a uniquely Chinese socialist culture. Chinese socialism represents a fundamental achievement made by the CPC and the Chinese people through countless hardships and at enormous cost. It is the dialectical unity of the theoretical logic of scientific socialism and the historical logic of China’s social development. It is scientific socialism rooted in the land of China, reflected in the wishes of the Chinese people, and adapted to the development and progress of China and the times.
Chinese socialism has come about through over 40 years of reform and opening up, through 70-plus years of continuous exploration since the founding of the PRC, through 100 years of social transformation carried out by the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC, through over 180 years of modern history during which the Chinese nation rose out of decline and toward prosperity, through the extraordinary 500-year history of the world socialist movement, and through the Chinese nation’s more than 5,000 years of heritage and development. We must therefore cherish it all the more, uphold it with steadfast commitment, and keep it moving forward in step with the times.
As has repeatedly been proven through history and practice, Chinese socialism is not just the inevitable outcome of accomplishments made by the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC, but also the embodiment of accomplishments made in many other areas. Chinese socialism is a fundamental achievement brought about through the accumulation and crystallization of all the accomplishments that have been made over the past 100 years. To uphold and develop Chinese socialism is to preserve and build upon that which we have already accomplished. If we deviate from Chinese socialism, all our previous efforts will go up in smoke, and our country will be dragged into the abyss of civil strife. Therefore, constantly developing Chinese socialism and upholding it over the long term is both a historical inevitability and a practical necessity. Doing so will serve as a fundamental guarantee for effectively responding to whatever difficulties and challenges we encounter on the road ahead and for creating a brighter future.
The past and the present both tell us that for a social revolution to ultimately triumph, it must go through a long, complex, and arduous historical process. The success and glory of the past does not guarantee that we will always succeed in the future. Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park, and it will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there. The journey ahead will not be smooth sailing, and the CPC must be prepared to put in even more arduous effort. As Chinese socialism continues to advance and develop, we will encounter more new situations and new problems, and we will face additional risks, challenges, and uncertainty. All of this means that we must be boldly inquisitive in our practices, carry development deeper, consistently enrich Chinese socialism’s practical, theoretical, national, and contemporary qualities, and remain true to our founding mission as we continue to advance the cause of national rejuvenation in a new historical context.
History has shown that the CPC is capable not only of dismantling the old world, but also of building a new one. Now that the CPC has been built into a vibrant Marxist governing party that is always at the forefront of the times, enjoys the wholehearted support of the people, has the courage to reform itself, and is able to withstand all tests, there is no doubt that the CPC will be able to unite and lead the people in carrying forward the great social revolution and constantly advancing toward the goal of national rejuvenation along the path of Chinese socialism.