On Wednesday May 25th, the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China organised an online meeting with comrades in Britain around the theme ‘My Impression: the CPC in the new era’.
According to the letter of invitation: “In 2021, the Communist Party of China (CPC) solemnly celebrated its centenary and convened the Sixth Plenary Session of its 19th Central Committee, through which we took stock of the major achievements and historical experience of the Party’s endeavours over the past century… In 2022, the CPC will hold its 20th National Congress, which is a major political event for both the Party and the country. As the changes of the times combine with the once-in-a-century pandemic, the international landscape is evolving at a faster pace, and the world finds itself in a new period of turbulence and transformation. As far as China itself is concerned, we are committed to upholding the CPC leadership, putting people first and sticking to the new path to modernisation of socialism with Chinese characteristics. In this process we look forward to strengthening communications and dialogues… and to understanding your take on China’s development as well as your expectations on China and the CPC in the new era and the upcoming 20th CPC National Congress.”
A delegation from Friends of Socialist China participated in the meeting, where the keynote address was given by Comrade Guo Yezhou, Vice-Minister of the CPC International Department.
Co-Editors of Friends of Socialist China, Keith Bennett and Carlos Martinez both delivered speeches, which we publish below.
Speeches were also made by Comrades Robert Griffiths, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), Ella Rule, Chair of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGBML), Andy Brooks, General Secretary of the New Communist Party of Britain (NCPB), and Jacob Maseyk of the Young Communist League (YCL) of Britain.
The CPC International Department carried the following report on its website: International Department Central Committee of CPC (idcpc.org.cn)
Also embedded below is a short video produced by the International Department featuring clips from different ‘My Impression: the CPC in the new era’ meetings held with comrades in various countries. The video includes clips of the speeches made by Friends of Socialist China co-editors Keith Bennett and Carlos Martinez, as well as advisory group member (and Communist Party of Britain General Secretary) Robert Griffiths.
Speech by Keith Bennett
First, on behalf of Friends of Socialist China, I would like to thank the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China for their kind invitation and express our full support for this meeting. We are very pleased to join with all the other comrades participating here.
In the time available to me, I am choosing to focus on one of your suggested themes, namely important and most memorable moments of your interactions with the CPC and China. We are talking about several decades so I can only touch on a few aspects.
I suppose that my first contact with China was at the age of about 12 or 13, when I rang on the bell of the Chinese Embassy in London and asked to be given a copy of the Red Book and a badge with Chairman Mao’s portrait – which they were pleased to do.
Probably my first formal interaction with the CPC was around the 11th National Congress of the Party in August 1977. I proposed to the National Committee of the organisation I was a member of at that time that we send greetings to the congress, which I then drafted. Considering that I had celebrated my 19th birthday just days before, and considering that then, as now, I considered the CPC to be the most important party of the world communist movement, I was so thrilled when I saw the message printed in full in the Daily Bulletin of the Xinhua News Agency.
Since that time, although generally not sent in my own name, I have drafted messages of greetings to most, if not all, of the subsequent congresses. For the last, 19th Congress, I wrote my draft in the port of Gwadar, where I was able to see for myself how the China Pakistan Economic Corridor has the potential to transform not just Pakistan but the wider region as a flagship of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.
From the 11th Congress to the eve of the 20th is a long road. So much has changed in China, Britain and the world. But one thing that has remained constant is my friendship with the Communist Party of China and my support for socialist China. That is why I believe it is fair and accurate to describe ours as an all-weather friendship and as a relationship of good friends, good comrades and good brothers and sisters, united by the same ideals and beliefs and committed to the same cause, although the concrete circumstances of our struggles differ radically.
My first visit to China was made in April and May 1981, with the last week being as a guest of your department. In those days, from the centre of Beijing one had to drive through quite a bit of countryside to reach your guest house. I had travelled quite extensively in China before reaching Beijing, including seeing the early days of the household responsibility system in Anhui province. To reach Beijing we made a long train journey from Nanjing. The days when China would be covered by the world’s biggest network of high-speed rail seemed far off. I was still only 22 and this was my first time in Asia, so my memories of that visit are abiding ones. It was a time of taking pride in China’s immense achievements since Liberation, but also of summing up mistakes, rectifying errors, learning everything that was useful and charting a new course. One could sense the people’s aspirations for a better life and felt that China was on the cusp of great change. But still one could not have imagined how far and how fast China would develop in the ensuing decades.
The most abiding impression I took away with me, from which I have never wavered, is that whatever the obstacles they might face, and whatever the twists and turns, the Chinese people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, will succeed in their goal of building a strong, modernised and prosperous socialist country and in making a greater contribution to humanity.
Another very memorable aspect of that visit is that it was a time for reassessment, not only with regard to China’s socialist development, but also with regard to the international communist movement and the international work of the party more generally. Naturally this was reflected in our discussions and I still recall the following words of one of your comrades:
“We deeply feel that the question of how to make a revolution in the countries of Western Europe remains an unanswered one.”
I am sure that he was trying to give me a message in a very polite, diplomatic and comradely fashion. I hope that it has been well received.
As part of this reassessment, the CPC was starting to move away from the policy it had hitherto followed for some years of overwhelmingly confining its relations to what were then termed the “genuine Marxist-Leninist parties and organisations”. One of the first developments was the resumption of relations with mass communist parties in Europe that displayed a degree of independence. Indeed, shortly before my own visit, Comrade Enrico Berlinguer had led the delegation of the Italian Communist Party, then well over a million strong and a very major participant in national political life. This was followed by the resumption or establishment of relations and exchanges with communist parties of various kinds, revolutionary democratic, national democratic and national liberation parties and movements throughout the Global South, socialist and social democratic parties, and then significant political parties without regard to ideology or differences in view. The culmination of this process has seen the CPC come to play an indispensable part in China’s overall diplomacy and external work and in global political affairs generally, as well as in steadily strengthening the unity, cohesion and effectiveness of the world communist movement, of which today’s meeting is but one example. I am so proud to have accompanied you on that journey, enjoying and benefiting from our friendship at every step.
In November 1989, speaking with Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, Comrade Deng Xiaoping said: “So long as socialism does not collapse in China, it will always hold its ground in the world.”
Today, under the bold and wise leadership of Comrade Xi Jinping, socialist China is steadily marching towards the centre of the world stage. As Comrade Xi said at the 19th Party Congress, the new era will be one “that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to humanity.” Socialism with Chinese characteristics, he further pointed out, “offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence; and it offers Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing humanity.”
It is in this spirit and against this background that a small group of us formed Friends of Socialist China a year ago this month. We did so for two distinct reasons that together form an integrated whole: To support and defend the People’s Republic, especially in the context of the new Cold War being waged by the USA, Britain and other imperialist countries against China and other socialist and independent countries; and also to promote understanding of Chinese socialism, because, in the words of our founding statement:
“The global advance to socialism is indispensable if humanity is to survive and to flourish; humanity needs socialism in order to prevent climate breakdown, end poverty, establish global peace and work towards dismantling structural discrimination and oppression.”
We applaud Comrade Xi Jinping’s resolute opposition to historical nihilism with our statement that: “We believe that the record of the socialist countries is overwhelmingly positive; that socialism has been able to – or has the potential to – solve many of humanity’s most burning issues; that the most impressive advances in people’s living conditions have occurred under socialist systems; that socialist states and movements played the decisive role in the defeat of European fascism and Japanese militarism; that the socialist world was pivotal to the dismantling of colonialism; that the socialist states have made historic strides in tackling discrimination based on race, ethnicity and gender.”
The gains made by working people in the capitalist countries, for example our National Health Service, have always been inseparable from the strength, example and inspiration of the socialist countries. Equally, it is no coincidence that the setbacks encountered by global socialism, particularly around 1989-91, fuelled neoliberalism and savage attacks on working people everywhere that the socialist system did not exist. China’s historic elimination of extreme poverty, its advance to the front ranks of the world economy, its building of an ecological civilisation, its transition to a high income country, and the building of a China that is, in Comrade Xi’s words, “a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful” is decisive not only for the destiny of the Chinese people but also for that of global socialism and therefore humanity.
We need to study, disseminate and apply Xi Jinping Thought as 21st century Marxism and continue the long march with our Chinese comrades towards a bright socialist future for the whole of humanity.
Thank you once again for your initiative in organising this meeting and for inviting us. We wish every success to the 20th National Congress of the great Communist Party of China!
Speech by Carlos Martinez
China’s progress over the last decade has been truly inspirational.
At the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, General Secretary Xi Jinping put forward the Two Centenary goals: to achieve a “moderately well-off” society by 2021, and a “great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful” by 2049.
In pursuit of the first centenary goal, millions of cadres were mobilised in a targeted poverty alleviation campaign, with the goal of eliminating extreme poverty. At the start of that campaign, eight years ago, just under 100 million people were identified as living below the poverty line. By late 2020, the number was zero.
And it’s important to note that rising out of poverty in China means more than just surpassing an income threshold. It also means having assured access to adequate food and clothing, along with guaranteed access to medical services, safe housing with drinking water and electricity, and nine years of free education.
Meanwhile, the land ownership system in China means that the rural poor have rent-free access to land and housing – putting them in an entirely different category to the rural poor elsewhere in the world.
As Xi Jinping has observed, “thanks to the sustained efforts of the Chinese people from generation to generation, those who once lived in poverty no longer have to worry about food or clothing or access to education, housing and medical insurance.”
To eradicate extreme poverty in a developing country of 1.4 billion people, which at the time of the founding of the People’s Republic of China was one of the poorest countries in the world – characterised by widespread malnutrition, illiteracy, foreign domination and technological backwardness – is a truly extraordinary achievement, and it’s an achievement of socialism. It is possible because of the leading position of the working class and peasantry.
As Deng Xiaoping put it in 1987, “only the socialist system can eradicate poverty.”
Poverty alleviation is part of the DNA of the Communist Party of China. It’s a thread that runs throughout the history of the Chinese Revolution, starting with the land reform measures in the liberated areas before 1949, and continuing with the dismantling of the feudal system after the founding of the People’s Republic, then Reform and Opening Up, and now the targeted poverty alleviation program.
Meanwhile in the West, where the bourgeoisie is the ruling class – and where neoliberal economic theory has dominated for several decades – the last ten years have witnessed an alarming rise in poverty and inequality.
In 2019, I visited two important cities for the first time: Beijing and New York. New York is unquestionably a wonderful city in many respects, but the levels of deprivation and inequality, the widespread homelessness, along with the crumbling infrastructure and simmering social tensions, are quite stark – certainly when compared with Beijing, which stands out as a very modern, harmonious, well-organised city, in which the problems of homelessness and extreme poverty have been solved.
Another key area in which China has made outstanding progress in the last decade is in the fight against climate breakdown and in promoting biodiversity, clean air and clean water.
In 2017, Xi Jinping introduced the concept of ‘ecological civilisation’, putting environmental sustainability at the heart of Chinese policy-making. And in 2021, China committed to reaching peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, and has already developed systematic programs for reaching these goals.
China is already by far the world leader in renewable energy, with a total capacity greater than the US, the EU, Japan and Britain combined. China’s forest coverage has doubled in the last four decades. Meanwhile it also leads the world in the production and use of electric cars, trains and buses.
China has led the way in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. Its dynamic Zero Covid strategy has saved millions of lives in China. Furthermore China has provided extensive assistance to countries around the world, particularly in the Global South, supplying enormous quantities of medical supplies, as well as more than 2 billion vaccine doses.
The Belt and Road Initiative, first advanced in 2013, has transformed the global investment landscape for infrastructure and connectivity, particularly in the developing world. Over 140 of the world’s 195 countries have formally affiliated to the Belt and Road, assisting them in addressing their substantial needs in terms of physical infrastructure, telecommunications, transport, and energy production and transmission.
Meanwhile China is playing a crucial role in international organisations, promoting peace, dialogue, multilateralism and multipolarity.
American politicians sometimes refer to the US as “the indispensable nation”. But if we look at what country is contributing the most to poverty alleviation, to global development, to the construction of a more peaceful world, to the fight against the pandemic, to the fight against climate breakdown; and if we contrast that with the US’s record of non-stop war, unilateral sanctions, destabilisation and bullying; we would have to conclude that China is much closer to meeting the definition of “indispensable” than the US is.
Looking to the future, with the first centenary goal now achieved, the second goal is coming into sharp focus. Building a great modern socialist country in all respects implies taking on relative poverty, improving per capita GDP, reducing inequality between regions and groups, and developing in an ecologically sustainable manner.
Common prosperity will be a key theme: reducing inequality, increasing the size of the middle income population, and improving the lives of the least affluent.
The CPC and the government it leads are not in the habit of making empty promises, and significant progress has already been made on tackling the disorderly expansion of private capital, housing speculation, extreme income inequality, and excessive power of tech companies and private education providers.
In the coming years and decades, Chinese people will increasingly come to enjoy a standard of living and quality of life comparable to, or indeed ahead of, working people in the advanced capitalist countries. And unlike in the advanced capitalist countries, this shared wealth won’t have its origins in historic colonialism and ongoing hegemonism, but in the hard work of the people and the sustained wise leadership of the CPC.
China’s successes since the founding of the PRC, and the successes it will surely achieve on the path to becoming a great modern socialist country in all respects, should serve to inspire working people around the world as to what can be achieved under socialism.
And for this reason, the Western ruling classes are working round the clock to ensure that ordinary people know nothing about China’s progress. The mass media barely mentions China’s successes in poverty alleviation. Rather than commending China for its handling of the pandemic, newspaper headlines talk about how “oppressive” and “authoritarian” the dynamic Zero Covid strategy is. Politicians and journalists accept that millions of lives have been saved as a result of China’s Covid suppression efforts, but they never fail to ask: “but at what cost?” As if human life had a quantifiable cost, and as if millions of deaths might have been “worth it” for the sake of smoother-running supply chains and corporate profits.
In order to pull the wool over people’s eyes, the West is waging a systematic propaganda war against China. Consuming mainstream media in Britain or the US, what you hear about China is that a “cultural genocide” is happening in Xinjiang; that pro-democracy students are being attacked by the Hong Kong police; that China is trapping African, Asian, Latin American, Caribbean and South Pacific countries in “debt traps”.
This web of lies is serving to keep people ignorant about the reality of Chinese socialism, and therefore it is extremely important to debunk these fabrications.
The slander that there is a “genocide” or “cultural genocide” against Uyghur Muslims, or that there are “concentration camps” in Xinjiang, has been repeated a thousand times. And yet, anyone visiting Xinjiang can see the total falsehood – indeed the utter absurdity – of this slander.
I personally went to Ürümqi in January 2020, with a group of friends. We walked around freely and certainly didn’t see any evidence of religious persecution or ethnic oppression. In fact we saw hundreds of Uyghur Muslims, wearing Uyghur clothing, going about their normal lives and practising their culture, religion and traditions.
We ate in Uyghur restaurants, where the food was halal and where alcohol wasn’t available. We heard the Uyghur language being spoken everywhere. All road signs have both Uyghur and Chinese writing. You see Uyghur language newspapers and magazines everywhere.
It’s notable how many mosques there are. Indeed Xinjiang has one of the highest concentrations of mosques in the world. And this is what the Western media calls a “cultural genocide”!
One of the reasons we formed Friends of Socialist China, just over a year ago, was to systematically oppose this propaganda war – a propaganda war that serves the interests of the imperialist ruling classes, and that runs directly counter to the interests of the working classes and oppressed communities.
As Marxists, as communists, as people working to popularise and promote socialism, we consider it crucial to spread an understanding of the remarkable successes of socialist China.
We deeply value our relationship with the CPC International Department, and we look forward to expanding our work together with you and with the other organisations represented here today.