In the following article, which was originally published by China Daily to coincide with the Communist Party of China’s 20th National Congress last October, Zheng Qi, a Professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, provides a vivid and moving historical and contemporary exposition of the relationship between the CPC and the Chinese people. Replete with vivid and truthful examples, the article sheds profound light on a key to the party’s success and to the strength and durability of the Chinese revolution.
He begins with a true story from the epic Long March (1934-35) when a Red Army squad decided to spend the night at a small village. Three women soldiers took shelter under the eaves of a house belonging to a woman named Xu Jiexiu to escape the rain. Seeing their condition, Xu invited them to spend the night in her home.
The three women along with Xu and her child slept together under a worn-out cotton sheet and the quilt of the soldiers. Leaving the house the next day, the three women soldiers cut their only quilt in two, leaving one half with Xu. In those days of starvation and suffering, a quilt was a valuable asset for many Chinese people. Many years later, Xu recalled: “What is the CPC? It is a group of people that will cut and share their quilt with the poor even if they only have one.”
Explaining the nature of such a bond, Professor Zheng says that, “the CPC is a Marxist party whose members are part of the working people.” It was established in the summer of 1921 by 13 young people representing just over 50 communists. With an average age of 28, and predominantly students and intellectuals, they embodied a new force in Chinese society, determined to become a party of the people and not simply, “a Marxist society for men of letters”.
The article explains how, as the ruling party, the CPC is aware of the increased risk of becoming divorced from the people. Taking an example from Chongqing, a major city in western China, Zheng notes that the party committee might lose touch even with a community of just a few thousand people, hence party groups were formed for every residential building or cluster of buildings, with some party members putting signs on their doors so residents could easily approach them if they needed help at any time.
As Professor Zheng puts it: “There is no conflict between carrying out the instructions of higher authorities and addressing the needs of the people, because the Party has always represented the fundamental interests of the people. As CPC Central Committee General Secretary Xi Jinping said, ‘The people’s aspiration for a better life is what we are striving for.'”
And just as Marx and Engels wrote in 1847, in The Manifesto of the Communist Party, that the communists, “have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement,” so Professor Zheng echoes the words of Xi Jinping when he writes: “Aside from the fundamental interests of the people, the Party has no special interests of its own.”
Let me first explain the bond between the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people through a true story. A Red Army squad passing through Hunan province during the Long March decided to spend the night at a small village. Three women soldiers took shelter under the eaves of a house belonging to a woman named Xu Jiexiu to escape the rain. Seeing their condition, Xu invited them to spend the night in her home.
The three women along with Xu and her child slept together under a worn-out cotton sheet and the quilt of the soldiers. Leaving the house the next day, the three women soldiers cut their only quilt in two, leaving one half with Xu. In those days of starvation and suffering, a quilt was a valuable asset for many Chinese people.
A force that works for betterment of people
Many years later, Xu recalled: “What is the CPC? It is a group of people that will cut and share their quilt with the poor even if they only have one.” This ideally describes the bond between the Party and the Chinese people.
Why does the CPC enjoy such a close bond with the people?
The CPC is a Marxist party whose members are part of the working people. In the summer of 1921, 13 young people representing 50-plus communists founded the CPC. While their average age was 28 and many were still students, they embodied a new force in Chinese society. And despite many of its members being intellectuals, the Party declared its goal was to deeply engage with ordinary people and build a party of the people, instead of establishing a “Marxist society for men of letters”.
To this end, Mao Zedong who was then 28 visited Anyuan, a coal-mining town on the border of Hunan and Jiangxi provinces, to explore the revolutionary prospects there. During the first few days, Mao went down the pit wearing decent, if not expensive, clothes and shoes. No miner talked to him.
This prompted him to change into shabby clothes and shoes. Soon, Mao was talking with workers in their sheds and sharing revolutionary ideas. Later, the miners in Anyuan formed the backbone of the Autumn Harvest Uprising led by Mao. About 5,000 miners joined the revolution and followed Mao in establishing the revolutionary base in Jinggangshan.
High representation of workers, farmers
Statistics show that on the eve of the founding of the People’s Republic, among the 3.26 million Party members across the country, 83 percent were farmers and 5.87 percent workers. Even today, the Party attaches great importance to recruiting members from among workers and farmers. Data show that since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, the percentage of new Party members from among workers and farmers has remained above 40 percent a year.
The CPC has deep roots among the Chinese people. As the ruling party, the CPC realized the risks of being divorced from the people were rising. So, the CPC Central Committee asked Party organizations at all levels to more rigorously reach out to the people and reinforce primary-level Party organizations. No wonder primary-level Party organizations always top all other Party units in numbers.
Primary-level Party organizations have reached almost every corner of society, including companies, government agencies, schools and research institutions.
Take urban areas for example. The smallest administrative unit is the Party’s street organization, which is composed of communities, with each community having its resident commission and Party committee.
Since the population of a community ranges from 2,000-3,000 to more than 10,000, sometimes the Party committee loses touch with the people. To address this concern, the Party organizations in Ba’nan district of Chongqing formed Party groups for every resident building or cluster of resident buildings. Some Party members even put up signs on the door of their house so ordinary residents could approach the Party organization if they needed help.
Providing service for the people
With 96 million members and 4.9 million primary-level Party organizations, the CPC has reached every corner of the country. If you ever come across a Party service center or Party member post that provides services for ordinary people at airports, train stations, tourist sites or places near your residence, don’t be surprised. This is how Party organizations integrate into the daily life and work of ordinary people.
Basically, primary-level Party organizations have two tasks to perform: carrying out the instructions of higher authorities, and helping the people to meet their needs.
More often than not, what primary-level Party organizations and Party members do is to improve the lives of the people by helping solve their problems. In urban communities, they take the lead in solving daily problems such as better maintaining parking lots, improving the community environment, and making arrangements for charging new energy vehicles. And in rural areas, they lead villagers in developing businesses to increase their incomes.
Party members make exemplary sacrifices
Wei Xinglong, a young Party member, was born in 1980. Despite graduating from a hygiene school, he gave up the opportunity of working in a county hospital to return to his poor village as a “doctor”. For the next 18 years, he traveled more than 400,000 kilometers, offering medical services to the residents of 28 villages on both sides of the Yellow River.
As a village Party branch secretary for 20 years, his father taught him early in his childhood that one should always care for others. Wei, too, became a member of the local Party branch.
There is no conflict between carrying out the instructions of higher authorities and addressing the needs of the people, because the Party has always represented the fundamental interests of the people. As CPC Central Committee General Secretary Xi Jinping said, “The people’s aspiration for a better life is what we are striving for.”
Aside from the fundamental interests of the people, the Party has no special interests of its own. By reaching out to people from different regions and walks of life through the network of Party organizations and members, the Party gets to know what diverse groups of people want and endeavors to meet their needs.
Plans and goals based on needs of the people
Every five years, the Party holds the National Congress to set out the plans and goals for the next five years which are based on the needs and wishes of the people.
For instance, to prepare the draft report of the 19th Party Congress, the CPC Central Committee formed 80 research groups that conducted field investigations in 1,817 local institutions and held 1,501 seminars and meetings on 21 major issues. And after being ready, the draft was discussed sentence by sentence within and outside the Party to find the “largest common ground” of people’s wishes.
In some cases it takes more than the efforts of primary-level Party organizations and members to address the demands of the people. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in Wuhan, Hubei province, the city faced serious shortage of medical resources. The CPC Central Committee then intervened as the highest coordinator, managing the support from 19 provinces and building two new hospitals in just 10 days to help contain the novel coronavirus.
After the hospitals were built, more people were needed to run them. So the 25 people from the first special task force that arrived in Wuhan were asked if they were Party members and wanted to stay back to help. Despite knowing that if they stayed back, they would have to face the threat of being infected by the virus, 22 of them said, “I am a member of the CPC and I’m willing to stay”, while the other three said “I am not a Party member but I’m willing to stay”. This explains the bond between the Party and the Chinese people.
Party members and cadres are first and foremost members of the people. They engage with ordinary people to know what they want and forge consensuses among them, help find “the largest common ground” and convert it into the Party’s policies. And to implement these policies, Party organizations and members at all levels set the wheels of publicity in motion and mobilize people with the aim of building a great socialist modern country.
The reason why the Party can always organize, rally and lead the people is that it does not have special interests of its own and has never represented any interest group.