Party members from foreign companies swear an oath by a Communist Party of China flag at a cemetery for revolutionary martyrs in Shanghai on April 24. The activity was organized by the Shanghai Foreign Service Co. Photo: Xinhua
Sheng Li, a Communist Party of China (CPC) branch secretary at Nokia Siemens Networks Shanghai (NSN Shanghai), is excited after recently being elected one of the 2,270 representatives to attend the incoming 18th CPC National Congress.
"This honor is the best reward for my Party work at a foreign enterprise," Sheng told the Global Times, adding that the branch now has 33 Party members.
By the end of 2011, statistics showed that there were more than 82.6 million Party members in China. Almost every government department, State-owned enterprise (SOE), university, school or even large private company has a Party branch or committee to maintain the link between individual Party members and the national political organization.
International companies that hire local employees in China are no exception, though many were initially reluctant to allow these Party organizations to prosper.
"I still remember the first talk I, as a Party branch secretary, had with my American boss. She told me to limit the Party work in our company," Sheng recalled, who has been in the position for over six years.
Zhu Lulin, the Party branch secretary at Australia and New Zealand Bank China (ANZ China), echoed Sheng's words, saying that foreign bosses still hold prejudices toward Party branches due to their limited knowledge of the CPC.
As a result, Party members who joined foreign companies often keep a low profile, and even when some form branch Party committees, they keep their activities out of their bosses' sight.
"I used to organize Party activities in my spare time, and kept them away from the foreign bosses," recalled Yu Chunkui, 65, a retired Party branch secretary at Siemens.
Role of Party committees
The rapid development of Party branches in foreign enterprises started in 2001, when then president Jiang Zemin announced at the celebration of the 80th Anniversary of the CPC that people working in all kinds of enterprises, whether they were SOEs, foreign enterprises or private-owned enterprises, were all "contributors to the socialist construction," Zhang Dong, director of the Party committee office at the Beijing Investment Promotion Bureau (BIPB), told the Global Times.
In 1991, there were 12 foreign enterprises that had Party organizations under the auspices of the BIPB. By the end of June, 366 foreign enterprises had formed Party branches in Beijing, with 3,288 Party members.
"The important role of Party branches in foreign enterprises is acting as a bridge that brings national policies into companies, which help companies become familiar with the latest situations in the country and make strategies accordingly," Zhang said.
In Shanghai, the Shanghai Foreign Service Co. (SFSC), which serves 25,000 enterprises, has now set up 486 Party branches in foreign enterprises, now consisting of 10,000 Party members.
Yu Fuzhong, the director of the Party committee office of the SFSC, told the Global Times that the establishment of Party branches is not only to maintain political stability, but is also an important method for cultivating Party members into becoming high-quality talent for companies. When asked whether there had been frictions between the Party branches and these foreign companies, most branch secretaries preferred to emphasize their successful cooperation.
The SFSC promotes Party activities in various ways, including inviting experts to deliver lectures on the latest situations, publishing news reports every month, organizing charity activities regularly and setting up an online community for Party members.
Party members in most foreign enterprises often take part in charitable activities oriented toward environmental causes, which serves the dual purpose of assisting the environment and helping to earn the trust of foreign managers.
Ford China has set up an annual fund of 1.5 million yuan ($ 235,500) to reward the contributors to environmental causes, while Party members at ANZ China regularly devote school supplies to the students at primary schools for children of migrant workers.
Shen Qinyi, Party branch secretary at the Parametric Technology Corporation of China (PTC China), organizes English and information technology classes for children and senior residents of Shanghai communities on weekends every month.
New forms of Party activities are being carried out at Party branches. Shen started a Sina Weibo for their Party branch called "PTC Red House," which publishes the latest news from their Party branch, introducing Party members on their honor board while providing study and communication opportunities for members who have no enough time for meetings.
"The number of Party members in our general branch has increased from 80 in 1996 to 183 in July this year," Li Ming, the general Party branch secretary of Bosch Rexroth China, told the Global Times. "I have also noticed a trend toward more young members in recent years."
Li's experience is shared by most CPC secretaries at the American and European companies in China, which are more willing to cooperate. At Japanese companies, however, the situation is different.
Ren Fei, Party branch secretary of JVC (China) Investment Co. (JVC China), told the Global Times that his Japanese bosses did not support the formation of Party branches, as the Japanese consider Party activities as personal political beliefs, which have nothing to do with enterprises.
Ren attempted to explain the importance of establishing Party branches at their company offices in China, but said he had met with limited success.
More than 300,000 grass-roots Party committees have been set up in the country's private sector, which includes private enterprises, self-employed businesses and foreign enterprises, up from fewer than 100,000 about 10 years ago, according to statistics released by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) in May, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
"The rapid development of foreign enterprises brought new challenges for the CPC, as most of them lack grass-roots organizations to recruit new Party members and mobilize older members," Liu Zonghong, director of the History and Research Department at the Party School of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee, told the Global Times.
"The establishment of CPC grass-roots organizations in foreign enterprises can help consolidate the CPC's ruling basis in China, facilitate the healthy development of foreign enterprises and guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of employees," said Liu.