Why CPC strong leadership key to leading China over crucial test, en route to rejuvenation through 100 years

Firm core essential to ensure victory, prevent failure

By Yang Sheng, Chen Qingqing and Cao Siqi, Published: 2021/06/04 02:30:00

A visitor looks at statues of earlier generations of revolutionaries at the site of the First National Congress of the CPC in Shanghai on Thursday when restoration at the site was finished and it was reopened to the public as a museum. Photo: Yang Hui/GT
Editor's Note:

With the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) less than a month away, the Global Times will publish a series of reports to decode why the CPC is the destined choice for the Chinese people, why it can rise above challenges and tests in a century, and what is its secret code to success in governing such a vast country and implementing effective economic policies that have created an economic miracle for China and the world.

The current series will be divided into two parts to explore how the CPC withstood storm after storm and overcame crisis after crisis and how firm leadership becomes the key to the CPC's success. This is the first part of the current series, which focuses on how the CPC has overcome serious challenges and gone through tests one by one in the history. The second part, which will be published on Saturday, will start from the internal and external challenges the Party was faced with in the 1980s.

People take photos in front of the site of the First National Congress of the CPC in Shanghai on April 23, 2021. Photo: VCG

The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese people are gearing up for grand celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Party on July 1 - a truly remarkable milestone for the CPC and the over 1.4 billion Chinese people.

Around the world, political parties with more than 100 years' history are not rare, but almost none could claim the achievements the CPC has made. Through a series of crucial tests and crises, the CPC has emerged even stronger and more confident, leading a torn-apart, poverty-stricken nation out of its darkest moments to a world-leading power today en route for a great national rejuvenation.

In the past 100 years, the CPC experienced several "darkest hours" in its centurial journey, including the Kuomintang (KMT)'s massacre of CPC members in the 1920s, the setback caused by the Cultural Revolution from the 1960s to 1970s, and the impact of Western ideology in the late 1980s.

Today, experts and scholars are trying to find out what is the key for the Party to overcome those challenges through wise decision-making and self-correction, to prevent a collapse and failure like other communist parties in some former socialist countries, and make China a powerful, successful and confident country that makes the West, which used to have unshakable confidence and supremacy, more and more anxious.

Before the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, also called the era of revolution, the CPC also experienced serious crises such as the April 12 Counter-revolutionary Coup (also known as the Shanghai massacre) in 1927 when the KMT regime killed thousands of CPC members, and the failure of the campaign against "encirclement and suppression" launched by the KMT regime in 1933. In these "darkest hours," the CPC almost lost more than half of its strength and even risked almost being completely destroyed by the KMT regime.

Before the Zunyi Conference in 1935 which confirmed Mao Zedong's military leadership of the Red Army, the Party didn't have a strong leadership core, and the revolution suffered setbacks and tragedies. The Zunyi Conference brought a changeover for the CPC, and overturned the failing tendency.

This proved that the Party leadership with a strong core is essential to ensure the victory and prevent failure, said experts.

Analysts and scholars of Party history said that there are some key similarities or lessons that could be highlighted from these crises - some leaders or elites of the Party held wishful thinking and compromised their stance toward the enemies of the Party and the Chinese people; they blindly attached too much hope on the experiences and thoughts from other countries, and heavily relied on foreign advisors without self-developed ideas based on China's unique national conditions; and the decision-making board was not united and leaders shared no consensus on the path of the revolution and made wrong judgments on China's national condition.

These problems also occurred from time to time after 1949, and adding the huge external threats and complicated relations with the super powers during and after the Cold War, these problems have also brought some extreme difficulties and risks to the country and the Party after the PRC was established. "How did the CPC go through these 'darkest hours' and overcome the extreme challenges?" By answering this question, it can allow the foreigners interested in China and some Westerners who failed to understand the CPC decision-making and could not explain China's development to learn a better way to deal with China and the CPC today, said Chinese experts, adding that this will also help people understand how and why the CPC will handle the challenges in the future.

According to experts on Party history and Chinese politics reached by the Global Times, there is one key reason why the CPC can always overcome those crises and find the correct direction of the path - the Party can always find its proper and strong core leadership to ensure the victories against the enemies and realize self-correction.

The "Red Boat" on South Lake in Jiaxing, East China's Zhejiang Province where the first National Congress of the CPC was concluded after the discussions in Shanghai were interrupted. File photo: VCG
Fighting for autonomy

The first major life-and-death moment for the CPC after 1949 was the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976. This incident caused the Party, China and people to suffer the most serious setbacks and losses since the founding of the PRC, and the economy was on the verge of collapse, said Luo Pinghan, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC.

Apart from the internal chaos and difficulties, China was also facing serious external threats from both Soviet Union and the US. According to leaked documents from the Pentagon, in 1958, amid the second Taiwan Straits crisis, the US had planned to launch nuclear strikes against almost every major city in China to not only destroy the military and industrial targets but also to eliminate the Chinese population.

At the same time, the Sino-Soviet split also caused the relationship between China and the Soviet Union to intensify, and both sides even had a military conflict at the border in 1969. After the conflict, the Soviet Union also planned to launch nuclear strikes against China's major military bases and cities, including the capital city Beijing, according to historical references.

Due to tensions with both the US and Soviet Union, not just being threatened militarily, China's development faced huge difficulties due to the sanctions and pressure from both superpowers.

To ensure the security and autonomy of China under such a severe situation, the first generation of CPC leaders with Mao as the core had to be tough when dealing with the US and Soviet Union, said Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China.

"In this period, the most important mission for the CPC was to ensure the survival of the PRC, so from the 1950s to 1970s, China was assertive and determined to defend its hard-won independence and autonomy. The CPC needed to prevent the PRC from being controlled or bullied by others at all cost," Jin said.

Thanks to the success in developing China's own nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in the 1960s, also known as the "Two Bombs, One Satellite" project, as well as the flexible decision-making and diplomatic efforts, and by leveraging the struggle between the US and Soviet Union, China successfully avoided and deterred a nuclear war with the two superpowers amid the Cold War, said experts.

" The 'Three World Theory' proposed by Mao proved to be relevant. As the core of the CPC and China's leader at that time, Mao wisely used the confrontation between the US and Soviet Union to expand China's influence and popularity in the third world," Yang Xuedong, a professor of political science at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.

After a series of diplomatic, political and military efforts, the PRC was recognized as "the only legitimate representative of China to the UN" in 1971 and also achieved the goal of normalization of China-US ties in 1972. Some analysts said the CPC is really good at seeking opportunity from the crisis, and even turn the crisis into an opportunity.

People look at a statue called "winning bugle" in Jinggangshan, the "cradle of the Chinese revolution," in East China's Jiangxi Province on April 23. Photo: VCG
Inheritance and self-correction

While the danger of war with superpowers was avoided, China's international influence was growing and in the field of strategic nuclear power, China achieved significant goals, but the internal problem of the Cultural Revolution still remained.

In 1976, the victory in smashing the "Gang of Four" lifted the Party and the country from the crisis, but the political, ideological, organizational, and economic chaos left over from the Cultural Revolution was still very dire, and it was not easy to get rid of such a predicament and start anew, Luo said.

In 1978, the Party led and supported discussion about "Practice is the sole criterion for testing the truth," which was of great significance in bringing the country out of the chaos. The 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the CPC fundamentally broke the binding shackles of the problems of left-leaning theories, corrected the Party's guiding ideology, re-established the Marxist ideological, political, and organizational line, and eventually realized the Party's successes since the founding of the PRC.

"This was a great turning point with far-reaching significance in history." The Party earnestly corrected major historical wrongs, adopted a series of measures to rectify unjust and erroneous acts, and implemented various policies conducive to strengthening unity, mobilizing all positive elements, Luo noted.

In the transition period between the first generation of CPC leaders with Mao at its core and the second generation with Deng Xiaoping at the center, the CPC has avoided huge internal turbulence like what happened in the Soviet Union after former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death as Nikita Khrushchev denied the contributions Stalin made to the Soviet Union.

The second generation of leadership inherited the first generation's achievements and corrected its errors, rather than making no change, or replacing everything, and this remains the key reason why the CPC still exists and leads China in its march forward, while the Communist Party of the Soviet Union collapsed, said some observers.

The 6th Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in 1981 passed the "Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of our Party since the Founding of the PRC", which fundamentally denied the Cultural Revolution and its relevant ideals, but the resolution also successfully sought not to deny Mao and Mao Zedong Thought, and confirmed the guiding role of Mao Zedong Thought for the CPC.

"With the changes inside and outside China, it's increasingly evident that the second generation of the CPC leadership with Deng at its core has political courage and foresight by implementing such correct and significant decisions," Luo said.