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History of the Communist Party of China

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Title: History of the Communist Party of China  
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Subject: Communist Party of China, Politics of China, Administrative divisions of China, History by political party, Supreme People's Procuratorate
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History of the Communist Party of China

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

This article details the history of the Communist Party of China.


  • History during the Revolution 1
    • Establishment of the Party 1.1
    • First Civil Revolution Period—the First United Front (1922–1927) 1.2
    • Second Civil Revolution Period—Soviet Republic of China (1927–1937) 1.3
    • Sino-Japanese War Period—Second United Front (1937–1945) 1.4
    • Third Civil Revolution Period (1946–1949) 1.5
  • As ruling party 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

History during the Revolution

Establishment of the Party

In 1920 Li Dazhao met comintern Russian agent G.N. Voitinsky
Location of the first Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in July 1921, in Xintiandi, former French Concession, Shanghai.

Marxist ideas started to spread widely in China after the 1919 May Fourth Movement. In June 1920, Comintern agent Grigori Voitinsky was sent to China, and met Li Dazhao and other reformers. He financed the founding of the Socialist Youth Corps.[1] The Communist Party of China was initially founded by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao in the French concession of Shanghai in 1921 as a study society and an informal network. There were informal groups in China in 1920, and also overseas, but the official beginning was the 1st Congress held in Shanghai and attended by 53 men in July 1921 and later transferred from Shanghai to Jiaxing. The birth of the party was declared here in a boat on South Lake. It is therefore considered by the Chinese to be one of the most important historical places of the revolution. The formal and unified name Zhōngguó Gòngchǎn Dǎng (Chinese Communist Party) was adopted and all other names of communist groups were dropped and the final agenda was carried out. The key players were Li Dazhao, Chen Duxiu, Chen Gongbo, Tan Pingshan, Zhang Guotao, He Mengxiong, Lou Zhanglong and Deng Zhongxia. Mao Zedong was present at the first congress as one of two delegates from a Hunan communist group. Other attendees included Dong Biwu, Li Hanjun, Li Da, Chen Tanqiu, Liu Renjing, Zhou Fohai, He Shuheng, Deng Enming, and two representatives from the Comintern, one of them being Henk Sneevliet (also known by the single name 'Maring'[2]). Notably absent at this early point were future leaders Li Lisan and Qu Qiubai.

First Civil Revolution Period—the First United Front (1922–1927)

In August 1922, Sneevliet called a surprise special plenum of the central committee and proposed that party members join the Leninist lines in 1923, in preparation for the Northern Expedition. However, the nascent party was not held in high regard: Karl Radek, one of the five founding leaders of the Comintern, said in November 1922 that the CCP did not enjoy a high reputation in Moscow. Moreover, it was divided into two camps, led by Deng Zhongxia and Li Dazhao on the more moderate "bourgeois, national revolution" model and Zhang Guotao, Lou Zhanglong, He Mengxiong and Chen Duxiu on the strongly anti-imperialism side.[4]

The role of the Comintern cannot be overstated. Chiang Kai-shek to found the Whampoa Military Academy. And, it was the CCP’s reliance on the leadership of the Comintern that was the first indication that the 1923-27 First United Front was fragile.[5] The death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925 created great uncertainty regarding who would lead the party, and whether they would still work with the Communists.

Despite the tensions, the Northern Expedition (1926–1927) led by Kuomintang and participated by CCP gained some quick successes in overthrowing the warlord government.

Second Civil Revolution Period—Soviet Republic of China (1927–1937)

In 1927, as the Northern Expedition approached Shanghai, the Kuomintang leadership split. The Left Kuomintang at Wuhan kept the alliance with the Communists. Chiang Kai-shek at Nanking grew increasingly hostile to them and launched a campaign against them. This happened after the capture of Shanghai, which occurred with the Communists and Kuomintang still in alliance. André Malraux's novel, Man's Fate (French: La Condition Humaine), is based on these events.

The anti-communist drive became general. As Chiang Kai-shek consolidated his power, various revolts continued, and Communist armed forces created a number of 'Soviet Areas'. The largest of these was led by Zhu De and Mao Zedong, who established Soviet Republic of China in some remote areas within China through peasant riots. A number of military campaigns from KMT army failed, but meantime the party leadership were driven out of Shanghai and moved to Mao's base, sidelining him.

Chiang Kai-shek launched a further campaign which succeeded. The CPC had to give up their bases and started the Long March (1934–1935) to search for a new base. During the Long March, the party leadership re-examined its policy and blamed their failure on the CPC military leader Otto Braun, a German sent by Comintern. During the Long March, the native Communists, such as Mao Zedong and Zhu De gained power. The Comintern and Soviet Union. lost control over the CPC. They settled in Shensi,[6] where there was an existing Communist base.

The Western world first got a clear view of the main base of the Communist Party of China through Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China. Snow was also the first person to present Mao as the main leader - he was previously seen as just a guerilla leader and mostly as second to Zhu De (Chu Teh).[7]

Sino-Japanese War Period—Second United Front (1937–1945)

During the Second Sino-Japanese war (1937–1945), the CPC and KMT were temporarily in alliance to fight their common enemy. The Communist government moved from Bao'an (Pao An) to Yan'an (Yenan) in December 1936.[8] The Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army became army groups belonging to the national army (8th route army and New 4th Army), and the Soviet Republic of China changed its name as a special Shaan-Gan-Ning administration region (named after the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia provinces at the borders of each it was located). However, essentially the army and the region controlled by CPC remained independent from the KMT’s government.

In eight years, the CCP membership increased from 40,000 to 1,200,000 and its military forces - from 30,000 to approximately one million in addition to more than one million militia support groups.[9]

It is a well accepted idea that without the Japanese invasion, the CPC might not have developed so fast. This accelerated development is attributed by some to the lack of attention the CPC paid to the war against Japan, they argue that the Chinese Communists took advantage of the KMT's preoccupation with the Japanese to gain an edge on the nationalists. This, however, wasn't entirely true as the Chinese Communists did wage costly Hundred Regiments Offensive and guerrilla wars against Japanese occupied areas.

Third Civil Revolution Period (1946–1949)

After the conclusion of WWII, the civil war resumed between the Kuomintang and the Communists. Despite initial gains by the KMT, they were eventually defeated and forced to flee to off-shore islands, most notably Taiwan. In the war, the US supported the Kuomintang and the USSR supported the CPC, but both with limited degrees. With the Kuomintang's defeat, Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China in Beijing on October 1, 1949.

As ruling party

The CPC's ideologies have significantly evolved since its founding and establishing political power in 1949. Mao's revolution that founded the PRC was nominally based on Marxism-Leninism with a rural focus based on China's social situations at the time. During the 1960s and 1970s, the CPC experienced a significant ideological breakdown with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev and their allies. Since then Mao's peasant revolutionary vision and so-called "continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat" stipulated that class enemies continued to exist even though the socialist revolution seemed to be complete, giving way to the Cultural Revolution. This fusion of ideas became known officially as "Mao Zedong Thought", or Maoism outside of China. It represented a powerful branch of communism that existed in opposition to the Soviet Union's "Marxist revisionism".

Following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, however, the CPC under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping moved towards Socialism with Chinese characteristics and instituted Chinese economic reform. In reversing some of Mao's "extreme-leftist" policies, Deng argued that a socialist country and the market economy model were not mutually exclusive. While asserting the political power of the Party itself, the change in policy generated significant economic growth. The ideology itself, however, came into conflict on both sides of the spectrum with Maoists as well as progressive liberals, culminating with other social factors to cause the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests. Deng's vision for economic success and a new socialist market model became entrenched in the Party constitution in 1997 as Deng Xiaoping Theory.

The "third generation" of leadership under Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji, and associates largely continued Deng's progressive economic vision while overseeing the re-emergence of Chinese nationalism in the 1990s. Nationalist sentiment has seemingly also evolved to become informally the part of the Party's guiding doctrine. As part of Jiang's nominal legacy, the CPC ratified the Three Represents into the 2003 revision of the Party Constitution as a "guiding ideology", encouraging the Party to represent "advanced productive forces, the progressive course of China's culture, and the fundamental interests of the people." There are various interpretations of the Three Represents. Most notably, the theory has legitimized the entry of private business owners and quasi-"bourgeoisie" elements into the party.

The insistent road of focusing almost exclusively on economic growth has led to a wide range of serious social problems. The CPC's "fourth generation" of leadership under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, after taking power in 2003, attempted reversing such a trend by bringing forth an integrated ideology that tackled both social and economic concerns. This new ideology was known as the creation of a Socialist Harmonious Society using the Scientific Development Concept.

The degree of power the Party had on the state has gradually decreased as economic liberalizations progressed. The evolution of CPC ideology has gone through a number of defining changes that it no longer bears much resemblance to its founding principles. Some believe that the large amount of economic liberalization starting from the late 1970s to present, indicates that the CPC has transitioned to endorse economic neoliberalism.[10][11][12][13] The CPC's current policies are fiercely rejected as capitalist by most communists, especially anti-revisionists, and by adherents of the Chinese New Left from within the PRC.

The Communist Party of China comprises a single-party state form of government; however, there are parties other than the CPC within China, which report to the United Front Department of the Communist Party of China and do not act as opposition or independent parties. Since the 1980s, as its commitment to Marxist ideology has appeared to wane, the party has begun to increasingly invoke Chinese nationalism as a legitimizing principle as opposed to the socialist construction for which the party was originally created.

See also


  1. ^ Schwartz, Benjamin, Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao, Harper & Row (New York: 1951), p. 32-35.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Schwartz, p. 41.
  4. ^ Schwartz, p. 37-38.
  5. ^ Schwartz, p. 50-51.
  6. ^ Mao Tse Tung Ruler of Red China by Robert Payne, page 174
  7. ^ The Morning Deluge, by Han Suyin, footnote on page 367
  8. ^ Mao Tse Tung Ruler of Red China by Robert Payne, p 175
  9. ^ Benjamin Yang,From Revolution to Politics: Chinese Communists on the Long MarchWestview 1990, p. 307'
  10. ^ Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press. Pp. 120
  11. ^ Greenhalgh, Susan; Winckler, Edwin A. 2005. Governing China's Population: From Leninist to Neoliberal Biopolitics. Stanford, California, USA: Stanford University Press.
  12. ^ Zhang, Xudong. Whither China?: Intellectual Politics in Contemporary China. Duke University Press. Pp. 52
  13. ^ Wong, John; Lai, Hongyi; Hongyi, Lai. China Into the Hu-Wen Era: Policy Initiatives and Challenges. Pp. 99 "...influence of neoliberalism has spread rapidly in China", "...neoliberalism had influenced not only college students but also economists and leading party cadres"...

External links

  • Partying With Communists in China — slideshow by Life magazine
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