CPC at 90: Innovation still key to success (2)

10:35, June 16, 2011      

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Chairman Mao Zedong was to lead a communist revolution in a semi-feudal, agrarian society that had been subject to hundreds of years of intervention by European capitalist powers and Japan. Deng Xiaoping introduced new ideas that led to China's opening up to the outside world and becoming a socialist market economy. Jiang Zemin oversaw the peaceful return of Hong Kong and Macao under a new paradigm of one-country, two systems, and the same model is presented for the unification of Taiwan.

The hallmark of President Hu Jintao's tenure has been China's participation in and leading of various multilateral forums, expanding transparency at home and granting new rights to the Chinese people. Experts describe this as China's move toward greater democracy, and the "Beijing consensus" and "China model" are now being debated across the world.

China's unprecedented economic rise since the 1990s, the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and collapse of the East Bloc were to provide a major push for the CPC leadership to reinvent itself. This resulted in rapid evolution of not only the CPC, but also of Chinese politics, society and even culture. With the epithet of "Chinese characteristics" and "socialist market economy", the CPC has since introduced several new formulations such as "peaceful development", "spiritual civilization" and "harmonious world".

Recent years have seen an increase in CPC membership. The continued high economic growth and nationalism (or patriotism) are normally described as the twin pillars of the CPC's continued legitimacy, a legitimacy that has put to rest the "China bubble-bust" theory of the early 1990s.

The CPC has expanded its relations with more than 600 political parties across the world, and become far more cosmopolitan and transparent about sharing information on the challenges it faces such as skewed regional development, pervasive unemployment, rising rural unrest and crime, and widening income divide.

The past decades have also seen the CPC seriously engaging other political forces at home in its plans, helping develop non-governmental organizations and civil society, and paying greater attention to the demands of the growing middle class. The ever-expanding shades of opinions, stronger scrutiny of CPC policies, hundreds of new print and online media and even greater offer of choices in everyday life present a new trend in Chinese politics with the CPC at its helm.

From its days of class struggle and continuous revolution, the CPC has moved to ensuring peaceful development and building a harmonious society. Change, they say, is the only permanent reality. And the fact that the CPC has continued to innovate and re-invent itself is what makes the rise of China one of the top events of this century.

The author is a professor of international studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
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