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The 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China

The Communist Party of China (CCP) celebrates its 100th anniversary this July with 95 million members on its ranks, the second largest in the world after the Bharatiya Janata in India. It was formed in Shanghai in 1921 with the help of the Soviet Union to overthrow the nationalist party of China (Kuomintang) with the aim of establishing a 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. Interestingly, both sides joined forces to face the Japanese invasion in the 1930s, which lasted until 1945. At the end of World War II, the internal civil conflict continued and finally the communists were victorious in 1949 with their leader Mao Zedung and big support of the rural population who were promised a generous distribution of the land. The first three decades of Communist China were very difficult. The country failed to industrialize as the Soviet Union had done, and the forced collectivization of agricultural land, called the 'Great Leap Forward', led to the greatest famine in human history causing the deaths of nearly 40 million Chinese between 1958 and 1962. To avoid chaos, Mao Zedong ended up centralizing all power on his leadership and blamed the country's ills on 'bourgeois' elements that, according to him, had infiltrated public life such as the universities and the Communist Party itself. Mao Zedong also broke his friendship with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, considering that when Stalin died, in 1953, the party had become too 'revisionist' of the socialist ideals. This dispute even ended with a short-lived armed conflict in 1969 between Mao's communist China and Brezhnev's Soviet Union.

The Communist Party of China started a persecution of political opponents on a national scale called 'The Cultural Revolution' that lasted from 1966 to 1976. The death toll in this period was around 2 million Chinese and many more imprisoned. The government even made it easy for student groups, known as 'Red Guards', to hand over their teachers and other students on suspicion of 'capitalist behaviour'. The economic situation was disastrous and after the death of Mao in 1976, China, under the new leadership of Deng Xiaoping, experimented with a nation project that it called 'market socialism with Chinese characteristics'. Farmers and industries were allowed to sell the excesses of their production that they were supposed to deliver to the state, political power was decentralized, Special Economic Zones were created and international trade begun on a large scale. During this period, economic growth consistently exceeded 5% annual GDP, but political repression continued. The most significant event of this political repression occured in 1989 with the massacre of thousands of students who were protesting for more individual rights and equality at Beijing's central Square of Tiananmen and left thousands of casualties.

Despite this, in 2001 China is finally admitted in the World Trade Organization with the help of the United States, and very quickly economic growth started to exceed 10% of annual GDP. Following many corruption scandals in the country, the current leader of China, Xi Jinping, took power in 2012. In order to maintain social order without giving up economic liberalism, Xi Jinping re-centralized political power back to Mao's levels and launched a 'national anti-corruption campaign'. This, together with international geopolitical fights, has provoked that political repression has increased and foreign policy became more agressive as well. In 2014, China introduced a 'social credit system'. With the help of massive computer surveillance, it ranks every Chinese citizen, similar to what happens to Uber drivers, with a score depending on 'social vicious' behaviours that may be detected. Acts such as throwing garbage, walking through a red light, not paying taxes on time, posting a comment against the Communist Party on social networks, making 'impulsive purchases' on Internet, among others, influence the rating within the social credit system. Because of this credit system, more than 23 million Chinese people were denied to buy train or plane tickets in 2018 due to their low rating. Other common consequences are the rejection of job applications, admission of children to the University, and access to bank loans. On the other hand, people with a good social rating are rewarded with reductions in their gas and electricity bills, simplifications in administrative procedures and lower credit interest rates. The latest controversial episode of the new Chinese policy has been the persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority that lives mainly in the province of Xianjiang, in the west of the country. Millions have been deported to concentration camps to be indoctrinated with official propaganda with the aim, according to Beijing, of reducing Islamist radicalization and the threat of a possible independence movement similar to what happened in Tibet 70 years ago. The expectations of lower economic growth and an increase in the rivalry with other world and regional powers suggest that the aggressiveness of the Chinese Communist Party will not diminish in the coming years, but quite the contrary.


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