In 2021 the Chinese Communist Party will celebrate its 100th anniversary, enjoying the longest standing communist rule in recorded history. In this podcast, historian of China Hans van de Ven discusses the roots of the movement and its extraordinary rise to a single-party power – which he claims involved a lot of luck. The CCP didn’t become a Maoist party until World War II when Mao began focusing on expansion and successfully attracted typically neglected supporters – those in the countryside, the youth, and the scholars. Today, the Party is still dominant in Chinese life, even though market reform has allowed commercial powerhouses such as Alibaba and Tencent to emerge. As van de Ven explains, however, the CCP still calls the shots on all big decisions. Technology is transforming communication and transparency, and in light of the incoming anniversary President Jinping is worried that the dark side of the party’s growth will come to light.
Why does this matter? It’s easy to see the one party rule in China as an unbreakable norm, but in light of their 100 years of rule, young, educated Chinese people are questioning their history and the status quo. Jinping has aggressively concentrated power, but is now contending with a slowing economy, trade issues with the US, independency calls in Taiwan, and Western criticism of his treatment of Uighurs. This has had a considerable effect on the economy: this week, the Renminbi hit its lowest level in 11 years. Beijing should expect to face some difficult questions.
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