New era, same mission

New era, same mission

By Peter Nolan | appeared first in China Daily |

Central purpose of the CPC has always been to serve the people

When the Communist Party of China was established in 1921, it was decided to use the Chinese characters gongchan zhuyi as the translation of the word communism. What do these Chinese characters mean for the CPC in the 21st century? The central purpose of the CPC is to serve the interests of the mass of the Chinese population. This objective has been pursued under different circumstances over the course of the CPC’s 100-year history. This long experience shapes the CPC today and provides the confidence to face the challenges that lie ahead.

From 1921-49 the CPC was engaged in a protracted struggle against external and internal forces. The struggle for national liberation and national independence is embedded in the CPC’s character. Its survival and success depended upon its deep roots among the population. Throughout its history, serving the people and the mass line have been the CPC’s core principles.

After Liberation in 1949, the CPC led nationwide mass movements for land reform, mutual aid teams, health and education. These movements brought great welfare benefits to the whole population.

During the era of reform and opening-up since 1978, the CPC has groped its way toward the other bank of the river. It dug deep into China’s own political, philosophical and economic history. For Guanzi (720-645 BC), the market is a two-edged sword: the profit motive stimulates incentives and economic progress, but the market must be regulated to serve the common interest. For Confucius (551-479 BC), “benevolence is more vital to the common people than fire and water”. For Mencius (372-289 BC), “if you do not have a commiserating heart, you will not have a commiserating government”.

For 2000 years, China was at the forefront of global innovation. Technologies invented in China made their way to Europe along the Silk Road: paper and printing, porcelain, the compass, the blast furnace, gunpowder, tubular metal weapons, and canal lock gates. These were central to Europe’s technological progress after the Renaissance.

The world stands at a crossroad. Navigating a safe path at the crossroad and beyond is a profound challenge for the CPC. The global political economy has entered a new era, presenting new opportunities and challenges for the CPC, both domestically and internationally.

These have been sharply illuminated by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The CPC’s leadership of the people’s war against the virus has been based on its traditions of serving the people, democratic centralism and the mass line. The generally successful response has been facilitated by the IT revolution. The revolution affects all aspects of the economy, society, government and military affairs, as well as the CPC itself.

For 200 years, the West dominated the global economy, technologies and culture as well as global governance. That era is coming to an end. Despite its advanced technologies, the political leaders and the mass of society in the West have failed to work together to defeat the virus. Europe and the United States face a psychosocial crisis, the consequences of which are unpredictable.

Human beings face common global challenges of species extinction, climate change, concentration of business power, social inequality, financial instability, cybersecurity and the regulation of artificial intelligence. The way in which East and West engage with each other at the present crossroad of civilization holds the key to the future of the human species.

The author is director of the China Centre of Jesus College at University of Cambridge.

The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of Centre of Asian and Chinese Studies (CACS).

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