The Chinese Communist Party is celebrating the 90th year since its founding in a secret room in Shanghai (in what is now a trendy shopping district) with a propaganda and media blitz. The New York Times reports:
The 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party — done in secret in the leafy French Concession of Shanghai in 1921 — unfolded Friday with more propaganda hype surrounding it than any party birthday in recent memory. The previous weeks were packed with spectacles reminding Chinese of the party’s revolutionary roots. Officials seemed especially eager to emphasize the party’s history as a populist movement at a time when mass protests have swept authoritarian leaders from power in the Middle East.
There was a star-studded movie, “Beginning of the Great Revival,” that showed Mao and his cohorts plotting a political coup, and a mass choir performance in the western city of Chongqing where 100,000 people in a stadium sang Mao-era classics and waved red flags in unison. But when Mr. Hu took the stage here in the Great Hall of the People on Friday morning, the message at the heart of his one-and-a-half-hour speech was all about social stability.
“The key is adhering to the organic unity of the party leadership, people as masters and ruling the country by law,” Mr. Hu said, signaling that the party, which has 80 million members, about 6 percent of China’s population, would brook no rivals.
Mr. Hu emphasized that for the party to maintain control, it had to stay disciplined, and that meant rooting out the corruption that erodes the trust of ordinary Chinese.
MSNBC reports that the CCP’s celebration is all about adaptation and survival (report includes some beautiful images of the celebrations and preparations) while the Telegraph says the CCP at 90 represents “propaganda and paranoia”. Xinhua, meanwhile, hails the Party’s achievements.
At his keynote speech at the Great Hall of the People, President and CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao vowed to fight corruption and instill discipline in the ranks. From CNN:
He ticked off the CPC’s achievements over the past 90 years. “China has developed rapidly in the past 30 plus years thanks to reform and opening up, and the country must promote its future development by continuing to carry out reform and opening up,” he intoned.
But he also warned that the party is facing “long-term, complicated and severe tests in governing the country.” The major challenges for the party, he pointed out, includes “lacking in drive, incompetence, divorce from people, lacking in initiative, and corruption.”
To cope with these “growing dangers,” Hu urged the party to “police itself and impose strict discipline on its members.” He stressed that the party’s survival largely depends on “cracking hard on and effectively preventing corruption.” If not handled properly, he warned, corruption will “cost the party the trust and support of the people.”
And always-alert Zhongnanhai watchers immediately noticed the absence from the celebrations of Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao’s predecessor as Party head, which has led to much speculation. From the Wall Street Journal blog:
Most of the other big guns were there, including 82-year-old former Premier Zhu Rongji, now sporting a mop of grey hair instead of the standard dye-induced black favored by incumbent leaders.
Li Peng, another ex-Premier, was also there, although he appears to be still using the dye, boasting a full head of glossy black hair despite being just a few weeks younger than Mr. Zhu.
But as the China Central Television camera lingered on each of the elders, there was no sign of Mr. Jiang, who was succeeded as Party chief by Hu Jintao in 2002 and stood alongside him at a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic in 2009.
Mr. Jiang’s surprising, and very obvious, absence is now certain to fuel rumors circulating in Beijing in recent months that he may be severely unwell, and therefore losing his ability to influence key Party decisions – including a once-a-decade leadership change next year.
As CDT has reported, part of the anniversary celebrations include the singing of red songs around the country, by minority farmers, parkgoers in Beijing, and a group of 100,000 in the world’s largest red-song fest. Watch Minnan-dialect farmers perform reddest of the red songs, “The East is Red” (courtesy of Shanghaiist):A number of opinions and perspectives about the anniversary have been published in recent days. See for example:
– China’s Communist Party at 90 by David Shambaugh in the New York Times
– Great Party, but Where’s the Communism? by Minxin Pei, also in the New York Times
– What a Long, Strange March It’s Been by Jeffrey Wasserstrom in Foreign Policy
– 90 Years of the Chinese Communist Party by Damien Ma in the Atlantic
– At Age 90, the Chinese Communist Party May Be Strangled By Its Own Apparatus, by Willy Lam in the Jakarta Globe
Read more about the CCP’s 90th Birthday via CDT.
Update: See: “China’s Communists mull the party’s future” from the Los Angeles Times and a video from Al Jazeera: