The CCP’s 100-year trajectory through the prism of its founding principles: Organization, ideology, social bases, modernization and nation-building agenda
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The grouping founded on July 23rd 1921 by a handful of intellectuals in the French concession of Shanghai has magnified into one of the largest and most formidable political party in history. Starting with 53 members in 1921, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) now counts over 91 million members. From a revolutionary movement that survived more than a decade of civil war, despite being driven close to extinction in the mid-1930s, it has become a political regime in itself, dominating since 1949 the world’s most populous country. The CCP led China’s path to modernization from a rural and under-developed country torn apart by warlordism, civil war, and Western imperialism, to a seemingly strong nation and global superpower. This story of China’s path to modernization culminates today in the Party’s China Dream.
How to explain this success? Engaging with the Party’s structure and ideology, its evolving social bases, as well as its nation-building and modernization agendas, this conference seeks to unravel the CCP’s trajectory by reflecting on how the key priorities set by the Party’s founding fathers have been implemented, and often adapted. How have the daunting tasks of fighting against capitalism and imperialism, unifying the country, establishing a solid alliance with the Chinese people, carrying out the revolution relying on the “three treasured magic weapons” of Party building, united front work, and armed struggle been managed over time? And at what costs? What are the specificities of the Party-State which emerged from China’s path to modernization and what are the remaining vulnerabilities and challenges?
The CCP has many different dimensions, with ideology and organization as the core of the edifice. Following its 100-year trajectory, we can understand the differences, as well as continuities, between the movement with extraordinary mobilization capabilities that took power in 1949, the mass campaigns of the 1950s to 1970s with their destructive outcome, and the blend of neoliberal adaptability and Leninist organizational principles that emerged following the Reform and Opening up. Despite, or because of, its revolutionary legacy, the CCP has shown tremendous adaptability over these 100 years, made of inventive interpretations of Marxist ideology and policy experimentation. How has the Party been able to reinvent itself, both ideologically and organizationally, without transforming its core structure? To what extent the ideology the CCP stand for today is in line with its founding principles? How cycles of political tightening and loosening, of atrophy and adaptation, have shaped its trajectory? How does it deal with its structural vulnerabilities, the lack of institutionalized channels of accountability and the strength of vested interests?
The CCP’s success in retaining power is closely linked to its capacity to carry out China’s modernization and overcome subsequent challenges threatening social stability. How did the CCP reconcile strong capacity to govern with enough flexibility to meet challenges such as the transition from a rural to an urban society, economic modernization, and its social and environmental consequences, while maintaining the core principles of its domination? In turn, how the CCP’s continued political monopoly limits its capacity to surmount remaining vulnerabilities such as increasing inequalities and an enduring environmental crisis?”
Following China’s unique path to modernization, the CCP has faced the challenge of forging a lasting alliance with an ever-changing society and in turn has been transformed by this endeavor. Moving away from its role as the vanguard of proletariat and peasantry, the CCP now sees itself as representative of the interest of the Chinese population in general. A change reflected in the fundamental transformation of its membership as it has become a white-collar party. At the same time, the Party has endeavored to reconfigure its alliance with its traditional social bases, including the intellectuals, to maintain its legitimacy. How has the CCP renegotiated its partnership with its traditional social bases while attempting to absorb a new middle class, and how has the Party itself been transformed by its efforts to forge a lasting alliance with an ever-changing society?
Finally, contrary to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was unable to prevent the dislocation of the soviet empire, the CCP consolidated inherited borders of the country and achieved its nation-building agenda through the incorporation of its margins and the forced assimilation of ethnic minorities. It has redefined almost the entire border envelope of the country, has reestablished its sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao and has made its own the claims of the KMT in the China Seas. What are the factors and mechanisms that have enabled the CCP to establish its authority over a country that is extremely diverse linguistically, ethnically, and religiously? How, since 1921, have the speeches and actions of the CCP evolved on issues relating to borders, peripheries, China seas and territorial integrity? Finally, to what extent the situations in Xinjiang and Tibet, which undermine the image of the CCP on the international scene, and those in Hong Kong and Taiwan, where a part of society claims a distinct political culture and identity, represent a failure of the nation-building process launched after 1949?
Welcoming remarks 9: 00-9:20 AM (CET)
Prof. Jean-François Huchet, President, Inalco
Prof. Alain Peyraube, Director, EURICS, Emeritus Senior Researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).
Prof. Paul Irwin Crookes, Director of Graduate Studies and Contemporary Chinese Studies, OSGA
Prof. Chloé Froissart, Principal Scientific Coordinator, Inalco
Introductory Keynote 9:20-9:50 AM
Michel Bonnin, Professor Emeritus, School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), The Chinese Communist Party or Totalitarianism in History
Panel 1: Organizational Challenges 10 AM-1 PM (CET)
Chair and discussant: Kjeld Erik Brødsgaard, Professor, Copenhagen Business School
- Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Chair Professor, Hong Kong Baptist University, Organisation and (Lack of) Democracy in the Chinese Communist Party: A Critical Reading of the Successive Iterations of the Party Constitution
- Willy Lam, Adjunct Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong, The CCP’s Problematic Record in Political Liberalization
- Patricia Thornton, Associate Professor, University of Oxford, From Frame of Steel to Dragon’s Head: The Changing Face of CCP Power in Grassroots Social Organisations
-Frank Pieke, Professor, Leiden University, A Party Fit for Superpower: Party Building and Party Strategy Abroad
- Jérôme Doyon, Departmental Lecturer, University of Oxford, and Long Yang, DPhil candidate, University of Oxford, A Red Heart Toward the Party: Changing Understandings of Political Loyalty in the Chinese Communist Party, 1921-2021
Panel 2: Ideological Transformations 2:30 – 5:30 PM (CET)
Chair and discussant: Stéphanie Balme, Dean of Sciences Po College, Sciences Po
- Vivienne Shue, Professor Emeritus, University of Oxford, Regimes of Resonance: On the Cosmology of Chinese Empire and Changing Technologies of CCP Rule
- Emmanuel Jourda, Associate Researcher, EHESS, The United Front as a Marker of the CCP’s Transformations
- Victor Louzon, Associate Professor, Sorbonne University, China 2021: What’s Left of the Revolution(s)
- Kerry Brown, Director of the China Lau Institute, King’s College London, Moving the Masses: Ideology and Emotion from Mao to Xi
- Ji Zhe, Professor, Inalco, The “Sinicization” of Religions: A CCP’s Century Project
Panel 3: China’s path to modernization: overcoming challenges? 9:30AM-12:30PM (CET)
Chair and discussant: Nicholas Loubere, Senior Lecturer, Lund University
- Jean-François Huchet, Professor and President, Inalco, From Soviet-Plan Economy to “Neo-Totalitarian” State Capitalism: Evolution of the Chinese Communist Party in the Organization and Economic Development of China
- Genia Kotska, Professor, Freie Universität Berlin, and Coraline Goron, Assistant Professor, Duke Kunshan University, From War on Nature to War on Pollution: Changes and Continuities of the CCP’s Ecological Agenda
- Chloé Froissart, Professor, Inalco and Shi Chunyu, Associate Professor, Zhejiang Gongshang University, Negotiating the Transition from a Rural to an Urban Society: Maintaining the Core Principles of CCP Domination through Hukou Reforms
- Giuseppe Gabusi, Assistant Professor, University of Turin and Shaun Breslin, Professor, University of Warwick, Whatever It Takes: The Political Economy of the Chinese Communist Party
- Eva Pils, Professor, King’s College London, Shifting Conceptions of Law and Power in the CCP’s Modernisation Discourses
Panel 4: the CCP’s social bases: reconfiguring alliances 3:30- 6:00 PM (CET)
Chair and discussant: Vivienne Shue, Professor Emeritus, University of Oxford
- Gilles Guiheux, Professor, University of Paris, The CCP and the Chinese Bourgeoisie: From a Communist Revolution to State Capitalism
- Timothy Cheek, Professor and Director of the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, Intellectuals and Ideological Governance of the Chinese Communist Party
- Eric Florence, Associate Professor, University of Liege and Rebecca Karl, Professor, New York University, 100 Years of the Chinese Communist Party and Workers
- Alexander F. Day, Associate Professor, Occidental College, Capitalist Agrarian Change and the End of the Revolutionary Peasant Dialectic: CCP Rural Policies in Long-Term Perspective
Panel 5: Territorial control and nation-building 9:30-12:30 AM (CET)
Chair and discussant: Françoise Robin, Professor, Inalco
- Joseph Cheng, retired chair Professor, City University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Policy of the Communist Party of China. Reflections of Its Nature, Priorities and Strategies
- Vanessa Frangville, Senior Lecturer and Chair, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Unity Within Diversity: The Role of the “Minzu” Concept in China’s National Building
- Gunter Schubert, Chair Professor (of Greater China Studies), University of Tubingen, China’s Taiwan Policy – a Failure, in the End
- Alex Raymond, Lecturer, University of Balamand, The Roots of the Chinese Communist Party’s Tibetan Policy
- Rémi Castets, Associate Professor, University of Bordeaux Montaigne, The Integration of Xinjiang to Chinese Nation State: CCP Discourse and Policies
The concluding keynote and the roundtable will be held in hybrid format (both online and offline) and the Parisian public is welcome to join us in the auditorium of the Inalco, 65 rue des Grand Moulins 75013 Paris. To attend this afternoon session at Inalco, please register in advance at the following link: https://bit.ly/3col1AE
Concluding Keynote: 3:30-4:00PM (CET)
Tony Saich, Director, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School, Patterns of the Past in the Present
Roundtable: Where to? The CCP in 2049 4:00-6:00 PM (CET) - HYBRID EVENT (online and onsite at Inalco, Paris)
Chair: Pierre Haski, France Inter geopolitics columnist, President of Reporters Without Borders
Does China have the means to become the world’s leading power? If so, will the United States be defeated or can a good balance of power based on common rules be achieved?
- Andrew Nathan, Professor, Columbia University
- Juliette Genevaz, Fellow, EURICS
- Giovanni Andornino, Associate Professor, Turin University
- Paul Irwin Crookes, Professor, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
Recordings of the conference are available here:
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