The CCP’s 100-year trajectory through the prism of its founding principles

Organization, ideology, social bases, modernization and nation-building agenda

June 24-25-26, 2021

Logo ifrae janvier 2021

Organizers: Inalco, French Research Institute on East Asia (IFRAE), the European Institute for Chinese Studies (EURICS) and the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA).
With the support of the French Academic Network on Asian Studies (GIS Asie)

Scientific coordination: Chloé Froissart (IFRAE, Inalco), Jérôme Doyon (OSGA), Sébastien Colin (IFRAE, Inalco and EURICS)

Thursday, June 24 :
Friday, June 25 :
Saturday, June 26 :
The round table and the concluding keynote on June 26 will be held on site and online. If you wish to attend on site, please register using the form on this page.

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?

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