By Owei Lakemfa
IT was Monday, November 5, 2018. I was engaged in my favourite past time whenever I visit China; climbing the Great Wall. Below it, the country sprawled and you could have a bird’s eye view.
As I write, I have the feeling that as the compass Communist Party of China, CPC clocks a hundred years this July 1, 2021, China is standing on an elevation like the Great Wall, viewing the world and thinking how to remould it, possibly, in its own image.
The country is one of the most battered in history. When it resisted being force-fed on opium by the colonialists, the British in 1839,battered it to submission and in 1841, took Hong Kong as a war booty which it kept for 156 years.
Unlike other territories directly colonised by single powers or countries, China was too large to be colonised by a single country, so a concert of eight powers; Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Japan and United States chopped it up for exploitation. When in 1899-1900, the Chinese rose to throw the foreigners out of their country in what came to be known as the Boxer Revolution, those eight powers sent a combined 51,755 soldiers to suppress the revolt.
The defeat of the Boxer Revolution rather than dampen the enthusiasm of the Chinese to take control of their country, inspired in them a feeling of patriotism and pride.
A group rejected the Western political system and sought for alternatives. It found that in the writings of two Germans, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels who taught that humanity at its cradle ran a communal system before the rise of a new system which had the Lords of the land on one hand, and the landless.
They wrote that a revolution took place where those who own capital, propelled by the industrial revolution, overthrew the feudal system and established capitalism which is a system based on the exploitation of the mass by the few who own capital.
They concluded that the former would in turn, overthrow the capitalists and establish a humane, non-exploitative system called communism. Messrs Marx and Engels had then encapsulated their ideas and programmes into a declaration they called the ‘Communist Manifesto.’
What had seemed mere theory to many became praxis when in November, 1917, the Russian followers of Marx and Engels led by a local lawyer called Vladimir Illiych Lenin carried out a successful revolt which became known as the Bolshevik or Russian Revolution.
A Chinese educationist, Chen Duxiu, then 42, and an intellectual, Li Dazhao, who was ten years younger, decided to carry out a similar revolt of the poor, the disposed and the oppressed in their country. They co -founded the CPC and called its first congress in July, 1921.
At the time the congress held on July 23, 1921 in a sitting room on the ground floor of a residential apartment on 76-78 Xingye Lu in, intiandi in Shanghai, the CPC had only 53 members in the country. The 13 delegates at the congress had security concerns and had to move the meeting to a boat in Jiaxing, East China in the Zhejiang Province.
Those in attendance included Chen Duxiu who became the party’s founding General Secretary (1921-27) Li Dazhao who was to be executed in the struggle for the revolution, and Mao Tse Tung (Zedong) one of the two delegates of Hunan who was to take over the leadership of the CPC on March 20, 1943.
He proved to be a great mobiliser, teacher and military commander. He taught his comrades that: “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”
In practical warfare he taught the revolutionaries: “When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.”
He argued that: “War can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.”
On power relations, he argued that: All political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The communist party must command all the guns, that way, no guns can ever be used to command the party.
In situating slavery and racialism in historical context, Mao argued that: “The struggle of the Black people in the United States for emancipation is a component part of the general struggle of all the people of the world against U.S. imperialism, a component part of the contemporary world revolution.”
He famously said women are essential for any change to take place in society because: “Women hold up half the sky.”
Tse Tung, famously known as Chairman Mao, led the CPC to victory over the nationalists on October 1, 1949 and declared the establishment of the Peoples’ Republic of China, PRC.
The phenomenal economic rise of China, challenges the belief that only capitalism can grow a modern economy. It also defeats the argument that the private sector is the engine of economic development. So while having a strong private sector, the Chinese economy is public sector- driven with component states conducting independent foreign trade with other countries. China does not allow the so-called market forces to determine its economy or exchange rate.
Part of China’s contribution to the world is its ability to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and provide healthcare and social security for 1.412 billion human beings or 18.48 per-cent of world population. In 25 years from 1990, it lifted 746 million persons out of poverty and at the end of 2020, China eradicated poverty in the entire country.
The Chinese strongly discourage corruption by executing those found guilty. While the controversy about the origins of Covid-19 rage, China has given the world two Covid-19 vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac. Also, while powerful countries like Britain have been hoarding Covid-19 vaccines, China has been distributing its vaccines especially in Africa and Asia, in some cases, free.
I do not hold out China as an angel sent to the world; the truth is that every country primarily works for its own interests. However, humanity should have a common commitment to social justice.
Since its revolution, China has had challenges like breakaway Taiwan, the Cultural Revolution, the Gang of Four issue, pro-Western Democracy Tiananmen Square protests and the two-state experiment in Hong Kong. But none of these have weakened the CPC in any significant way. If anything, the party seems stronger and more confident today than it has ever been. But then, nobody knows what is in the bowel of tomorrow.