The journey from 1st to 18th CPC Congress

By S. M. Hali

The first National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is one of painstaking labour, peril and sacrifices. The first congress took place atShanghai on July 23, 1921. This ominous date set the future course for the PRC and marks the birth date for the party that led downtrodden China from the clutches of foreign occupiers to freedom. The first congress was organized at 106 Wantze Road, since then renamed as Xingye Road and was attended by 13 delegates including a 27 years old Mao Zedong, who was then but a lowly note taker, Dong Biwu, Wang Jinmei, Deng Enming, Li Da, Li Hanjun, Zhang Guotao, Liu Renjing, Chen Gongbo, Zhou Fohai and Bao Huiseng. Two representatives sent by Commintern (the Communist International) led by Lenin also attended the Congress as non voting delegates. The first national congress of the CPC adopted the party’s program and passed the resolutions and elected the leading organ of the central bureau of the Party, thus proclaiming the founding of the Communist Party of China.

China at that time was under the yoke of foreign occupation, comprising France, Britain, and other international players in the arena like the Russians, Germans Americans and the Japanese. Each of which was exploiting the manpower as well as natural resources of the country but keeping the native Chinese citizens hungry and impoverished. The clandestine meetings of the budding CPC were fraught with danger as on July 30, the congress was forced to suspend its meeting and left its participants scurrying for cover, when the police in the French concession came precariously near the meeting venue. The congress had to reconvene at Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, where it resumed and had its last day’s meeting on a pleasure boat on the South Lake. The First National Congress of the CPC, after adopting the Party” program, passing the Resolution on the current work and electing the Central Bureau of the Party, proclaimed the founding of the CPC.

I am currently touring China to cover the 18th National Congress of the CPC and befittingly, our tour commenced from Shanghai, the birthplace of the CPC. The site of the first national congress has been preserved by Shanghai Municipal Committee of the CPC. In September 1952, this residence of Li Hanjun, a delegate to the congress and Li Schucheng, his elder brother was renovated and turned into a memorial, and had been opened to the public since then. In March 1961, the State Council proclaimed the site of the first national congress of the CPC as a key historical monument under the state protection. In March 1964, Deng Xiaoping wrote the name of the Memorial House of the First National Congress. We were taken for a tour of the house and it was heartrending to examine the parchments and documents of the first national congress, photographs of the struggle of the CPC and evidence of the horrifying treatment being meted out to local Chinese by their foreign masters in their own homeland.

Wax figures of the first national congress have been prepared to depict the historic moment. Even the young Mao Zedong’s likeness has been placed. The second and fourth national congress also took place at Shanghai. It was not till the seventh national congress that Mao Zedong was elected the Chairman and led his party to victory and threw away the yoke of oppression and slavery.

Since then, the CPC has not looked back although the task before the CPC was of Herculean proportions. The first revolution in the past 101 years, that led by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen in 1911 had preceded the formation of the CPC but being a bourgeois democratic one to overthrow the autocratic monarchy, had left in its wake, a series of difficult issues regarding China’s destiny, which had to be addressed by the CPC, especially after it secured its independence in 1949. It had to clear up the mess left behind by the Kuomintang (KMT), attempt to rebuild the war-torn economy, institute land reforms and more importantly, and keep the people’s support despite the CPC’s mistakes. When a bloody revolution takes place and causes massive upheavals, bringing the downtrodden masses to the forefront, expectations run high for miraculous changes. Famines, droughts, unrest and attempts by former colonialists to put impediments in the path of China’s progress, its virtual isolation by the international community, were all road blocks which the CPC had to surmount. Foremost among them was the problem of feeding 1.3 billion people and uniting its ethnic communities.

When the KMT fled mainland China in 1949, it took with it the gold, silver and foreign exchange reserves accumulated over the years, and left behind a cash-strapped economy ravished by the chaos of war. It took the CPC three years to rebuild China’s economy to the level of 1949, no mean task but it had only reached the take-off stage. Along with the achievements came gross errors. Serious departure of effects from motives, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution added to the pandemonium. In 1978, China’s economy was on the brink of collapse. At the end of the 1980s and 1990s, the Communist parties in the Soviet Union and the eastern European countries lost their status to rule and western observers opined that China would follow suit.

In subsequent National Congresses, course correction was applied and the implementation of the reform and opening policies of integrating socialism with market economy paid rich dividends. In the past thirty years, China has leap-frogged to emerge as the world’s second largest economy. It is not only feeding its teeming millions but also contributing greatly to solving the problem of grain supply worldwide. The economic meltdown faced by the west has left no dents on China’s economy, instead it has provided support to the US to prevent its collapse, adding to international mayhem.

Today the CPC has come a long way from its humble beginning and at the eve of the 18th National Congress, it boasts of over 87 million members. It is expected to take PRC to greater heights.