By S. M. Hali

The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) took place from November 8th to 14th; the 2,270 delegates who gathered for the meeting in Beijing’s majestic Great Hall of the People, elected Xi Jinping, as the next Secretary General of the CPC, who will take up the mantle of the President of People’s Republic of China (PRC) next March. At the solemn and imposing ceremony, which I had the honour to witness first hand, it was befitting that the old guard of CPC, who have brought PRC to this stage of advancement through their sheer hard work and vision were not forgotten at this historic event. Jiang Zemin, outgoing President Hu Jintao’s predecessor, occupied the seat of honour, while former premier, Zhu Rongji, a former vice-president, Zeng Qinghong, as well as such veterans as Li Ruihuan, Li Lanqing and Deng Xiaoping’s son, Deng Pufang were also present. Before commencing his ninety minutes’ long report and last as President, Hu Jintao requested all present in the Great Hall to bow their heads in respect and observe one minute silence to pay homage to departed Communist leaders of the past, including Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.  

Indeed PRC has come a long way from the first National Congress of the CPC, which took place at Shanghai on July 23, 1921. This awesome 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 attended by 13 delegates including a 27 years old Mao Zedong, who was then merely a note taker. 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, 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 convention with the participants fleeing the scene, when the police in the French concession raided the meeting venue. The congress had to reconvene at Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, where it resumed its proceedings and had its last day’s meeting on a pleasure boat on the South Lake.

At the 18th CPC Congress, President Hu Jintao presented his report expressing the CPC’s resolve to firmly march on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and strive to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020. President Hu Jintao was intrepid in accepting the mistakes committed but promised not to repeat them. He spoke especially sharply about the danger of corruption, warning that it could cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state. He specially stressed on the upsurge of intra-party democratic norms, progress registered in reform and opening up and development of the judicial system and social development.

The outgoing President, while delivering his swansong speech, did not demur from stating that a new stage has been reached in efforts to strengthen national defence and the armed forces. Whilst reiterating that the armed forces have greatly enhanced their capability of carrying out their historic mission in this new stage in the new century, and they have accomplished a host of urgent, difficult, dangerous and arduous tasks, he did not refrain from expressing China’s resolute determination to assert its maritime interests. This Congress comes at a time when the country is embroiled in multiple maritime disputes with its neighbours. President Hu Jintao stressed that the most important achievement in the past ten years is that PRC has formed the scientific outlook on development and put it into practice by following the guidance of Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory. The result is for the world to see. Indeed the CPC has come a long way from the 13 members meeting clandestinely to the over 82 million members, the CPC boasts of today, whose delegates met at the 18th National Congress.