For 70 years, China has been ruled by one party – the Communist Party of China (CCP).
Since October 1, 1949, when Mao Zedong promoted the communist revolution and came to power, the party has total control of the country – through the government, the police and the army.
It was under the leadership of the party that China moved from a poor, rural country to a world economic power. And in the middle of this process, it did not tolerate any opposition, suppressing dissent.
On the day the People's Republic of China celebrates its 70th anniversary, the BBC explains how the Communist Party has control over the country:
When Mao Zedong came to power, he imposed a strict totalitarian socialist regime.
However, the economic failure of the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962), which sought to transform the country's agrarian economy and ultimately led to food shortages, spawning the ideological persecution of the so-called Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Mao against the supporters of "capitalism", which along with hunger, caused millions of deaths across the country.
After Mao's death in 1976, the country slowly emerged from stagnation, with reforms promoted by Deng Xiaoping, then secretary general of the Communist Party.
Amid a backdrop of poverty and hunger, Xiaoping broke the status quo and implemented a series of agricultural-centered economic reforms, a liberal environment for the private sector, the modernization of industry, and China's openness to foreign trade.
For him, it did not matter whether the Chinese economic system was communist or capitalist, but whether it worked. And that is how it promoted a true "economic miracle".
The economic and social reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping were continued by his successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
Current President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012 and has since led China's advance as a global superpower.
90 million members
The Communist Party has about 90 million members, equivalent to approximately 7% of the country's population.
Their leadership role is provided for in the Constitution, and although there are several other small parties, they are required to support the communists.
Communist Party membership is considered essential for anyone who wants to rise professionally – whether in politics, business, or even entertainment.
This is true even for big business owners like Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Ren Zhengfei, founder of telecommunications company Huawei, or celebrities like actress Fan Bingbing.
If viewed contrary to party ideals, they must publicly apologize for escaping secret detention and persecution. And that's exactly what happened to Fan last year.
The Chinese movie star was missing for about three months after being accused of tax evasion, sparking a series of speculation, and resurfacing apologizing to fans, the Communist Party and the government.
A top-controlled power pyramid
The Communist Party is organized like the structure of a pyramid – with President Xi Jinping at the top.
From the bottom up, party organizations elect senior bodies until they reach the leadership.
The National Communist Party of China Congress, held every five years, appoints a central committee, which in turn chooses the politburo – a committee that brings together the party's top leaders.
These elections are usually decided and approved beforehand, and true power lies in the hands of the politburo.
At the top of the pyramid is finally Xi Jinping. In 2017, the party paved the way for him to become president for life. He also voted to consecrate his name and ideology in the constitution, which equated him with Mao Zedong.
The almighty politburo
The Communist Party of China controls the country – through the government, the police and the army.
From the top of the pyramid, the politburo ensures that the party line is maintained and controls three other important organs:
– State Council;
– Central Military Commission;
– National People's Assembly or parliament.
The State Council is the government, led by the prime minister – currently Li Keqiang – who reports to the president.
His role is to implement party policies across the country, managing, for example, the national economic plan and the state budget.
The link between the military and the communist party goes back to World War II and the subsequent civil war. This connection is institutionalized by the Central Military Commission, which leads the Chinese Armed Forces.
The commission controls the nation's nuclear arsenal and its more than 2 million soldiers, the world's largest military force.
Although there is a parliament, the so-called National People's Assembly only approves the decisions made by the party leadership.
Firm pulse with public opinion
The Communist Party does not tolerate dissent, nor does it allow opposition parties. Government critics risk being persecuted.
The crackdown on those who speak out against the authorities shows no signs of abating, while the crackdown on human rights intensified under Xi Jinping.
Retaliation does not spare even high-ranking members of the party. Bo Xilai, once a powerful leader of the regional party, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013 after being charged with corruption and abuse of power.
China insists that it respects human rights and justifies its firm grip on dissent by arguing that lifting millions out of poverty outweighs individual freedoms.
The press and the internet – including social networks – are tightly controlled in the country. The so-called "Great Wall" of internet censorship blocks access to certain foreign sites, such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
The digitization of everyday life allows the party to further implement advanced monitoring technologies that culminated in the project of social credit system – whereby the behavior of each citizen would be scored in a sort of trust ranking.
This almost complete control of the press helped the party to influence public opinion and further strengthen its control.
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