Claims more than 90 million members, but runs the second world power in the shadows. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which celebrates its centenary on July 1, is characterized by its opacity.
Born underground, the CCP remains faithful to its Marxist-Leninist roots. Its inner workings are hidden from view, even though it has a monopoly on power and public debate in China.
“The biggest secret society in the world”, as the sinologist Jean-Pierre Cabestan described it, lives in symbiosis with the Chinese state.
Under these conditions, it is difficult to assess their influence over the country separately from the administration, because many public buildings house state and party organs, and many officials are at the same time CCP cadres.
– When was it founded?
According to official history, the CCP was not founded on July 1, 1921, but on July 23, in a first “congress” of 13 participants secretly gathered in the former French concession of Shanghai.
Unsure of the exact day, it was the future founder of the People’s Republic, Mao Zedong, who arbitrarily set July 1 as the birthday 20 years later.
– Who are the members?
The party claims to have 92 million members, but the official list is not known. Occasionally, the veil of mystery is lifted, as in 2018 when the official press revealed that Jack Ma, China’s most famous billionaire, was a member of the CCP.
The organization is “only” the second largest political party in the world, behind the BJP of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with 180 million members.
– How is it financed?
The CCP’s budget is not public. The party has its own resources, such as membership fees that contribute 0.5% to 2% of its revenue.
In 2016, an official daily quoted 7.08 billion yuan ($1.104 billion at current exchange rates) as total quota income for the previous year.
Divided by the number of affiliates, it means an annual contribution of 80 yuan (€10, $12) per person.
It is also unclear about its heritage, but the party is at the head of a financial empire and runs businesses such as hotels and factories, Jean-Pierre Cabestan, of the Baptist University of Hong Kong, told AFP.
In relation to the salaries of its leaders, the opacity is complete, even when party cadres are, in principle, aligned with the civil service payroll.
Many of them have additional benefits, such as housing, vehicle and domestic service, which do not appear in the base salary.
The issue of the fortunes of top Chinese officials is an even more sensitive issue, and the foreign media that ventured to address it in 2012 were sanctioned by the regime.
Chinese anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong, who demanded transparency in the assets of the leaders, was sentenced in 2014 to four years in prison.
– secret meetings
The party’s large public meetings, such as the five-year congress, are systematically closed with the adoption of almost unanimous decisions.
But at the highest levels, the meetings of the 200-member Central Committee and the 25-member Political Bureau are held behind closed doors.
Public television is limited to broadcasting Secretary General Xi Jinping’s monologues. Debates, if they happen, are not public, nor are they the result of any vote.
Tensions within the device could be strong, as demonstrated in 2012 by the elimination of the regime’s shining star, Xi Jinping’s rival Bo Xilal.
In contrast to divisions in Western democracies, “hiding internal tensions allows the CCP to present a face of steel to its enemies and the people of China,” explained Cabestan.
– How many victims?
Abroad, most experts in Chinese history estimate that between 40 million and 70 million people have been killed as a result of the party’s policy since its coming to power in 1949, by the purges, the famine caused by the Great Leap Forward, the repression in Tibet, the Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen massacre and others.
Questioned by the AFP, the PCC’s Organization Department did not answer what the number is in the party’s official assessment.
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