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Communist Party of China (CPC)

The People's Republic of China (PRC) is an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP or Party) is the paramount source of power. Party members held almost all top government, police, and military positions. Ultimate authority rested with members of the Politburo. Leaders stressed the need to maintain stability and social order and were committed to perpetuating the rule of the CCP and its hierarchy. Citizens lacked both the freedom to peacefully express opposition to the party-led political system and the right to change their national leaders or form of government. Socialism continued to provide the theoretical underpinning of national politics, but Marxist economic planning had given way to pragmatism, and economic decentralization increased the authority of local officials.

The Party's authority rested primarily on the Government's ability to maintain social stability; appeals to nationalism and patriotism; party control of personnel, media, and the security apparatus; and continued improvement in the living standards of most of the country's 1.3 billion citizens. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the Government and the CCP, at both the central and local levels, frequently interfered in the judicial process and directed verdicts in many high-profile cases.

The theoretical basis of the political system continued to be Marxism-Leninism, but with an unmistakable emphasis on the application of this doctrine to achieve desired results. The test of a reform was no longer how closely it reflected hallowed quotations or ideas--although reforms continued to be couched in proper doctrinal arguments--but whether or not it produced demonstrable benefits to the reform program. The banner slogan of the reform agenda was "socialism with Chinese characteristics." This slogan implied that considerable leeway would be allowed in doctrinal matters in order to achieve the overriding goal of rapid modernization. But reform leaders realized that successful implementation of the broad-ranging reform program required a stable, professional bureaucracy to direct the course of events. The course chosen included a more rational division of powers and functions for the party and government, and it provided a body of regulations and procedures to support the separation. Institutions were set up to maintain discipline and to audit bureaucratic records.

The CCP was variously estimated to have between 40 million and 60 million members (about 4-5 percent of the national population). To qualify as party members, applicants must be at least eighteen years of age and must go through a one-year probationary period. Emphasis is placed on the applicant's technical and educational qualifications rather than on ideological criteria. Members are expected, however, to be both "red" and "expert", and the need to make the party apparatus more responsive to the demands and wishes of the masses of the people is stressed.

On 30 June 2013 Xinhua reported that the number of Communist Party of China (CPC) members had surpassed 85 million, according to latest figures from the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee. The CPC had 85.13 million members at the end of 2012, according to a department statement, one day before the 92nd anniversary of its founding. During 2012, atotal of 3.23 million people joined the CPC, the world's largest political Party -- a net increase of 2.53 million taking into account members who died or left the Party. More than 44 percent of new members are frontline workers, such as industrial employees, farmers, herders and migrant staff.

In terms of occupation, farmers, herders and fishers totaling 25.35 million is the largest group, while 7.25 million Party members are industrial workers, according to the statement. Another 7.16 million members work in Party and state agencies, and 20.20 million are managerial staff and professional technicians working in enterprises and nonprofit organizations. Students make up 2.91 million, the statement said.

In an August 1980 speech, "On the Reform of the Party and State Leadership System," Deng Xiaoping declared that power was overcentralized and concentrated in the hands of individuals who acted arbitrarily, following patriarchal methods in carrying out their duties. Deng meant that the bureaucracy operated without the benefit of regularized and institutionalized procedures, and he recommended corrective measures such as abolishing the bureaucratic practice of life tenure for leading positions. In 1981 Deng proposed that a younger, better educated leadership corps be recruited from among cadres in their forties and fifties who had trained at colleges or technical secondary schools.

By the late 1980s the party and government cadre (ganbu) system, the rough equivalent of the civil service system in many other countries, was entering the final stages of a massive overhaul aimed at transforming the bureaucracy into an effective instrument of national policy. The term cadre refers to a public official holding a responsible or managerial position, usually full time, in party and government. A cadre may or may not be a member of the CCP, although a person in a sensitive position would almost certainly be a party member.

In sum, the "revolution" being carried out in the bureaucratic structures of power was meant to reorient the system away from the style, procedures, and excesses of the Cultural Revolution and toward the most efficient and potentially successful methods for China's modernization. This reorientation required the massive retirement of veteran cadres and the recruitment of those knowledgeable in modern economics and technology to be trained in leadership positions. It was an enormous task and one that obviously met significant resistance from those who either did not understand the new requirements or saw them as a substantial threat to their position and livelihood.



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