Communist Party of China

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Communist Party of China


(CPC; Chung-kuo Kungch’an tang), formed in 1921 with the aid of the Comintern in the context of an upswing in the national revolutionary movement and of the spread of Marxist-Leninist ideas in China, which was due to the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Li Ta-chao, who organized the first Marxist groups in North China, played a prominent role in the formation of the CPC.

The First CPC Congress was held illegally at the end of June and the beginning of July 1921 in Shanghai. (July 1 is considered to be the date of the formation of the CPC in the People’s Republic of China.) It declared the party’s ultimate goal to be the building of socialism in China. In 1922 the CPC charter and the party manifesto, which formulated the primary immediate task of the CPC—the implementation of a democratic revolution —were adopted at the Second CPC Congress. The congress decided that the CPC would join the Comintern. The Third CPC Congress (1923) set the course of forming a unified national revolutionary front with the Kuomintang, which was led by Sun Yat-sen, and decided that CPC members could join the Kuomintang on an individual basis, while the Communist Party retained its ideological and organizational independence.

The Fourth CPC Congress (January 1925) was held on the eve of the Chinese revolution of 1925–27. It pointed out the need for a struggle for the hegemony of the proletariat in the national revolution and for involving peasants in the revolutionary movement under the leadership of the proletariat. In April 1927, Chiang Kai-shek, one of the leaders of the Kuomintang and the commander in chief of the army, carried out a counterrevolutionary coup, broke his agreement on cooperation with the CPC, and unleashed against it a bloody campaign of mass terror. The work of the Fifth CPC Congress (April-May 1927) was accomplished in this strained atmosphere. The congress adopted decisions to draft CPC strategy in the spirit of the resolution of the Seventh Executive Committee of the Comintern (ECCI) Plenum (December 1926) on the question of China and also made corrections in and additions to the party charter, including in it the principle of democratic centralism. However, the congress gave an erroneous assessment of the current moment as a period of revolutionary upsurge, and this was one of the reasons why the CPC turned out to be unprepared to make the transition to an illegal status. The Sixth CPC Congress, held in Moscow in 1928, confirmed the bourgeois-democratic character of the revolution in China, directed the party toward the unfolding of the agrarian revolution, and paid a great deal of attention to the construction of the armed forces by the CPC and to the formation of soviet regions. During this period the center of the CPC’s revolutionary struggle shifted from urban to rural areas, where strongpoints were created. The CPC formed the Chinese Red Army and proclaimed the Chinese Soviet Republic, whose government at that time extended to certain areas of south, central, and north China. From 1934 to 1936 the Chinese Red Army was forced to conduct the Northwest Campaign. At the end of 1935 and in 1936 its main forces reached Shensi Province, where a soviet region had existed since 1931.

The attack on China by militaristic Japan in 1937 resulted in a regrouping of forces in China and made the question of national salvation the primary problem of Chinese political affairs. On the basis of the decisions of the Seventh Comintern Congress (1935), the CPC made efforts to unite all patriotic forces in China into a unified anti-Japanese front on the basis of cooperation between the CPC and the Kuomintang.

In 1946, Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang unleashed a civil war with the support of the US imperialists. The CPC called on the Chinese people to wage a resolute struggle against Chiang Kaishek’s rotten imperialist-oriented regime. This struggle culminated in the victory of the people’s revolution and in the formation of the People’s Republic of China (Oct. 1, 1949). The energetic and comprehensive support of the Soviet Union, the people’s democracies, and the world communist movement contributed to the victorious conclusion of the struggle.

Between 1949 and 1952 an agrarian reform and expropriation of bureaucratic capital were carried out in China under the guidance of the CPC, the national economy was restored, socialist transformations began in cultural and spiritual affairs, and the socialist order began to take shape within the economy. In 1953 the CPC drafted a general line for the transition period to socialism on the basis of international socialist experience. The first five-year plan (1953–57) marked the beginning of the pursuit of this line. During fulfillment of the plan a base for industrialization was created and socialist transformations were carried out in urban and rural areas with extensive aid from the USSR and other socialist countries. Marxist-Leninist positions on the fundamental questions of party domestic and foreign policy were adopted at the Eighth CPC Congress (1956). The congress chose as its foreign policy orientation a “continuation of the strengthening of the eternal and inviolable fraternal friendship with the great Soviet Union and all people’s democracies” (Materialy VIII Vsekitaiskogo s”ezda Kommunisticheskoi partii Kitaia, Moscow, 1956, p. 482).

The entire history of the CPC is permeated by the struggle between two concepts—the proletarian internationalist and the petit-bourgeois nationalist—and the struggle against right-wing and “leftist” opportunist deviations.

At the end of the 1950’s the great-power nationalist course gained sway in the CPC leadership. A tendency toward this course had been manifested earlier within the CPC, especially in connection with the gradual (from 1935) transferal of the party leadership to Mao Tse-tung. As early as 1941–45 a so-called movement to place the party work style in order (cheng-feng) was initiated in the CPC, during which a blow was struck against Communists holding proletarian internationalist positions and adhering to the Comintern line (such as Wang Ming, Po Ku, and Chang Wen-t’ien). Through this movement the supporters of Mao Tse-tung prepared the conditions necessary to secure their positions at the Seventh CPC Congress (1945). In the party charter adopted by this congress it is stated for the first time that the “Chinese Communist Party is guided in all its work by the ideas of Mao Tse-tung.”

The Eighth CPC Congress overturned this position and declared Marxism-Leninism to be the party’s ideological foundation. At the Second Session of the Eighth CPC Congress (1958), which was closed to the public, the Marxist-Leninist positions of the 1956 party congress were reviewed and replaced by the course of the “three red banners” (the new “general line,” the “great leap forward,” and the “people’s communes”), which essentially signified a rejection of planned economic development and brought about the country’s national economic crisis. In foreign policy the CPC leadership began openly to pursue a hegemonistic course from the beginning of the 1960’s. This course broke with the main positions of the declarations of 1957 and 1960, which had been adopted by the International Conferences of Communist and Workers’ Parties. It is characterized by an anti-Soviet orientation and a divisive line in the world revolutionary movement.

The adventurist domestic and foreign policy of Mao Tsetung’s group brought about a grave crisis and internal struggle within the CPC. During the Cultural Revolution (the second half of the 1960’s), Mao Tse-tung’s supporters, relying on faithful military units and deluded students, crushed party organizations (except for army party organizations); disbanded provincial, city, and district party committees; and repressed and defamed many party workers, including a number of members and candidates for membership in the Politburo (such as Liu Shao-ch’i) and more than two-thirds of the members and candidates for membership in the Central Committee of the CPC.

The Ninth CPC Congress (1969) approved the Cultural Revolution and replaced the program for building socialism with political positions aimed at “continuous revolution,” “class struggle,” and “preparation for war.” The congress adopted a new CPC charter, which once again declared the “ideas of Mao Tse-tung the party’s theoretical foundation” and named Mao Tse-tung the leader of the CPC for life. By the decisions of the Ninth CPC Congress, the struggle against the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the divisive activity in the world communist, workers’, and national liberation movements were raised to the level of program tasks. The CPC leadership refused to participate in the international Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties held in Moscow in June 1969.

In accordance with the decisions of the Ninth CPC Congress, a “movement to place in order and construct the party” was initiated in China, and by the fall of 1971, party committees had been formed at the provincial level, the key positions in them being held by the military. After the “September events” of 1971, when as a result of the new aggravation of the struggle among the leadership of the CPC, Lin Piao (deputy chairman of the CPC Central Committee [CC] and minister of defense of the People’s Republic of China) and a number of other military figures disappeared from the political arena, a trend developed for party committees again to assume leading positions, including those in the army. The Tenth CPC Congress (1973) made no essential changes in the line pursued after the Ninth CPC Congress. A number of amendments to the party charter adopted at the Tenth CPC Congress confirmed the Maoist organizational principles of the CPC.

Table 1. Congresses of the Communist Party of China
First ...............ShanghaiJune-July 1921
Second ...............ShanghaiJuly 16–23, 1922
Third ...............CantonJune 10–19, 1923
Fourth ...............ShanghaiJan. 11–22, 1925
Fifth ...............HankowApr. 27-May 11, 1927
Sixth ...............MoscowJune 18-July 6, 1928
Seventh ...............YenanApr. 23-June 11, 1945
Eighth (First Session) ...............PekingSept. 15–27, 1956
Eighth (Second Session) ...............PekingMay 5–23, 1958
Ninth ...............PekingApr. 1–24, 1969
Tenth ...............PekingAug. 24–28, 1973

According to official data there were 10,734,384 members of the CPC in June 1956. Of these, 14 percent were workers, more than 69 percent were former peasants, about 12 percent were representatives of the intelligentsia, and more than 5 percent were from other sectors of the population. In 1973 the CPC had 28 million members. According to the charter adopted by the Tenth CPC Congress, the Congress is the highest party organ, and the CPC CC, which elects the Politburo of the CPC CC and the Standing Committee of the Politburo, directs party work between congresses. The chairman of the CPC CC is Mao Tsetung. The central organs are the newspaper Jen-min jih-pao and the magazine Hung ch’i. (See Table 1 for a list of the congresses of the CPC.)


Strategiia i taktika Kominterna v natsional’no-kolonial’noi revoliutsii na primere Kitaia. Moscow, 1934.
Rezoliutsii VII Vsemirnogo kongressa Kommunisticheskogo Internatsionala. Moscow, 1935.
Materialy VIII Vsekitaiskogo s”ezda Kommunisticheskoi partii Kitaia. Moscow, 1956.
Vtoraia sessiia VIII Vsekitaiskogo s”ezda Kommunisticheskoi partii Kitaia. Moscow, 1958.
Mezhdunarodnoe soveshchanie Kommunisticheskikh i rabochikh partii: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1969.
Komintern i Vostok Moscow, 1969.
Korni nyneshnikh sobytii v Kitae (collection). Moscow, 1968.
Opasnyi kurs, issues 1–3. Moscow, 1969–72.
Antimarksistskaia sushchnost’ vzgliadov ipolitiki Mao Tsze-duna (collection of articles). Moscow, 1969.
Kritika teoreticheskikh kontseptsii Mao Tsze-duna. Moscow, 1970.
Lenin i problemy sovremennogo Kitaia: Sb. st. Moscow, 1971.
Rumiantsev, A. M. Istoki i evoliutsiia “idei Mao Tsze-duna.” Moscow, 1972.
Vneshniaia politika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia Kitaiskoi Narodnoi Respubliki, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1974.

V. I. ELIZAROV [12–1604–1; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.