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What does the Party do?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post where I commented that the Communist Party doesn’t interfere with my daily life for the most part. That was accurate. However it should also be modified, since the party is ubiquitous (American’s can’t even pretend that what we have is ‘big government’ by comparison).

After looking at that chart it should be no surprise that today in China there is 1 government official for every 40 people. My thought is that this is at least partially an effort to limit unemployment.

Even though there have been Party officials at every place I have worked, I’m still not really sure what it is they do. At the hospital we have two offices for Party leaders. According to Grace they go to a lot of banquets. My other co-worker says it is their job to find workers that should be nominated to join the party. It reminds me a bit of the old quote, “the bureaucracy is expanding to me the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”

At the colleges I worked at the Party was a bit more apparent. Almost all teachers are Party members, and every department has a Dean and Party Secretary (along with a vice-Dean and vice-Secretary). In Longzhou the Party would organize Communist Youth League activities, like talent shows and English speaking competitions. I don’t know exactly how effective these were at transmitting Marxist and Maoist ideas.

Which brings up the other point I wanted to make today: it seems that nobody in China can really give a clear definition of what Communism even is. They usually give some explanation that doesn’t make much sense, and then tack on as an afterthought “with Chinese Characteristics,” which is something Deng Xiaoping said a long time ago. It’s funny to me that for the most part, college students in China would be unable to show you a single difference between our economic system and theirs.


3 Comments

  1. Chopstik says:

    Tom,

    At the risk of being somewhat snarky, I’m having a hard time distinguishing how the CCP differs from any other political party that could be found in Western democratic nations. Nor, for that matter, do I detect a difference in how the citizens of those nations understand their respective parties any more than the average Chinese citizen understands the CCP.

    That the party is ubiquitous in everyday life is not surprising. That membership in the party is considered by many to be the key to improving one’s status in life is probably the largest reason for its continued success and, IMHO, its ultimate failure. Much like a pyramid scheme works, the party seems to operate in the same way. There will come a point at which it can absorb no more and then (along with a variety of other factors) will fail. Whether that occurs next month or three generations from now is really the only question. The one caveat I will make to that line of thought is if the party can mold itself (and thereby the nation) differently than it has done to now – something akin to the GuoMinDang (Kuomintang) in Taiwan after the death of Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek). And yes, I expect that few in the mainland will appreciate that comparison – my apologies in advance.

    • Tom says:

      Well the Party in China is different in a number of ways from political parties in Western Countries.
      For one, being a Democrat or Republican doesn’t help you move up through the ranks of many jobs outside of politics, where as in China it is critical for teachers, doctors, and just about everyone.
      Also even though political parties recruit in college, they don’t require you to do much more than vote. In the party there are several meetings, reflections, and classes to take before your membership is conferred.
      I think even though the party is bloated, I don’t think that will be the reason things fall apart. I would argue that China’s lack of ability to monitor it’s own local govts is a far more pressing issue.

      • Chopstik says:

        Sorry, Tom, my response may have been somewhat flippant in the first paragraph. Yes, there are certainly some very significant differences between how things are run in China and in the Western democracies (in terms of party control and how it impacts everyday life). My point had more to do with the apathy that many people in both countries feel toward the role of government in their lives and they just work as best they can within the parameters established. Obviously, the role and influence of the party (and therefore the gov’t) is far greater in China.

        And I probably should not have attempted to allude to reasons for the ultimate demise of the party (and, according to some, the demise of the nation since there are more than a few who conflate the two – erroneously, in my belief). Surely more than a few reasons have been given for why the party will fail in the end and all have, thus far, been proven wrong or at least a little optimistic (or pessimistic, depending upon your point of view). There are no shortage of issues facing both the party and the country as a whole and, while there are certainly many failures by the party, it has also had its successes. Just because it does not match a subjective standard assigned to it by Western theorists does not make it right, wrong or otherwise. In the end, the party will find itself judged by the people it purports to rule – however strong or tenuous it may seem.

        Sorry to be long-winded but did want to clarify my comments a little. 🙂

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