Today, the Communist Party of China (CPC) offers the world a new form of effective social governance. The CPC does not preach its methods to the rest of the world. It focuses on minding China's own business, making friends everywhere, treating other nations as equals, and working with them, in need and in deed.
People ask me: How do you describe the CPC? I say simply: The world has never seen anything like it.
I say that as an outsider, but also as a special insider. I am not a CPC member. I traveled and lived all over the world for over 30 years, working in finance and banking. I chose to officially retire and settle in Shenzhen 18 years ago because I believed the region would play a significant role in world history.
My contacts with the CPC began by happenstance, but since then, I got to observe its development in close proximity, and had been welcomed to offer my suggestions and ideas. Therefore, in a way, I feel like a modern day Marco Polo.
The CPC is far more than just a political party in the conventional sense.
1. Representation and diversity – Today, the CPC has over 90 million members. In addition, its adjunct organization, the Communist Youth League, has another 80 million members. In other words, that total today represents roughly 15 percent of the eligible age groups in China's 1.4 billion population. As a political and social organizing force, the CPC has broad representation among the people, the regions, the functional constituencies and all walks of life. The vast majority of Party members have their own jobs or occupations. Only a small minority work full-time as officials and representatives in Party affairs.
There is great diversity. Collectively they cover the whole country.
2. Unity and flexibility – The CPC organizes China into both a highly centralized and highly decentralized nation. Its centralization gives it an exceptional ability to plan, coordinate and direct. Its decentralization produces functional differentiations, grass-roots accountabilities, self reliance and inventive flexibility. As such, the CPC succeeds in tapping into the Chinese people's talents. It is capable of mobilizing both people and resources to achieve meaningful goals, for society as well as for the individuals.
3. Systems thinking – The centralization and decentralization of the CPC are integrated and inter-linked via systems. Systems methodologies are the glue that holds the parts together, and the cogs and wheels that turn the giant clock of the nation to tick to the desired beats. President Xi Jinping reminded senior officials, in a group study on national security, not to forget "systems thinking and approach." They are the key Chinese characteristics in development and governance since the start of reform and opening up. Such methodologies can be traced to the influence of contemporary Chinese scientists, such as Qian Xuesen, the world-renowned rocketry engineer and scientific epistemologist. Today, systems methodologies are behind everything, from the eradication of poverty to the spectacular achievements in the space programs.
4. Seeking truths from facts – The CPC today is a highly effective research and consultative body. As such, it is pioneering a sophisticated and effective form of a true people's democracy, based on surveys, knowledge and facts. I am not referring just to the formal Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) participation in the Party's consultative process along with other political parties within China, and the spectrum of non-party functional representations. The CPC has developed a huge web of policy research networks, sourcing of information, original pollings, data analyses and modeling, training and education centers (including the Party schools).
5. A collective – The CPC is a collective. Contrary to Western propaganda, the CPC leadership is not a dictatorship. Senior members are representatives of the collective consensus. As its top leader, President Xi carries a lot of weight because he speaks and acts on behalf of that consensus, and because his personal style inspires unity and confidence. At its core, the central policy research and formulation bodies function as the engine room that steers the CPC's evolution. In that process, the CPC acknowledges that there is no single best method, only potentially better methods. Therefore, the CPC is always a work-in-progress.
The only thing that should not change is its original mission, which is to serve the people and place their interests first. As President Xi said: our objective is to enable the people to lead a better life.
On Thursday, the CPC will be 100 years old. As this anniversary approaches, let us not forget the epic journey. The CPC is ultimately the story of millions of people in their trials and tribulations, with many sacrificing their lives, to lead the Chinese people in their struggles against domestic strife and foreign aggressions. There were bumpy treks and monumental obstacles. But the CPC had always managed, in the end, to endure and triumph. It did so by organizing the people, listening to them, and finding means to solve their problems.
So, in conclusion, what is the Communist Party of China? I would say: it is the way the Chinese people have chosen to organize their nation to achieve the true people's democracy.
(The author is a retired international investment banker and certified public accountant. He graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor's degree in international relations and earned his MBA in finance from Columbia Business School.)