Party place

Updated: 2011-06-22 17:18

By David Bartram (

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Communist Party of China has navigated political and economic twists and turns in the 90 years of its existence to reach its dominant position today

Ninety years on from its formation in a small building in Shanghai's French concession, the Communist Party of China (CPC) presides over the world's second largest economy and a country that will arguably have a greater impact on the 21st century than any other.

Just 53 delegates attended the 1st Congress in Shanghai in July 1921; today the CPC is the world's largest political party with around 80 million members. It is a transformation that few foresaw, only made possible by the CPC's ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

The early days of the CPC were a world away from its current status. Chinese reformers were forced to turn to the Soviet Union for support in founding a Communist party. The Lenin-led USSR was happy to oblige, at that time keen on the idea of spreading the Communist ideal worldwide.

"The sponsorship of the Comintern in Moscow helped establish the CPC but did not ultimately prove successful," says Kent Deng, doctor of economic history at the London School of Economics (LSE). "The Communist movement was initially defeated, leading to the Long March (a strategic retreat from Kuomintang troops). Although the Party moved to Jiangxi, it was forced to withdraw from most of China. It looked like the revolution was dead."

The Party struggled on, often in exile, through civil war and Japanese occupation. It was not until the end of World War II that Mao Zedong and the CPC saw their opportunity.

"After 1946, the Party became very pro-active," says Deng. "They saw a very much injured Kuomintang side, led by Chiang Kai-shek, and threw everything in to win the war."

The significance of this victory, and the subsequent formation of the People's Republic of China, cannot be underplayed, even in terms of the development of China’s transformation into a global economic superpower in more recent times.

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