In a 90-minute nationally televised speech to mark the anniversary Friday, Chinese President Hu Jintao said the party must fight corruption to retain public support and continue its uncontested rule.
“In some historical periods, we once made mistakes and even suffered severe setbacks, the root cause of which was that our guiding thought then was divorced from China’s reality. Our party managed to correct the mistakes by the strength of itself and the people, rose up amid the setbacks and continued to go forward victoriously,” the Associated Press quoted Hu as telling the several thousand party stalwarts inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
Nearly each day brings new revelations of corruption and excesses by senior and provincial-level party officials. And China’s security apparatus, shaken by the fall of authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, is engaged in a broad crackdown on dissent, jailing bloggers, lawyers and anyone else who questions the party’s right to rule.
Many Chinese are asking whether the party has lost its way.
“A real Communist Party member should always remember that their aim is to serve the people,” said Li Qingrong, who owns a travel agency in Yan’an, the city known as the birthplace of the communist revolution. “Nowadays, when you read the newspaper, you see so many cases of corruption. Maybe they should come here to Yan’an to see if their soul can be touched by the revolutionary spirit. Then maybe they would change their behavior.”
Li, who is not a party member, has seen her business double over the past year, with the influx of mostly communist tour groups organized by schools, government offices and workplaces to glimpse the party’s more humble early years.
Visitors file daily into a simple concrete building on a hillside in this remote part of central China to see two sets of small, wooden benches, with 13 rows each, and a stage adorned with dingy red banners and faded black-and-white portraits of Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
Greater power, new woes
The Communist Party today, at the apex of its power, occupies far more opulent quarters in Beijing, and in every province, county, city and town in the country. The party boasts 80 million members — making it the largest political party in the world — and governs the world’s second-largest economy while sitting atop a sprawling and complex business and financial empire.
But, well aware of its woes, the party has been using its anniversary to try to rekindle popular excitement and support. A new feature-length movie, “The Birth of a Party,” starring 170 of the best-known Chinese actors, was just released to coincide with the anniversary. The normally secretive party threw open its doors to journalists for a series of news conferences over the past month. And people have been encouraged to visit “red tourism” sites such as Yan’an.