Grassroots Organizations Allow China's Governing Party to Broaden its Horizons
2011/06/18

HEFEI, June 18 (Xinhua) -- Shi Xiaoju, a resident of the city of Hefei in east China's Anhui Province, is lucky to have retained her Communist Party of China (CPC) membership during a recent job change.

Although the Internet company she currently works for does not have a Party branch of its own, there is a branch in the Wealth Plaza, the office building where her company is located.

The branch's activities are typically conducted in the evenings, allowing full-time workers like Shi to attend. Shi recently participated in a book discussion with other members, sharing notes on the book "To Learn Management from Mao Zedong."

Under the CPC Constitution, members who are absent from CPC organizational meetings or who have defaulted on membership dues for more than six months may run the risk of losing their memberships.

However, a growing number of grassroots organizations are allowing Party members to participate in CPC-related activities more than ever before.

Many of these organizations are run by private business people, reflecting a wider change in the priorities and goals of the country's ruling party as it strives to adapt itself to China's rapidly changing economic and cultural identity.

SURVIVAL REQUIRES INNOVATION

The late Mao Zedong, the CPC's first Chairman, made great contributions to consolidating the the Party's leadership over its troops. In 1927, he proposed installing Party branches in the lower-level companies of the Red Army, which significantly improved the Party's ties to the masses.

The late Chinese general Luo Ronghuan noted that Mao's innovation brought "new life" to the Red Army at a make-or-break time.

"The idea of establishing a Party branch in an office building is somewhat atypical, as it breaks the CPC's tradition of basing grassroots organizations on a single productive or administrative unit," said Cheng Shu, a Party-building expert with the Beijing-based Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

"However, at the same time, grassroots organizations are the cornerstone of the Party. To become better accustomed to changing times, the Party has had to explore new ways to reach out to its members. Office building branches like the Wealth Plaza branch are just one example," said Cheng.

In Hefei's Chenghuangmiao marketplace, scores of Party branches have been established by self-employed CPC members who run places of business in the market.

For those Party members whose work has taken them to farflung corners of the country, an online Party branch has been established in Anhui's Wuhu County. More than 100 members of the branch participate in real-time discussions and share notes through an online platform.

Before adopting a market-oriented economy in the late 1970s, China's social structure was simple and clear, as all organizations were under government control, Cheng said.

As the Chinese economy gradually becomes even more market-oriented, private companies and foreign-invested businesses have flourished, attracting a raft of college graduates and experienced workers with CPC memberships.

Through office branches such as the Wealth Plaza branch in Hefei, CPC members who have been unable to participate in regular Party activities after entering the private sector have been reorganized, which will help the CPC to further consolidate its governing foundation in the future, Cheng said.

PRIVATE OWNERSHIP: FROM FOE TO FRIEND

When the first National Congress of the CPC opened on July 23, 1921, thirteen people witnessed the birth of the CPC. These people vowed to "overturn the bourgeoisie with a proletarian army" and "abolish the capitalist system of private ownership."

Seventy years later, the role of private ownership in boosting economic and social development has been fully recognized in China.

In 2007, when the 17th CPC National Congress was held in Beijing, the Party vowed to "unswervingly encourage, support and guide the development of the non-public economy" and "facilitate competition and mutual promotion in all forms of ownership."

He Deqiu, CEO of goodjobs.cn, where Shi Xiaoju is employed, has been surprised to see that many of his company's best employees are CPC members.

"After the Wealth Plaza branch was established, these employees voluntarily wore the Party's emblem at work in order to play an exemplary role and boost corporate morale," said He.

He said he recently submitted a Party membership application to Shi Xiaoju.

Before the establishment of New China in 1949, there could be only one reason for a CPC branch to exist in a privately-run company: to eliminate or destroy potentially exploitative capitalist practices.

However, with the establishment of CPC branches in private and foreign-invested companies, Chinese Communism and private ownership have become compatible with each other. Cheng attributes this dramatic contrast to the Party's talent for reinvention.

Statistics from the Organizing Department of the CPC Central Committee showed that the number of CPC-related grassroots organizations surged from 2.12 million in 1978 to 3.79 million in 2009.

The Party's total membership currently stands at 78 million.

Grassroots CPC organizations are nothing new for some of Shanghai's foreign-invested companies. The Roche R&D Center (China), Ltd., a subsidiary of the Basel, Switzerland-based Roche health care company, set up its own Party branch in 2007.

Many of the branch's 20-odd members are high-tech research specialists with extensive educational backgrounds.

Hong Tao, the branch's first secretary, said that all of the branch's activities are open and transparent.

"We post notices about our activities on our branch's intranet. All of our company's expatriate executives and managers are welcome to read the posts and share their opinions," said Hong.

"Many of our discussions revolve around topical issues such as housing prices, medical care reforms and food safety," he said.

Shanghai is not the only city where foreign-invested companies have embraced CPC branches. In Suzhou, a scenic city in east China's Jiangsu Province, there are more than 1,000 CPC branches scattered among the city's 6,000 foreign-invested companies

Cheng said that the overall development trend for the future of the CPC will be to create new grassroots organizations "wherever different ideas meet, or wherever there are the most complicated contradictions."

"This is how the CPC consolidates its governing foundation and boosts its ties to the masses," said Cheng.

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