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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Party School: The CPC innovative think-tank

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By Talibeh Hydara

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China has been successful. It is successful chiefly because of hard-work and determination of the Chinese people. But history teaches us that we need more than just commitment. We need a strong and visionary leadership. But how has China consistently produced strong leaders who collectively transformed a poor country into an unbreakable force within four decades?   In our second trip to Haidian, we visited the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, the incubator of Chinese leadership. Essentially, the school was established to mould high cadre CPC members and has become a think-tank ensuring officials align their ideas with those of the party, as envisioned by the founding leaders. The Academy, presided over by subsequent party and state leaders since in the 40s, has been in the forefront of creating “a moderately prosperous society and the Chinese path to modernisation.” 

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The first monument that caught my eyes in the campus was “Comrades in Arms”. Before recognising the sculpture, I thought I finally saw a Chinese man with long Socratic beards. Lo and behold, it was Karl Marx sitting and Friedrich Engels standing, two geniuses who midwifed the theory of Marxism and shaped generations against capitalism. As strong disciples of Marxism—though the theory practically metamorphosed into socialism—erecting such sculptures symbolises China’s desire to ensure immortality of heritage. Most countries, the fact that they moved from one theory to another, would mean erasing the past and pretend it never happened. Marxism was central to China’s birth and, despite Chairman Mao developing his own sinified version later on, the theory is very much appreciated here and that sculpture demonstrates such reverence.      

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Some metres away from the Comrades in Arms sculpture lies the Taishan stone stele. Few things standout about the stone; it is 10 meters long and weighs 200 tons, almost the same weight as a blue whale or the Statue of Liberty. The stone accompanies 80-year school motto inscribed in it by Chairman Mao: seek truth from facts on one side while serve the people on the other side, two phrases echoing the fundamental purpose of the CPC. The Chairman was once president of the school which showed the importance attached to the institution.   

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Next to the stone is a 6.5m-tall standing sculpture of Chairman Mao himself. I have seen different sculptures of Mao but nothing I could relate to more than this one. Hands on the waist, standing straight and staring into the void. I don’t know if it was carved from a picture or it was the artist’s imagination but that was me posing for a picture. If you tell me to pose for a picture, that is it, you killed me. I cannot fake a smile, not for long, even if my life depends on it. The most comfortable posture for me is hands on the waist or in the pockets and a serious face. I admire those who open their mouth, show all 32 and pose like a mannequin for the camera to click a hundred times. This Mao sculpture, made of cupronickel, has authority written all over it and I saw myself in it.        

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Another giant of China, Deng Xiaoping, sculptured walking, with his jacket draping over his shoulders. Credited for launching Chinese modernisation with reforms and opening up, Xiaoping restored China to domestic stability and economic growth. Thanks to him, I hear ‘modernisation’ more times than I eat in China. He too, just like Chairman Mao, gave the school maximum attention and so does President Xi Jinping who, while serving as principal between 2007 and 2012, visited the school 58 times.

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Perhaps the most touching sculpture at the school is the Flag, enthusing the spirit of the 56 ethnic groups; from famers to peasants to PLA commanders. It is an artistic sensation! You just cannot fail to see the representation! Men and women, united in one objective of building a modern China.  

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Strolling further in the campus lies the Liaoyan Lake, with an anchored red boat. A tour guide explained how that boat came about. “The boat moored on the lake, called a big red boat, is a 1:1 imitation of the big red boat in Nanhu Lake, Jiaxing. The first lesson for our students is to pay respects to the Red Boat as part of their party spirit training.

On July 23, 1921, the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China was secretly held at No. 106 Wangzhi Road, the French Concession in Shanghai.

On the evening of July 30, when the meeting was held for the sixth meeting, the venue was harassed by patrols from the French Concession, and the meeting was forced to be interrupted. Afterwards, the delegates discussed changing the meeting place, and at the suggestion of one of them, Li Da and his wife Wang Huiwu, they decided to hold the last day of the meeting on a cruise ship on Nanhu Lake in Jiaxing, Zhejiang,” she narrated.

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The 7-hour meeting, which ended at 6pm, adopted the guidelines of the CPC and a party was born. The 13 attendees of that historic first congress are Bao Huiseng, Zhang Guotao, He Shuheng, Deng Enming, Chen Gongbo, Dong Biwu, Mao Zedong, Wang Jinmei, Li Hanjun, Chen Tan Qiu, Liu Renjing, Zhou Fohai, and Li Da.

The school is a static work of art. The beautiful koi fish.  The splash of water in the lake. The quaking ducks and ducklings. The chirping birds. The furry white cat. The fragrant spring flowers. The immaculate trees. Plus, whatever the willow trees shed invaded the campus, with white thing spreading on our heads, making everyone’s hair grey and looking like grandmas and grandpas.

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The senior officials hosted a forum with journalists, answering questions on a range of issues. It wasn’t going to end, however, without me meeting one of my favourite Chinese, Hua Chunying, the assistant minister of foreign affairs. I have been following her for quite some time now and her incredible tweets about China have been great source of information for me. I had to tell her that.   

The Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC has inspiration galore. The personalities; Chairman Mao, Xiaoping, Marx and Engels, the 56, the 13 delegates, all remind students the most important tasks ahead, with service and truth being the bedrock of the CPC. The school is serving China and the list of strong and visionary leaders might just continue forever.   

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