The CCP’s version of history draws upon the narrative of the century of humiliation to then present a neat classification of periods within which China has “stood up, grown rich, and is becoming strong” under CCP rule. (AFP)
The CCP’s version of history draws upon the narrative of the century of humiliation to then present a neat classification of periods within which China has “stood up, grown rich, and is becoming strong” under CCP rule. (AFP)

In its centenary year, the CCP’s revisionist history

It presents an opportunity for the leadership to highlight developmental achievements, which are seen as critical to its legitimacy
By Manoj Kewalramani
PUBLISHED ON FEB 16, 2021 07:02 PM IST

In July, the Communist Party of China (CCP) will celebrate its centenary. This is the most important event in the CCP’s political calendar. It presents an opportunity for the leadership to highlight developmental achievements, which are seen as critical to its legitimacy. Economic development, however, is one of many factors that feed the algorithm of legitimacy. Viewing the question of legitimacy simply from a transactional prism of the party ensuring developmental outcomes in exchange for obedience is reductive, resulting in a misunderstanding of what sustains CCP rule in China. History, or more precisely, building and guiding a supportive historical narrative is crucial too.

Soon after assuming power as CCP general secretary in late 2012, Xi Jinping clamped down on what he warned were “nihilistic” views of history. Since then, there has been an effort to weed out deviations from the party’s historical canon. The CCP’s version of history draws upon the narrative of the century of humiliation to then present a neat classification of periods within which China has “stood up, grown rich, and is becoming strong” under CCP rule.

Such simplistic framing overlooks the different visions of the directions that post-Qing China could have taken, the grave failures of Mao Zedong’s time in power, and the policy contestation that led to and followed the start of reform and opening up. These rarely ever get reflected in official public discourse, for doing so would undermine the notion of a party driven by a “historical purpose” and vision towards a destination called national rejuvenation. As Ouyang Song, former director of the Party History Research Office, argued in a recent People’s Daily piece, it is important to stick to the “main line” of party history. Forming the “correct view of history,” for him, also requires the party to focus on Xi’s thought as “the fundamental guide.”

Ouyang Song’s piece was part of the centenary propaganda push that the People’s Daily began in January to highlight the “century of struggle” while emphasising the “new struggle” that lies ahead. Since then, every day, the paper has discussed historical events in order to capture the essence of “red history.” In these narratives, there are heroes and martyrs, who, driven by revolutionary zeal, overcame adversity to forge the “New China”. For example, earlier this month, Gao Xiang, president of the Chinese Academy of History, argued that as soon as it was established, the CCP “took up the historical mission of achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. He claims that the party “united and led the Chinese people in a bloody battle” against the Japanese “imperialists” and “reactionary” Kuomintang.

The reality, however, is far messier, and to say that these stories embellish the past is a gross understatement. But their goal is not to provide factually accurate accounts. The objective is to frame a unitary view of the past while building linkages to the present.

This is something that Xi Jinping has proven rather adept at throughout his time in power. For instance, in October 2017, after the 19th party Congress, he travelled to Shanghai to the site of the first party Congress, which was held in 1921. Likewise, the 2019 campaign of staying true to the party’s original aspirations focused on ensuring that the cadre maintains “unity in thought, political orientation and action”. Often, the party’s discipline or anti-corruption campaigns draw on lessons from periods of “self-revolution”. These refer to instances of intense internal contestation and purges. This is evident again in repeated references to the Yan’an rectification movement since last year, as Xi moves to consolidate power across law enforcement organs.

In essence, for the party, history serves many purposes. It is a tool to glorify, vilify and mobilise when needed; an instrument to reinforce the inevitability of its rise; a trend that is driven by certain “laws,” grasping which can ensure greater and continued power; a bestower of legacy; an instructive guide for self-revolution; and of course, a battlefield in which defeat can present an existential challenge.

Manoj Kewalramani is fellow, China Studies, at the Takshashila Institution

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)

The BJP’s ruthless expansion drive

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:30 AM IST
Puducherry is only the latest instance of the Modi-Shah playbook of expanding political power. In a sense, Puducherry is now part of a pattern of Machiavellian intrigue that has been repeated from Arunachal and Manipur to Goa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh where a ruthlessly expansionist BJP seeks to consolidate its ascendancy by wangling either wholesale or retail defections.
Close
For China, there have always been certain issues that are core to its relationship with Myanmar. The latter is strategically important to gain access to the Indian Ocean as well as to Southeast Asia. It is economically important because of its natural resources such as timber, the hydroelectric possibilities stemming from its many large rivers, as well as oil and gas and minerals. Finally, China is committed to large-scale infrastructure projects in the country. (AFP)
For China, there have always been certain issues that are core to its relationship with Myanmar. The latter is strategically important to gain access to the Indian Ocean as well as to Southeast Asia. It is economically important because of its natural resources such as timber, the hydroelectric possibilities stemming from its many large rivers, as well as oil and gas and minerals. Finally, China is committed to large-scale infrastructure projects in the country. (AFP)

Myanmar-China ties: It’s complicated

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 07:53 PM IST
While China needs to work with Myanmar, the generals make for uneasy bedfellows in a relationship that has had a long and turbulent history.
Close
Women constitute only 14% of the 280,000 personnel in STEM in India’s research development institutions (UN data). In addition, although women’s participation in the workforce is higher at entry-level, it gradually decreases at higher research, academics and administration levels. (HTPHOTO)
Women constitute only 14% of the 280,000 personnel in STEM in India’s research development institutions (UN data). In addition, although women’s participation in the workforce is higher at entry-level, it gradually decreases at higher research, academics and administration levels. (HTPHOTO)

A gender equality framework for India’s sciences and tech disciplines

By Barbara Wickham
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:32 AM IST
Greater gender equality in STEM is crucial, and in the larger interest of scientific progress and society. Currently, India is looking at a paradoxical situation where women are studying STEM subjects but there are not as many women in STEM careers.
Close
The BJP’s political dominance may, paradoxically in some ways, deepen social divisions (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)
The BJP’s political dominance may, paradoxically in some ways, deepen social divisions (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

The disruptive social effects of Hindutva 2.0

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:10 PM IST
It is the electoral hegemony of the BJP which can deepen the sense of betrayal among those who feel short-changed by the side effects of Hindutva 2.0
Close
The Chinese had earlier planned to build a series of 11 dams on the river, of which several are complete (REUTERS)
The Chinese had earlier planned to build a series of 11 dams on the river, of which several are complete (REUTERS)

The Brahmaputra is in danger. Delhi and Dhaka must challenge Beijing

By Sanjoy Hazarika
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:10 PM IST
China’s decision represents a strike at the heart of a sacred and ancient land and tampering with forces we do not fully comprehend
Close
With the SC order, Nepal has possibly averted a crisis which would have torn apart its nascent democratic system, shaken the constitutional structure, pushed the country towards prolonged political instability and led to the entrenched authoritarianism of KP Oli (REUTERS)
With the SC order, Nepal has possibly averted a crisis which would have torn apart its nascent democratic system, shaken the constitutional structure, pushed the country towards prolonged political instability and led to the entrenched authoritarianism of KP Oli (REUTERS)

Where Nepali and Indian interests meet

UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 07:12 PM IST
With the judiciary standing up to Oli, the room is open for an alternative. India must revise its approach
Close
People in custody, whether accused or convicted, must be considered a priority for the immunisation drive (Shutterstock)
People in custody, whether accused or convicted, must be considered a priority for the immunisation drive (Shutterstock)

Why India must include prisoners in its immunisation drive

By Amrita Paul
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 12:53 PM IST
Prisoners are guaranteed the right to basic health needs. As India undertakes its biggest immunisation drive, it must overcome the hurdles that exist within the system and ensure that the incarcerated are not left out
Close
An electric car charging station is positioned outside the Science Museum. (AP File Photo )
An electric car charging station is positioned outside the Science Museum. (AP File Photo )

When the fantasy of better battery science doesn’t match reality

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:39 AM IST
Car companies are fueling the hype and safety is an ongoing issue — we’re still a long way from the ideal solution for eco-friendly vehicles.
Close
Indian luxury goods have always been defined by their exceptional heritage value in that they were invariably handmade, using skills inherited over generations.
Indian luxury goods have always been defined by their exceptional heritage value in that they were invariably handmade, using skills inherited over generations.

Linking fashion, crafts and livelihood

By Ritu Kumar, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:13 AM IST
The pandemic has resulted in reduced domestic demand, shrinking exports, and unemployment. The sector needs support.
Close
India also needs to strongly step up the projection of its most laudable climate actions and bring adaptation to focus in the climate discourse. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
India also needs to strongly step up the projection of its most laudable climate actions and bring adaptation to focus in the climate discourse. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

India will have to step up climate diplomacy

By Manjeev Singh Puri
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:13 AM IST
Ministries in India are notorious for working in silos. Climate is an honourable exception with the ministries of environment and external affairs working together for years. These ministries need to be even stronger in partnership for more intensive engagement across the globe, including through coalitions that push Growth with Renewable Energy, Entrepreneurship and Nature (GREEN). The International Solar Alliance needs to add to this push.
Close
Farmers shouting slogans at the demonstration site during the ongoing protest against the new farm laws, Ghazipur , February 20 (ANI)
Farmers shouting slogans at the demonstration site during the ongoing protest against the new farm laws, Ghazipur , February 20 (ANI)

India can’t lose out on this window of economic reforms

By Gopal Krishna Agarwal
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:14 AM IST
The government is not inclined to repeal the farm laws. The responsibility of building the right narrative for it rests on all well-meaning citizens. It cannot be left to political class alone. Politics will be what it is with limitations in a democratic ecosystem. Let us all rise to the occasion.
Close
The effect of these laws will neither be revolutionary nor disastrous for farmers and Indian agriculture. But in this hyper-mediatised age, both sides are playing to the gallery leaving no room for genuine conversation (PTI)
The effect of these laws will neither be revolutionary nor disastrous for farmers and Indian agriculture. But in this hyper-mediatised age, both sides are playing to the gallery leaving no room for genuine conversation (PTI)

India needs a new elite compact

By Rahul Verma
PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 08:39 PM IST
No regime can govern a vast and diverse country such as India without taking social, political, and economic elites on board. PM Modi must create the space for it
Close
If the stalemate continues, there is a grave risk of the saner talking heads losing control to potentially militant elements. The farmers must not return defeated to their villages (ANI)
If the stalemate continues, there is a grave risk of the saner talking heads losing control to potentially militant elements. The farmers must not return defeated to their villages (ANI)

Punjab’s history has cautionary lessons for New Delhi, farm unions

By Vinod Sharma
PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 08:39 PM IST
Punjab’s history dictates that the effort should be to isolate and punish miscreants. Blaming everyone for the misdeeds of motley groups could foment social divides, possibly fetching the popularly discarded K-word a wider communal-political traction
Close
To enable India and its firms to be globally competitive in digital solutions and services, policies to improve infrastructure and regulatory costs or even innovation capability will not be enough (The India Today Group via Getty)
To enable India and its firms to be globally competitive in digital solutions and services, policies to improve infrastructure and regulatory costs or even innovation capability will not be enough (The India Today Group via Getty)

In a post-Covid world, a new toolkit for governments

By Amitabh Kant and Arindam Bhattacharya
PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 08:39 PM IST
Traditional supply chains do not possess all the capabilities to solve customer needs. An ecosystem of partners with different skills can do that
Close
VK Sasikala (L), who in 2017 was expelled from her leadership position in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party and recently released from prison after serving a four-year sentence for corruption, pays homage at the statue of AIADMK party founder M.G. Ramachandran in Chennai on February 9,(AFP)
VK Sasikala (L), who in 2017 was expelled from her leadership position in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party and recently released from prison after serving a four-year sentence for corruption, pays homage at the statue of AIADMK party founder M.G. Ramachandran in Chennai on February 9,(AFP)

The Sasikala factor in Tamil Nadu politics

By Venkatesha Babu, Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 09:42 AM IST
  • The importance of VK Sasikala lies in the fact that while she may not be able to ensure AIADMK a victory even if she rejoins it, she can ensure its defeat if both factions go separate ways electorally.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP