100 years on, how the Communist Party dominates China

China's ruling Communist Party turned 100 this year.

It's one of the largest political parties in the world, second only to India's Bharatiya Janata Party – and has an iron grip on every major institution in China.

Here’s how the Communist Party of China – or CCP – came to dominate the country.


The CCP was founded in 1921 during a turbulent period.

A decade earlier, the country had cast off 2,000 years of dynastic rule.

Its founders took inspiration from Marxism, after seeing how other political models had failed in China.

Mao Zedong was the CCP representative for Hunan province.

He rose to become the commander of the Red Army and then in 1949 - the founding leader of the People's Republic of China.


The CCP's ranks have risen roughly in line with China's population, totaling 6.7% of the Chinese population.

Party members are required to be secular atheists, renouncing religions including Buddhism and Taoism, which have been present in Chinese society for centuries.

Chinese youth are exposed to party political life as young as seven when they enter primary school.

Students with good grades and behavior are chosen by teachers to join the Young Pioneers, who don red neckerchiefs and are given leadership roles to manage other students.

The same process repeats in high school with the ‘Youth League’.

Application to join the party proper is a laborious process that typically begins in university and lasts two to three years.

Party membership confers prestige in official circles and undertakings.

Membership is helpful for career advancement in government and China's sprawling public sector, where jobs are considered more secure.

But party members are also subject to disciplinary rules that were tightened under Xi.

Since 2012 when Xi came to power, more than 1.4 million officials have been punished for corruption or lavish spending.


The party was founded for peasants and workers.

But, despite its name, the CCP has stopped actively working towards Marx's utopian concept of communism -

that includes common ownership and abolition of social classes and state.

In 1978, "reform and opening up" measures laid the groundwork for an expanding market economy,

leading to a re-interpretation of the party's ideology to "socialism with Chinese characteristics".

However, the CCP retains a Leninist model of authoritarianism and firmly guards its one-party rule.


The party is everywhere.

It’s the most powerful and consequential body in China – and controls the National People's Congress, the country's rubber-stamp parliament, and can dictate the laws it wants to pass or amend.

Courts and law enforcement agencies report to the party.

The heads of state media outlets such as Xinhua news agency are senior officials in the party's Propaganda Department.

And the military is directly under the command of Xi.

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