The ruling Communist Party in China marks the 100th anniversary of its founding with speeches and large displays intended to present economic progress and social stability to justify its iron grip on political power that it shows no intention of loosening .
President and party leader Xi Jinping is due to deliver a speech Thursday at a rally in Tiananmen Square in Beijing where an Air Force flyover is also expected.
Events are unfolding across the country, including in Hong Kong, which simultaneously commemorates its 1997 transfer from British control to Chinese control.
China has severely cracked down on free speech and political opposition in the territory, while rejecting all external criticism and sanctions imposed on its leaders.
Thursday’s events are the culmination of weeks of ceremonies and exhibitions praising the role of nearly 92 million party members in dramatically improving the quality of life in the country and restoring economic influence, China’s political and military overseas.
While the progress mostly dates from the economic reforms adopted by Deng Xiaoping four decades ago, the celebrations highlight the role of Xi, who has established himself as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, who founded the People’s Republic in 1949 after taking power in the midst of civil war. .
Xi, 68, heads the government, party and armed forces and has removed the limits of his tenure. He is expected to begin a third five-year term as party leader next year.
While Mao and other former leaders are also featured, the centenary celebrations appear designed to reinforce Xi’s credentials as having made key strides in poverty reduction and economic progress while raising China’s global profile. and standing up to the West.
By seeking more gains for the party on the world stage, Xi is preparing China for a protracted struggle with the United States, said Robert Sutter of the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
“In foreign affairs, it involves growth in wealth and power, with China unencumbered as it pursues its very self-centered political goals at the expense of others and the dominant world order,” said Sutter.
Although the party faces no serious challenges to its government, its legitimacy to govern has been called into question by past catastrophes such as the mass starvation of the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s and early 1980s. 1969, the violent class war and the xenophobia of 1966-1976. The Cultural Revolution and bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy movement focused on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.
More recently, China has come under criticism and sanctions for detaining over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities for political re-education in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, and for having imprisoned or silenced those she sees as potential opponents of Tibet in Hong Kong.
The party’s official narrative glosses over past mistakes or current controversies, emphasizing development, stability and efficiency – including its success in controlling COVID-19 at home – unlike what it says. he describes as political quarrels, a mess of pandemic control measures and social strife in multiparty democracies.
The party’s determination to remove mention of past shortcomings shows it may not be as confident in its legitimacy to rule as it anticipates, said June Teuful Dreyer, an expert at the University of Miami in China .
“What are they afraid of? Anyway, could that oversized self-orchestrated pat on the back be a sign of deeper insecurity?” Said Teuful Dreyer.
While Mao called for the abandonment or outright destruction of traditional culture, religion, class and social norms, the party now downplays its revolutionary history and “defines itself as representing all that is good in the world. Chinese tradition, ”said Anthony Saich of Harvard Kennedy University. School.
“The celebrations will attempt to legitimize Xi as the natural heir to Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, etc. and will pave the way for the party’s Congress next year, Saich said.
“It will promote the feeling of national pride in its achievements which constitute an important source of legitimacy in the present day. “