Nearly 100 years ago, in an inconspicuous house on 106 Rue Wantz in Shanghai, 13 Chinese men and two representatives of the Soviet Communist International formed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Today, July 1—a date chosen by the CCP that is about three weeks earlier than the date on which the meeting actually took place—the Party celebrates its centenary.
The CCP has ruled China continuously since 1949, when one of the men at that meeting, Mao Zedong, founded the People’s Republic of China. It has grown to become the world’s second largest political party, with nearly 92 million members, representing 6.5% of the Chinese population. The CCP has transformed a poor country into the world’s second largest economy—at a great human cost, the record of which it is now working to erase.
Some see the CCP as the savior of the Chinese people; others see it as a threat to world stability. That’s certainly the dominant view in Washington, which is engaged in a great-power struggle with Beijing. This began under former US president Donald Trump, who limited the ability of CCP members to obtain visas for the US, but has continued, albeit in a more nuanced fashion, under Joe Biden.
As China celebrates the impact of the party on its own history, some foreign leaders are reacting, while others stay quiet. Their statements reveal patterns in China’s changing sphere of influence.
China and Russia have had a long and tumultuous relationship, but grew closer under the leadership of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin. The two recently extended a 2001 Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation. Their interests align on many issues—though not all—including the war in Syria, and US influence in Eurasia.
Today, Putin congratulated Xi, highlighting the Soviet Union’s early support of the CCP, and praising China’s “constructive role” in world affairs.
China has long seen Serbia as a promising investment and entry into Europe. In recent years, Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic has deepened his country’s ties with China. Chinese companies have invested in everything from steel mills to bridges and roads. The Chinese government donated PPE and sent medical experts to Serbia early in the pandemic, and Serbia will start producing China’s Sinopharm vaccine domestically in October.
According to a Chinese Foreign Ministry readout of a recent call between Vucic and Xi, the Serbian president addressed “his warm congratulations” to the CCP and said that under its leadership, “China has made great achievements that have attracted worldwide attention.”
The US government hasn’t issued an official statement on the centenary of the CCP. (It doesn’t typically do so, although in 2019 Trump tweeted his congratulations on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.)
The Trump administration was hostile to the CCP; his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, called the CCP’s Marxist-Leninist bend “a bankrupt totalitarian ideology.” While Biden has toned down the rhetoric, some elements of this Trump-era antipathy persist. Elise Stefanik, a Republican congresswoman who sits on the House of Representatives’ Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement about today’s 100th anniversary:
These three countries listed above illustrate the changing dynamics of a world in which China has become a superpower. The US and China now openly acknowledge that they are each other’s greatest threats, while Beijing has aligned more closely with countries that were part of the non-aligned movement during the Cold War, including Egypt, South Africa, and several ex-Yugoslav states, like Serbia. China’s Xinhua state news agency has published a selection of reactions from the leaders of some of these countries: