The Chinese Communist Party is at the peak of its power as it enters its second century. This paper examines its evolution over the last 100 years, before turning to its centenary celebrations in July 2021 with Xi Jinping at the helm. It then focuses on potential paths ahead, arguing that the Party’s grip on history and ideology will be among the key signposts as Xi intensifies Party control over country, society and — increasingly — the economy.
Its tentacles are enfolding China, its history and culture and people, ever more tightly, with the aim of making it impossible to prise Party and nation apart. This desired indivisibility is the Party’s true ‘China dream’ since any challenge to its ideology, history or leadership is thus seen as a threat to China itself.
But the more prosperous and better-educated Chinese generation that is emerging — whose underlying culture is naturally individualistic — may prove more ready to follow their own dreams than to support the Party’s constant exaltations of endless struggle. Much will depend on whether they can begin to imagine a past, present and future beyond or even without the Party.