Celebrity author Helen Wang explains in the Boston Review how China has dramatically changed, and how even the communist party is becoming a very different creator from what people outside China expect.
No one in China believes in communism anymore. The Communist Party has abandoned Communist ideology. A friend of mine joked that the Chinese government wears a Polo shirt and Nike shoes, but still has a communist hat. The Party is simply a ruling outfit that practices what seems to be quasi-capitalism…
[But] With or without its defining ideology, the Party has shown no sign of loosening control. Even the increased efforts to recruit members from private and foreign-owned companies don’t reflect outreach so much as assertion of power. Party organizations were traditionally strong in state-owned enterprises, and with the growing presence in China of private and foreign-owned firms, the Communist Party was concerned about losing support from young people. So it has sought out the best of them: the Party has been adamant about qualifications, such as academic achievements or career credentials.
Young people recognize that Party membership offers significant advantages, such as opportunities for career advancement, social status, and government connections. China: the Dragon’s Ascent, a 2003 History Channel documentary, provides some illustrative anecdotes. In it an ambitious young student at China’s highly regarded Fudan University said, “I really want to do something for the country. I want to join the Communist Party so that I can better serve my country.” Another student, who was planning to go overseas to study, said, “If I go abroad, I won’t join the party. But if I cannot go overseas, I may join the party.” Other students agreed with him that if he stayed in China, he should join the party and reap the benefits.
Helen Wang is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you need her at your meeting or conference, do get in touch.
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