Theoretically, the party's highest body is the National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which meets at least once every five years. The primary organization of power in the Communist Party which are listed in the party constitution include:
Other central organizations include:
In addition, there are numerous commissions and leading groups, the most important of which are:
Every five years, the Communist Party of China holds a National Congress. The latest happened on October 15, 2007. Formally, the Congress serves two functions: to approve changes to the Party constitution regarding policy and to elect a Central Committee, about 300 strong. The Central Committee in turn elects the Politburo. In practice, positions within the Central Committee and Politburo are determined before a Party Congress, and the main purpose of the Congress is to announce the party policies and vision for the direction of China in the following few years.
The party's central focus of power is the Politburo Standing Committee. The process for selecting Standing Committee members, as well as Politburo members, occurs behind the scenes in a process parallel to the National Congress. The new power structure is announced obliquely through the positioning of portraits in the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Party. The number of Standing Committee members varies and has tended to increase over time. The Committee was expanded to nine at the 16th Party National Congress in 2002.
There are two other key organs of political power in the People's Republic of China: the formal government and the People's Liberation Army.
There are, in addition to decision-making roles, advisory committees, including the People's Political Consultative Conference. During the 1980s and 1990s there was a Central Advisory Commission established by Deng Xiaoping which consisted of senior retired leaders, but with their passing this has been abolished.
Political scientists have identified two groupings within the Communist Party leading to a structure which has been called "one party, two factions". The first is the "elitist coalition" or Shanghai clique which contains mainly officials who have risen from the more prosperous provinces. The second is the "populist coalition" or "Youth League faction" which consists mainly of officials who have risen from the rural interior, through the Communist Youth League. The interaction between these two factions is largely complementary with each faction possessing a particular expertise and both committed to the continued rule of the Communist Party and not allowing intra-party factional politics threaten party unity. It has been noted that party and government positions have been assigned to create a very careful balance between these two groupings.
Within his "one party, two factions" model, Li Chen has noted that one should avoid labeling these two groupings with simplistic ideological labels, and that these two groupings do not act in a zero-sum, winner take all fashion. Neither group has the ability or will to dominate the other completely.
It was at the 1928 6th Congress that the now-famliar ‘full’ and ‘alternate’ structure originated, with 84 and 34 delegates, respectively. Membership was estimated at 40,000. In 1945, the 7th Congress had 547 full and 208 alternate delegates representing 1.21 million members, a ratio of one representative per 1,600 members as compared to 1:725 in 1927.
After the Party defeated the Nationalists, participation at National Party Congresses became much less representative. Each of the 1026 full and 107 alternate members represented 9,470 party members (10.73 million in total) at the 1956 8th Congress. Subsequent congresses held the number of participants down despite membership growing to more than 60 million by 2000.
The role of the Comintern cannot be overstated. Mikhail Markovich Borodin negotiated with Sun Yat-sen and Wang Jingwei the 1923 KMT reorganization and the CCP’s incorporation into the newly expanded party. Borodin and General Vasilii Blyukher (known as ‘Galen’) worked with Chiang Kai-shek to found the Whampoa Military Academy. And, it was the CCP’s reliance on the leadership of the Comintern that was the first indication that the 1923-27 First United Front was fragile.
The North Expedition (1926-1927) led by Guomingtan and participated by CPC gained quick success in overthrowing the warloard government.
In 1927, just before final success of the revolution CPC and Kuomingtang were split, and the CPC was massacred with more than four in five members being killed. The only major section of the party which survived was the section built around Mao Zedong, which established Soviet Republic of China in some remote areas within China through peasant riots. After a number of military campaigns from KMT army, the CPC had to give up their bases and started the Long March (1934-1935) to search a new base. During Long March, the party leadership re-examined its policy and blamed their failure on the CPC military leader Otto Braun, a German sent by Comintern. After they resettled in Yan’an, the native Communists, such as Mao Zedong and Zhu De gained power. The Comintern and Soviet Union. lost control over the CPC.
The Western world first got a clear view of the Communist Party of China through Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China.
It is well accepted that without Japanese invasion, the CPC might not have developed so fast. Then the reason is arguable. Some people blame CPC taking the chance of the National Government of China bitterly fighting Japanese and developing its force with little efforts to the war with the Japanese. However others said that by its effective guerrilla attacks to the Japanese and the surrogated armies the reputation of CPC attracted many Chinese to its rank. The argument is still going on.
In the war, US supported the Kuomintang and USSR supported CPC, but both with limited degrees. During the Periods of Sino-Japanese War and the Third Civil Revolution, the CPC pretended to be moderate in the Communist ideology, and used the “democracy” as its main slogan. Both US (Dixie Mission) and USSR suspected whether the CCP was a real communist party.
The Kuomintang's defeat marked the onset of the Chinese Revolution whence Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China in Beijing on October 1, 1949.
Following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, however, the CPC under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping moved towards Socialism with Chinese characteristics and instituted Chinese economic reform. In reversing some of Mao's "extreme-leftist" policies, Deng argued that a socialist country and the market economy model were not mutually exclusive. While asserting the political power of the Party itself, the change in policy generated significant economic growth. The ideology itself, however, came into conflict on both sides of the spectrum with Maoists as well as progressive liberals, culminating with other social factors to cause the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests. Deng's vision for economic success and a new socialist market model became entrenched in the Party constitution in 1997 as Deng Xiaoping Theory.
The "third generation" of leadership under Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji, and associates largely continued Deng's progressive economic vision while overseeing the re-emergence of Chinese nationalism in the 1990s. Nationalist sentiment has seemingly also evolved to become informally the part of the Party's guiding doctrine. As part of Jiang's nominal legacy, the CPC ratified the Three Represents into the 2003 revision of the Party Constitution as a "guiding ideology", encouraging the Party to represent "advanced productive forces, the progressive course of China's culture, and the fundamental interests of the people." There are various interpretations of the Three Represents. Most notably, the theory has legitimized the entry of private business owners and quasi-"bourgeoisie" elements into the party.
The insistent road of focusing almost exclusively on economic growth has led to a wide range of serious social problems. The CPC's "fourth generation" of leadership under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, after taking power in 2003, attempted reversing such a trend by bringing forth an integrated ideology that tackled both social and economic concerns. This new ideology was known as the creation of a Harmonious Society using the Scientific Development Concept.
The degree of power the Party had on the state has gradually decreased as economic liberalizations progressed. The evolution of CPC ideology has gone through a number of defining changes that it no longer bears much resemblance to its founding principles. Some believe that the large amount of economic liberalization starting from the late 1970s to present, indicates that the CPC has transitioned to endorse economic neoliberalism. The CPC's current policies are fiercely rejected as capitalist by most communists, especially anti-revisionists, and by adherents of the Chinese New Left from within the PRC.
The Communist Party of China comprises a single-party state form of government; however, there are parties other than the CPC within China, which report to the United Front Department of the Communist Party of China and do not act as opposition or independent parties. Since the 1980s, as its commitment to Marxist ideology has appeared to wane, the party has begun to increasingly invoke Chinese nationalism as a legitimizing principle as opposed to the socialist construction for which the party was originally created. The change from socialism to nationalism has pleased the CPC's former enemy, the Kuomintang (KMT), which has warmed its relations with the CPC since 2003.
Many of the unexpected opinions about the CPC result from its rare combination of attributes as a party formally based on Marxism which has overseen a dynamic market economy, yet maintains an authoritarian political system.
Supporters of the International Tibet Independence Movement, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Falun Gong, a spiritual group, Taiwan independence, East Turkestan Independence Movement, neoconservatives in the United States and Japan, international human rights groups, proponents of civil liberties and freedom of expression, advocates of democracy, anarchists, along with many democratic and anti-authoritarian left-wing forces in those same countries, are among the groups which have opposed the CPC government because it is said to be a repressive single-party state regime.
Some of the opponents of the Party within the Chinese democracy movement have tended not to argue that a strong Chinese state is inherently bad, but rather that the Communist leadership is corrupt. The Chinese New Left, meanwhile, is a current within China that seeks to "revert China to the socialist road" – i.e., to return China to the days after Mao Zedong but before the reforms of Deng Xiaoping and his successors.
Another school of thought argues that the worst of the abuses took place decades ago, and that the current leadership is not only unconnected with them, but were actually victims of that era. They have also argued that while the modern Communist Party may be flawed, it is comparatively better than previous regimes, with respect to improving the general standard of living, than any other government that has governed China in the past century and can be put in more favorable light against most governments of the developing nations. However, farmers and other rural people have been marginalized, and national influence have been greatly reduced, as a result, the CPC has recently taken sweeping measures to regain support from the countryside, to limited success.
In addition, some scholars contend that China has never operated under a decentralized democratic regime in its several thousand years of history, and therefore it can be argued that the structure present, albeit not up to western moral standards, is the best possible option when compared to its alternatives. A sudden transition to democracy, they contend, would result in the economic and political upheaval that occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1990s, and that by focusing on economic growth, China is setting the stage for a more gradual but more sustainable transition to a more liberal system. This group sees Mainland China as being similar to Spain in the 1960s, and South Korea and Taiwan during the 1970s.
As with the first group, this school of thought brings together some unlikely political allies. Not only do most intellectuals within the Chinese government follow this school of thinking, but it is also the common belief held amongst pro-free trade liberals in the West.
Many observers from both within and outside of China have argued that the CCP has taken gradual steps towards democracy and transparency, hence arguing that it is best to give it time and room to evolve into a better government rather than forcing an abrupt change. However, other observers (like Minxin Pei) question whether these steps are genuine efforts towards democratic reform or disingenous measures by the CCP to retain power.
Many current party officials are the sons and daughters of prominent Party officials. These young, powerful individuals are referred to as the "Crown Prince Party", or "Princelings", and their rise to power has been criticized as a form of nepotism or cronyism.
The Members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China are:
Members of the Politburo of the CPC Central committee:
Wang Lequan, Wang Zhaoguo, Hui Liangyu, Liu Qi, Liu Yunshan, Li Changchun, Wu Yi, Wu Bangguo, Wu Guanzheng, Zhang Lichang, Zhang Dejiang, Luo Gan, Zhou Yongkang, Hu Jintao, Yu Zhengsheng, He Guoqiang, Jia Qinglin, Guo Boxiong, Cao Gangchuan, Zeng Qinghong, Zeng Peiyan, Wen Jiabao.
Alternate member of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee: Wang Gang
Between 1921 and 1943 the Communist Party of China was headed by the General Secretary:
In 1943 the position of Chairman of the Communist Party of China was created.
In 1982, the post of Chairman was abolished, and the General Secretary, at this time held by the same man as the post of Chairman, once again became the supreme office of the Party.