People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 37

September 15, 2013





Spectacular Progress, Formidable Challenges (2)


Ashok Dhawale


AFTER our visit to the political capital Beijing, the two other places that we visited in China for the next one week from August 28 to September 3, 2013 provided a clear contrast. The first was Chinas most populous, most developed city its industrial and financial capital Shanghai on the east coast, near the confluence of the Yangtze river and the sea. The population of Shanghai is over 23 million around 3 million more than Beijing. And the second was Lanzhou, the capital of Chinas relatively backward rural province of Gansu in the northwest, on the banks of the Yellow River.  Gansu province has a population of 26 million, of which Lanzhou city accounts for around 3.5 million.



In Shanghai, we had a series of interesting briefings by, and interactions with, Chinese intellectuals who were also members of the CPC. These were held at the China Executive Leadership Academy, Pudong, better known by its acronym CELAP. It is a national institution funded by the Chinese central government, with a beautiful and spacious residential campus. Participants in the various programmes run by it include central ministers and high-level government officials, senior business executives and international participants. Opened in 2005, its current president is Zhao Leji, member of the CPC Polit Bureau and minister of its organization department. It has its own regular faculty and also invites visiting professors from various specialities.


Some of the subjects on which the briefings and interactions took place were: State Structure and Political System in China; CPCs Grassroots Party Building and Society Management; Strategy of the 18th National Congress of the CPC; Chinas Long Road to Socialism; Practice, Exploration and Connotation of the New Urbanisation in China; and a General Review of Shanghai. There was a lively discussion and a question-answer session on various issues after each briefing.


There were two interesting field visits in Shanghai to community centres. One was the Beicai Town Centre of Community Cultural Activities and the other was the Kangqiao Community Service Centre - both in the Pudong New Area.


The first showed how the Party and the local administration runs a community centre for the benefit of citizens, young and old; and the second was a good example of relocation in the process of urbanisation of over 40,000 residents from an old area of Shanghai to the new area of Pudong.


Our other sight-seeing visits in Shanghai were to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, from the top of which you get a truly magnificent view of the entire city. This was followed by a boat cruise on the Huang Pu river a tributary of the mighty Yangtze - that runs through Shanghai city. There was also a visit to the Bund and to the Nanjing Pedestrian Road which are the citys nerve centres. Shanghai and Beijing are truly world-class cities but with not a single slum in either!


Historically speaking, the most interesting visit in Shanghai was to the small and quaint house where the First National Congress of the CPC was held in July 1921. Only 13 delegates representing a total membership of 53, apart from two observers of the Comintern, attended this historic First Congress of the Party.


The delegates included Mao Zedong, who was then just 28 years old. Starting from that sapling, the CPC today has a Party membership of 85.1 million! After an epic and bitter battle against imperialism and feudalism that lasted 28 years, the CPC successfully led the Chinese people to Revolution in 1949 and it has since been ruling the most populous country in the world for the last 64 years.


The immediate backdrop to the formation of the CPC was the October Revolution in Russia led by Lenin and his Bolshevik Party in 1917, and the May 4 movement in China in 1919 which brought the working class into struggle. There is a small museum in the house that traces the major events in China before the formation of the CPC with an actual life-like replica of the proceedings of the First Party Congress in which Mao Zedong is addressing the dozen other delegates. It was indeed an inspiring visit for all of us.



Gansu province in northwest China has many interesting historical features. It has several well-preserved archaeological relics of the Buddhist era. The westernmost end of the Great Wall of China lies in this province at the Jiayuguan Pass. And in Huining County of Baiyin is the historical spot where in October 1936 the First, Second and Fourth Front Armies of the Red Army joined forces triumphantly, making it one of the turning points and milestones in Chinas revolutionary history. The legendary Long March began from Jiangxi in southeast China, covered over 12,500 km for a year from October 1934 to October 1935, and culminated at Yanan in the adjoining Shaanxi province in northwest China to set up a strong base area of the CPC.


In the two days in Lanzhou, we visited five major spots the Waterwheel Park; the Streamlined Community Service Programme of the Xihu community of Qilihe district; the Dongmen village of Anning district; the Gansu Academy of Agriculture; and the Gansu Agricultural University. We saw tremendously rapid development of infrastructure even in the relatively backward Lanzhou city.


The last three spots gave us some idea of the remarkable progress of agriculture in China. The Gansu Academy of Agriculture is a huge 15-storey building that conducts intensive research into all aspects of agriculture. It has a greenhouse and a good piece of land around it to conduct experiments with various crops. It has a staff of over 1000 scientific researchers. More than half of them are party members. It is government-funded and has made sterling contributions to agricultural progress of the province. In the last few years of research, it has over 200 international agricultural patents to its credit. There are similar Academies of Agriculture in each province, including the central one in Beijing.


The Gansu Agricultural University has a massive campus spread over nearly 65 hectares. It has over 18,000 students, of whom 16,000 are under-graduate and 2,000 are post-graduate. Luckily, the day that we visited the university was the first day of the new semester and so the campus was teeming with thousands of students. The university has a full time faculty of over 1,550, of whom 600 are Party members. They have 16 different colleges, or what we call departments, with a Party committee functioning in each. The university runs on funds from the central and provincial governments and on the fees paid by students.  


The president of the university is the head of the administration, and we actually saw him busily moving around the campus attending to students problems on the first day of the new semester. All major decisions like the university budget, teaching, research, projects, administration, selection, promotions etc are taken by a nine-member apex party committee of the university. The students union is democratically elected by the students in a multi-candidate election. Around 86 percent of the students who graduated got jobs in the public or private sector.