In a groundbreaking effort to explore the internal dynamics of, perhaps, the world’s largest political party, the Communist Party of China (CPC), a renowned African scholar on China studies, Charles Onunaiju revealed the rare historical-cum philosophical insights into the Party and the secret behind its phenomenal rise on the world stage.
At an event to mark the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China last July, the General Secretary of the party, which is also the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping unequivocally stated that “the founding of a communist party in China was an epoch-making event, which profoundly changed the course of Chinese history in modern times; transformed the future of the Chinese people and nation, and altered the landscape of world development.”
The 255-page book: “A Century of the Communist Party of China: Why Africa should engage its experience,” chronicled the arduous journey of the China Communist Party and the mystery behind its success in eliminating extreme poverty amongst the 1.4 billion Chinese people, a feat that has sparked global debates.
The author is able to rigorously examine the nexus between the party’s success and the role of Marxism-Leninism theory with its core fundamentals of dialectical-historical materialism as an instrument of scientific interrogation of the country’s existential reality and how the party’s leadership, from generation to generation, has consistently innovated and updated the theory in line with the emerging trends. Such analysis has made the book not only unique but a compelling treasure for Africa and other developing countries to explore.
The seven-chapter book, which is the first of its kind in recent time, offers deep perspectives from the continent about the Communist Party of China, and the need to apply theoretical interrogation to unravel the history and socio-cultural forces of any society. It no doubt, opens a new bank of ideas, particularly for African nations whose exposure and political orientation are largely shaped by the colonial legacies.
As a firm believer in China-Africa cooperation, the author dedicates a chapter in the book to explore the productive relationship between the two partners that has so far changed the landscape of the continent, especially within the last two decades. In the chapter, he advocates more experience-sharing between China and Africa, especially in the areas of party building, organization, and governance, even as he reflects on the weak nature of African states, occasioned by the negation of the continent’s historical process while continuously nurturing the colonial legacies that ensure that the continent remains at the “periphery of the metropolitan imperialist.”
The author regrets the deficit of thorough interrogation of our existential realities that should have provided opportunities to evolve home-grown socio-political frameworks that can address our peculiar challenges of infrastructure, of poverty, of poor leadership, of corruption, and of course, dearth of reasoning.
The book advises the African continent to turn its weakness into an advantage, by drawing inspiration from the formation of China’s Communist Party which quickly “took advantage of the industrial backwardness of the country and its lack of sizeable proletariat, and proceeded to build a formidable and reliable army of peasantry and with steady revolutionary devolution and integrity, mobilize the national and petty bourgeoise…to embark on socialist construction.”
It is pertinent to highlight a few key points which I considered as takeaways from the book, and hope it will help the readers to know the exact focus of the work, ahead of obtaining their copies.
First, the lifting of about 800 million people out of absolute poverty within the span of 40 years, culminating in the elimination of extreme poverty among the 1.4 billion Chinese people, shows that poverty is neither destiny nor fate to quietly live with, but a social scourge that can be eliminated with requisite political will and the right leadership.
It also shows that poverty elimination is not a humanitarian work, but a responsibility bequeathed by leader to leader. The book is clear that “before the final conquest of poverty in China, over 3 million public sector officials were dispatched from all nooks and crannies of the country to combat the scourge on the frontline.”
It pontificates the fact that any vision of human progress without proper theoretical examination or guide to understand and deconstruct the internal contradictions is susceptible to failure or destined to produce poor results. This is particularly evident in the over three decades of adoption of liberal competitive multi-party democracy in many African states with periodic elections that had consistently yielded nothing significant. Instead, what have been coming out are poverty, unending social disorder, violent conflicts and swirling crimes.
It reveals that the concept of “democracy” is best defined or practiced by the individual country’s historical and social fabric, not by any universal standard or model.
The book also uncovers that the Chinese political model cannot be mechanically replicated anywhere in the world, but can serve as a useful guide for any nation that is ready to evolve a homegrown political system.
That China had gone through similar or worse challenges African nations have gone through or are still going through.
China had experienced the combined oppression of foreign capitalist and domestic feudal forces, and of late, corrupt party officials, which the current leader, Xi Jinping has vigorously fought and purged. The country had witnessed what Xi described as “innumerable hardships.”
The myth of China’s so-called miracle is by no means extraordinary, but came about as a result of a common resolve and continuous toil of its people with the party’s leadership at its core of extracting the facts from the truth.
As a matter of fact, while the book is not exhaustive of the party’s one-hundred year’s history, as acknowledged by the author, the work, no doubt, laid bare in a concise manner, the major events that shaped the party’s trajectories and, ultimately the country’s destiny. From its formative stage and liberation movement to the transformation era and, to its latest vision of shared prosperity for humanity, the material encompasses numerous important lessons that can provide a leeway for Africa to address the challenges of continent, and Nigeria in particular.
Of course, a short piece of this nature cannot sufficiently review all the vital points skillfully and succinctly put forth in this well-researched and in-depth exercise, but this is just an attempt to provide a glimpse of what to expect by readers.
As a matter of fact, the book is rich, handy, profound and is rendered in a lucid language.
I humbly recommend this book, particularly to African policymakers, political leaders, scholars, students, journalists and many other categories of people that are seeking for knowledge. The book should be made available in all Libraries of Nigerian universities.
I congratulate and commend the author for vigorously exerting himself in expanding the frontier of knowledge in Africa and beyond.