Meet the party that runs China

Meet the party that runs China

July 1st is the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, which dominates politics in the world's most populous country. You have probably read, or will read this week, a barrage of media coverage about the CCP's history, how it has changed under General-Secretary Xi Jinping, or what are its future plans for China. But today — and with some help by Eurasia Group expert Neil Thomas — we'll answer more basic questions about the famously opaque party.


What is the CCP? It's the ruling political party in the People's Republic of China. In power since 1949, the CCP has now controlled China for almost as long as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union controlled the USSR before the 1991 collapse.

Although it may seem communist only in name following the economic reforms that began in the late 1970s, the structure of the Chinese state under the CCP is similar to that of other socialist authoritarian regimes. But both ideas coexist peacefully: China pursues economic policies that are capitalist — albeit state-directed — yet the party remains the ultimate political authority.

How does the CCP work internally? CCP officials are "elected" to leadership positions every five years, when top officials meet in Beijing for national party congresses, although outcomes are decided earlier by party leaders in secretive negotiations. The most coveted positions are on the Politburo's elite standing committee, whose seven members have the final say on major political, economic, and social issues.

As CCP general-secretary, president of the People's Republic and chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi has centralized decision-making power to become the most influential Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. What's more, since rising to the top of the party's leadership almost nine years ago, Xi has purged its ranks of potential rivals and removed presidential term limits, meaning he could well stay on for decades more.

How does the CCP rule China? It's often said that the party and the government are pretty much the same thing in China. In reality, the CCP controls the government, and through it — and the military — the country.

Party leaders, however, insist on referring to the CCP by its slightly different official name — Communist Party of China, or CPC — because in their view it belongs first to China and its people. The party, according to the official narrative, exists to support Chinese business and workers, rather than the other way around. That said, public criticism of the party itself is unwelcome, no matter how powerful you are... as billionaire Jack Ma found out a few months ago.

How much does the CCP control the population? It depends. As authoritarian as the party is, the CCP is in many ways not totalitarian. Most Chinese go about their daily lives without worrying much about the party, which nowadays rarely meddles in where people choose to live, what they study, or which job they can get. What the CCP does is set strict limits on political expression and enforce harsh punishments for those who cross its lines, and takes a hard line on surveillance and persecution of political dissidents and of ethnic minorities in places like Xinjiang.

At the same time, the CCP invests enormous resources in propaganda and censorship systems that ensure its message remains dominant. Yet the party knows that creating growth and delivering public services is key to its long-term political resilience, and so actively monitors public sentiment and welcomes citizen feedback on the performance (good or bad) of local officials.

How popular is the CCP among Chinese people? Overall, most Chinese don't live in fear of the CCP, whose nationalist appeals, development success story, and containment of COVID have endowed it with a surprising degree of popular legitimacy. Indeed, a lot of people want to join the party — which boasts almost 92 million members — because CCP membership is a ticket to upward mobility. Xi knows this, and has raised the bar to apply because he only wants the best, the brightest, and — importantly — the most loyal Chinese to rule.

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

More Show less

Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

More Show less

Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

More Show less

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

More Show less

Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

More Show less

13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal