What comes to mind when you hear the word “the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)”? The Party that produces nothing but corrupt officials? The Party that rules the world’s biggest authoritarian country? The Party that lifts million of people out of poverty? Or the Party that leads China on route to become a world power? That answer can be difficult. But a simpler answer is that the Chinese Communist Party is one that is comprised of thousands of Chinese people, most of which look no different than an ordinary Chinese people anyone can run into on the streets of Bejing, Shanghai, Xi’am, Chongqing or any other city in China. “Who are they?” is sometimes a more important question to ask than “what is the CCP?”
According to China’s Organization Department, China has a total of 82.602 million party members as of the end of 2011, a number that is nearly as big as the population of the UK and France combined. In China, approximately one out of fifteen is a party member. A party member is much more likely to be a Han male aged 35+ who doesn’t have a college degree and works as a farmer. Not exactly an image that many people have in mind when criticizing the corrupted CCP, isn’t it?
The skewness towards certain demographics aside, the sheer number of CCP members in China makes one wonder whether the discussions of China and its problems should pick up a different rhetoric. CCP, as a faceless united whole, is an easy target. But at the end of the day, it’s those party members that can make a difference to the Party and to China. The third-person effect may be an appropriate analogy here. More often than not, especially on the Chinese Internet, people blame “the Party” for problems in China. When doing so, no one exactly has their party-member family members or friends in mind. But what these over 82 million party-member “family and friends” look like, if put together, is what the CCP will look like and what China will look like.
“Today, the Chinese Communist Party has 80 million members. 300 million persons live in families which have members with party membership. The Party is no longer just a political party or a class. Therefore, many of the flaws of the Communist Party are also the flaws of the people. I believe that a very strong one-party-system is the same as a no-party system. When the party organization reaches a certain size, it becomes the people itself. So the issue is not to deal with the Communist Party this way or that. The Communist Party is just a name. The system is just a name. If you change the people, everything changes. Therefore, it is more important to seek improvement. Rule of law, education, culture … there are the basics.”