The Chinese Communist Party, which has run the country since 1949, is celebrating its 90th birthday.
It was founded in Shanghai in 1921 by a dozen or so intellectuals, among them Mao Tse-tung, and fought its way to power after bitter civil war with Kuomintang nationalist forces.
One of the battles is still remembered today. The battle for Yanan in 1947 delivered a base in Shaanxi province for the Chinese communists after the Long March retreat from Chiang Kai-shek’s army.
It was from there that they unleashed their assault on power.
Today the town attracts pilgrims to the revolution who visit the former homes of Mao Tse-tung and other communist leaders, built into caves in the hillsides.
Mao Guangrong, who was born the same year as the Party, fought for the communists in the battle for Yanan. He said: “To see the comparison between then and now, the difficulty of those times compared to the good life we live now, of course I am happy. Take me, for example. Having struggled so much in those times, I can still live to 90.”
And even at 90, thanks to some astute re-inventing of itself over the years, the Chinese Communist Party is still in rude health. Allegiance begins in an unchanged ritual at 7 years old with the Young Pioneers, joining the Young Communists at 14 before becoming full party members.
It is the biggest political organisation in the world, with more than 80-million on the roll. Party membership is considered a privilege that opens doors to the best jobs, either in government or in state-owned companies.
Just like much of China, Yanan has undergone meteoric transformations in three decades of reforms. Two-million people now live there among the shopping centres and the trappings of western capitalist commercialisation in a booming economy.
But China’s communist rulers still attract international criticism for their record on human rights. Corruption among officials is rife according to the country’s own central bank.
And in Beijing there is a steady stream of citizens demanding compensation for suffering the effects of industrial pollution, or after having had their homes seized.
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