Although nominally it exists alongside the United Front, a coalition of governing political parties, in practice, the CPC is the only party in the PRC, maintaining a unitary government and centralizing the state, military, and media
Both before and after the founding of the PRC, the CPC's history is defined by various power struggles and ideological battles, including destructive socio-political movements such as the Cultural Revolution
The CPC is the world's largest political party, claiming over 80 million members at the end of 2010 which constitutes about 6.0% of the total population of mainland China. The vast majority of military and civil officials are members of the Party. Since 1978, the Communist Party has attempted to institutionalize transitions of power and consolidate its internal structure. The modern party stresses unity and avoids public conflict while practicing a pragmatic and open democratic centralism within the party structure
The party's organizational structure was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt afterwards by Deng Xiaoping, who subsequently initiated "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" and brought all state apparatuses back under the rule of the CPC.
Theoretically, the party's highest body is the National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which meets at least once every five years. The primary organs of power in the Communist Party which is detailed in the party constitution include:
- Central Committee, which includes:
- The General Secretary, which is the highest ranking official within the Party and usually the Chinese paramount leader.
- The Politburo, presently consisting of 25 full members (including the members of the Politburo Standing Committee); see current members of the Politburo for a complete list.
- The Politburo Standing Committee, which currently consists of nine members; see current members of the Politburo Standing Committee for a complete list.
- The Secretariat, the principal administrative mechanism of the CPC, headed by the General Secretary of the Central Committee;
- The Central Military Commission (a parallel organization of the government institution of the same name);
- The Central Discipline Inspection Commission, which is directly under the National Congress and on the same level with the Central Committee, charged with rooting out corruption and malfeasance among party cadres.
Formally, the Congress serves two functions: to approve changes to the Party constitution regarding policy and to elect a Central Committee, about 300 strong. The Central Committee in turn elects the Politburo. In practice, positions within the Central Committee and Politburo are determined before a Party Congress, and the main purpose of the Congress is to announce the party policies and vision for the direction of China in the following few years.
The process for selecting Standing Committee members, as well as Politburo members, occurs behind the scenes in a process parallel to the National Congress. The new power structure is announced obliquely through the positioning of portraits in the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Party. The number of Standing Committee members varies and has tended to increase over time. The Committee was expanded to nine at the 16th Party National Congress in 2009.
Political theorists have identified two groupings within the Communist Party leading to a structure which has been called "one party, two factions". The first is the "elitist coalition" or Shanghai clique which contains mainly officials who have risen from the more prosperous provinces. The second is the "populist coalition", the core of which are the tuanpai, or the "Youth League faction" which consists mainly of officials who have risen from the rural interior, through the Communist Youth League. Minor informal groupings include the reformist Qinghua clique, and the derogatorily-termed Crown Prince Party of officials benefiting from nepotism. The interaction between the two main factions is largely complementary with each faction possessing a particular expertise and both committed to the continued rule of the Communist Party and not allowing intra-party factional politics threaten party unity. It has been noted that party and government positions have been assigned to create a very careful balance between these two groupings
Twelve voting delegates were seated at the 1st National Congress in 1921, as well as at the 2nd (in 1922), when they represented 195 party members. By 1923, the 420 members were represented by 30 delegates. The 1925 4th Congress had 20 delegates representing 994 members; then real growth kicked in. The 5th Congress (held in April–May 1927 as the KMT was cracking down on communists) comprised 80 voting delegates representing 57,968 members
It was on October 3, 1928 6th Congress that the now-familiar ‘full’ and ‘alternate’ structure originated, with 84 and 34 delegates, respectively. Membership was estimated at 40,000. In 1945, the 7th Congress had 547 full and 208 alternate delegates representing 1.21 million members, a ratio of one representative per 1,600 members as compared to 1:725 in 1927.
Each of the 1026 full and 107 alternate members represented 9,470 party members (10.73 million in total) at the 1956 8th Congress. Subsequent congresses held the number of participants down despite membership growing to more than 60 million by 2000.
Stalin opposed the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang because he wanted to expand Soviet influence in the province.
Trotskyists argue that the party was doomed to its present character, that of petty-bourgeois nationalism in the 1920s, because of the near-annihilation of the workers' movement in the KMT betrayal of 1927, which was made possible by Stalin's order that the Communists join with the KMT in a centrist coalition, effectively disarming it, which opportunity the KMT swiftly exploited to defeat the communist revolution
This slaughter forced the tiny surviving Party to switch from a workers' union- to a peasant, guerilla-based organization, and to seek the aid of the most heterodox sources: from "patriotic capitalists" to the dreaded KMT itself, with which it openly sought to participate in a coalition government, even after the Japanese general surrender in 1945. Chinese Trotskyists from Chen Duxiu onward have called for a political revolution against what they see as an opportunist, capitalist leadership of the CPC – so, victory of Mao Zedong, as a party faction, was conditioned by the policies of the CPC at the time of its forming, i.e. guidance under the Stalinist III International
Maoists and other 'anti-revisionists' viciously attack the changes after Mao Zedong's death, calling them the precise "capitalist road" Mao had pledged to fight during the early existence of the PRC. – so, factions within the CPC today are: 1) capitalists, 2) Maoists, 3) New Left, which in turn represent various factions.
The Chinese New Left, which encompasses these Maoists and other postmodernists is a current within China that seeks to "revert China to the socialist road" – i.e., to return China to the socialist system that existed before Deng Xiaoping's reforms.
(Sixteen blindfolded partisan youth await execution by German forces in Smederevska Palanka, Serbia. Executed with this group was a German soldier, who refused to take part in the action.)
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 represented a controversial point in criticism of the Chinese Communist Party by Chinese students within China
Though the CPC charges a limited due on its members for its expenditure, its total amount would be insignificant for the continued operation of this hegemony. The actual ratio of membership dues among the total amount is less than 1/11. While the budget constitutes of limited amount of donations and business operations owned by the party, its majority comes from the grant of national treasury, the same way that supports the other 8 subordinative registered parties, which making a bizarre exception among modern political parties.