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90 years of China's Communist Party: from secret society to 'harmonious society'

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It was only three years ago that Xi Jinping, tipped to be the party’s next General Secretary and thus the president of the nation, acknowledged formally that the Communist party was no longer a revolutionary force.

But for decades it had abandoned Communist ideology, and today preaches “a harmonious society” instead of traditional class struggle, while claiming to represent all Chinese people, not just the proletariat.

The party’s primary goal today, say critics inside and outside the membership, is to maintain its own monopoly power over the status quo at all costs.

The party has made “undeniable achievements” for its country in economic terms, Mr. Rittenberg points out. “But the leaders’ core view is ‘après nous, le deluge’ [after us, the deluge"] and you must not challenge the Communist party’s absolute right to rule.”

On reflection, Ms. Li, who underwent an arduous two year apprenticeship before being allowed to join the party, couches her ambitions in more idealistic terms than mere careerism. She says being a party member will “make it easier for me to become a major force in Chinese society, and contribute to society.”

Headlong rush for economic development

But while China’s nominally Communist leaders declare their goal of a harmonious society, their headlong rush for economic development has led to the polar opposite of the dream that motivated the first party members – Karl Marx’s vision of a society founded on the principle of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

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