In light of current events in both the US and China, it was natural I’d choose a political post to translate this week. I’ve always had a strange affinity towards very wooden and archaic political Chinese. Living in China, you are constantly surrounded by red propaganda banners espousing party rhetoric, and I remember the feeling of being supremely frustrated not understanding what they said (and the budding addiction of deciphering them). Dammit, I demand to know that “The Great Chinese Nation is in the Process of a Historical Revival, and it Requires Contributions from All Citizens!” I rarely talked politics with Chinese friends and colleagues, and never needed much in daily life or business, so learning these words and phrases was solely for personal fulfillment. As a recovering political science major, seeing the phrase “有中国特色社会主义“ (“Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”) will always warm my heart.
This is not a particularly interesting or unique take on the CPC, but offers some pretty fun translation challenges.
The Communist Party of China is Completely Different from Western Political Parties
With the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress underway, the world is intently focused on the world’s largest political party. With very different sets of values and historical experiences, a rich and interesting set of perspectives are being offered around the world. Yet in light of this commentary, the Chinese Communist Party’s historical experiences and special relationship with the fate of Chinese society is still relatively unfamiliar to political scientists.
It is obvious that the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) is not a standard political party in traditional western terms, perhaps even incomparable. The CPC currently has 82.6 million members, bigger than populations of large European countries. It is not a party which mobilizes once every few years for an election, but penetrates through to the most basic levels of Chinese society, a force highly integrated into national and societal management systems.
The current situation has slowly taken shape over the course of almost a century. In the long, painful Chinese revolution, the CPC led in mobilizing citizens to overthrow the old system, and has continuously strengthened links with the great Chinese population. Since the establishment of “New China”, every step in the Chinese national mission has been difficult, requiring high levels of unity and hard work to accomplish. The CPC’s large and efficient social mobilization efforts are in order to realize the goal of “National Revival”.
China fundamentally cannot have “rotating political parties”. In Western democracies, rotation of political parties is merely rotating power. Yet if China “rotated parties”, it effects more than just who is in power, it would cause earthshaking turmoil and unrest across all society.
The CPC attaches great importance on party building, a necessity for long term governance. In its early days, the CPC learnt from the experience of the Soviet Union, but soon paved its own path uniquely suited for China. The CPC emphasizes unity, strict organizational discipline, and close ties with the masses, thus creating a party with strong internal cohesiveness, uniting a large and complex country.
What China fears most is chaos. When the party was formed, China was not a democracy, was not an independent sovereign state, and was in a state of national disunity. The process of building a modern China has been difficult and painful, and the CPC’s experience and practice of uniting China has been far from perfect. However, China has made it to today, becoming the world’s second largest economic power, a road which should make the Chinese people feel fortunate and proud.
The party has undergone many transformations in 90 years, incessantly adopting and meeting the challenges of a variety of problems and crises. The extreme tests it has experienced are more than any other political party in the world, shaping its special tenacity and fighting will. By learning from historical experiences and close contact with society’s grass roots, the CPC can fulfill the ambitious national development mission.
The objective of Western political parties is governance, with their governing prospects simply depending on not disappointing the electorate’s expectations. The CPC is a “long term political party”. Besides satisfying the population’s expectations, it is also closely linked with the destiny of the state and nation, realizing the great national resurgence the Chinese people are eagerly awaiting. This requires struggle and real competence.
Yet the long term nature of the party also brings many problems. For instance, unchecked power and corruption of officials are obvious problems, and they are undoubtedly bringing increasingly harmful effects to the country. There has yet to be a systematic solution to resolve these issues.
The CPC does not represent any interest groups, and its members come from all societal classes and ethnicities. In this diversified era, balancing the interests of all levels of society and creatively constructing a way for grassroots society to participate in politics is a worldwide problem, and Socialist China is no different. Especially, as Chinese society is becoming more empowered, seeming to overwhelm the traditional realm of Chinese government, the CPC must stay on top of these changes.
The opening of Chinese society includes a complex web of activity, influencing the honesty of a party 80 million large, adding to its complexity(?). In the internet era, the CPC’s credibility will always face an uncountable number of pressures and traps. The problems and challenges are great, but the foundation of the party is strong and firm. Facing the future, a united party is very important. On this basis, as long as the party continues in the direction laid out in the Congress Report, embedding itself in China and its people, the CPC will naturally create a steady stream of power, the party and its leaders will be invincible.
Words/phrases of Note:
聚焦到 (jùjiāo dào)- Focused on
视角 (shìjiǎo)- Viewpoint, perspective (literally “sight corner”)
紧密关系 (jǐnmì guānxì)- A strong relationship
可比性 (kěbǐ xìng)- Comparability
渗透到 (shèntòu dào)- Penetrate to, to reach…
高度融合 (gāodù rónghé)- Highly integrated
国家使命 (guójiā shǐmìng)- National mission
政党轮替 (zhèngdǎng lúntì)- Changing/rotating political parties in power
翻天覆地 (fāntiānfùdì)- Earth-shattering, tremendous
动荡 (dòngdàng)- Unrest, upheaval
纪律 (jìlǜ)- Discpiline
凝聚力 (níngjùlì)- Cohesion
韧性 (rènxìng)- Toughness, tenacity
历史经验 (lìshǐ jīngyàn)- Historical experience
基层社会 (jīcéng shèhuì)- Grassroots society
伟大复兴 (wěidà fùxīng)- Great revival
权力缺少制约 (quánlì quēshǎo zhìyuē)- Political power lacking constraints, no checks/balances
利益集团 (lìyì jítuán)- Interest groups
社会所有阶层 (shèhuì suǒyǒu jiēcéng)- All levels of society
参政 (cānzhèng)- Political participation
世界性难题 (shìjiè xìng nántí)- Worldwide problem
互联网时代 (hùliánwǎng shídài)- The internet era
公信力 (gōngxìnlì)- Public credibility
不可战胜 (bùkě zhànshèng)- Invincible, cannot be defeated