CCP’s switch from flexibility to rigidity could be perilous

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech during the extravagant ceremony held Thursday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party was frequently drowned out by thunderous cheers from the more than 70,000 attendees who packed Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

There was barely a mask in sight. The scene was in stark contrast to the situations in many nations still struggling to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.

China has a history of confounding the expectations of the international community. It was the first country to discover the spread of the novel coronavirus, and it was the first country in the world to successfully contain it, which it did so aggressively.

That’s not the only example.

Refuting the theory that one-party rule was doomed to implode, the Chinese Communist Party has marked its centenary and China is even becoming a competitor to the United States — the world’s superpower.

Why has the party not collapsed? The answer lies in the party’s history of repeatedly changing its principles and adapting to the times.

After the Cultural Revolution launched by communist China’s founder Mao Zedong had devastated the entire nation, economic reforms and opening-up policies advocated by Deng Xiaoping maintained a socialist system infused with market economy elements, ushering in a period of extraordinarily high economic growth.

The criteria for joining the CCP also were relaxed. Even capitalists, who were reviled in the early years of the party, were allowed to become members. The party of workers and peasants morphed into a party of elites.

The CCP has been flexible with its principles, apart from the policy of maintaining its single-party rule. It does not even force its ideologies on the masses. The people, who have come to accept that the administration will continue to hold power, can enjoy an increasingly affluent lifestyle as long as they do not criticize the ruling party.

However, this party’s flexible style of governance has recently shown signs of becoming more rigid. Xi aspires to create a “strong China” that ranks alongside the United States. He has crushed any suggestions of a different goal by force and has been consolidating his authority.

China has become wealthier and the needs of the people are becoming more complex, but Xi has not presented a range of alternative choices.

Signs foreshadowing future stagnation in society can be seen in the growing appeal of a concept dubbed “lying down,” a euphemism for opting for a more relaxed lifestyle by no longer working long hours for little reward, as young people tire of complete devotion to “becoming stronger.”

Chinese diplomacy is known as “wolf warrior diplomacy,” in which one-sided messages are sent out in a coercive manner. As a result of this diplomatic approach, feuds between China and the international community have deepened.

Chinese media reported some of the congratulatory messages sent from abroad for the party’s centenary, but most were from nations sharing authoritarian tendencies, such as Venezuela and Russia, and developing nations that depend economically on China.

Some observers have predicted that China could charge ahead on the path of increasing its strength and that conflict with the United States will be unavoidable.

We only hope that, in this case, China will again confound the expectations of the international community.