BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION: A grand gathering marking the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party of China is held in Beijing on July 1 (XIE HUANCHI)
When a handful of delegates proclaimed the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in a two-story brick dwelling in Shanghai's French concession nine decades ago, the Party had about 50 members nationwide. That small band of like-minded men has since grown to become a driving force for change in China.
Today, the CPC, with a membership of more than 80 million—larger than the total population of France—takes the reins of the world's second largest economy.
After the CPC's founding, the Chinese "embarked on the bright road of striving for independence and liberation," President Hu Jintao said at a conference on July 1 commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Party's founding.
"What has happened shows that in the great cause of China's social development and progress since modern times, history and the people have chosen the CPC, Marxism, the socialist road, and the reform and opening-up policy," said Hu, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.
The Chinese people turned to the CPC for leadership after suffering repeated setbacks in their quest for national renewal, analysts said. Hu's speech not only underlined the critical role the CPC has played in China over the past decades, but also charted the course for the Party's development as well as China's economic, political, cultural and social programs in the years to come.
China's adoption of the CPC-led socialist system was not a coincidence, but based on the Chinese people's long-term struggle for national rejuvenation following the outbreak of the Opium War in 1840, said Wu Yin, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
The Opium War (1840-42), fought between the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) empire and British colonists marked the beginning of China's modern era when the country was mired in a series of social crises because of foreign aggression coupled with political turmoil. Ensuing wars, such as the Second Opium War (1856-60), the Sino-French War (1884-85) and the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), heightened the risk China would be carved up by colonists.
While resisting foreign invasion, the Chinese people began to explore a way to lift the nation out of the devastating crises, Wu said in an interview with People.com.cn.