Quoting World Bank statistics during his address at the high-level virtual dialogue in celebrating the centenary of the governing Communist Party of China (CPC), Motlanthe lauded China for having lifted more than 800 million of its people out of abject poverty since 1978 – “now on a mission to completely do away with destitution”.
Part of a high-profile team of speakers who included Chinese ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong, ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile, SA Communist Party first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila, Finance Deputy Minister David Masondo, Department of International Relations and Co-operations deputy director-general Anil Sooklal, director of the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg Dr David Monyae and the Independent Media’s Dr Iqbal Survé.
Motlanthe was speaking during a ceremony to mark the CPC’s centenary celebration, starting on 1 July.
Founded on 1 July 1921, the CPC, which has been China’s governing party for 72 years, has been credited for ushering a people-centred leadership concept in the country, which has seen it becoming the biggest Marxist party in the world, with more than 91 million members.
The philosophy has run through all the activities of the CPC since its establishment – embodying the party’s mission, goals, and governance concepts.
A correct policy for ‘a realistic approach’
The CPC has built a party permeating its mass line into all activities to meet the people’s growing needs for a better life.
The system includes long-term adherence, comprehensive implementation and continuous development of the People’s Congress, multi-party cooperation and a political consultation system, led by the CPC as its core.
Said Motlanthe: “The Chinese Communist Party, has over the years, been able to chart a correct policy which accounted in precise terms for the situation in China and abroad.
“In general, a correct policy implies a realistic approach – both in assessing achievements and in charting measures for the future.
“One hundred years ago the Chinese Communist Party started off with 50 members only. Today its membership is more than 90 million in strength. Its success is attributed in large measure to its ideological and organisational unity.
“In this era of transition from capitalism to socialism, the People’s Republic of China stands as a beacon of hope and a shining example of what is the alternative path towards the creation of a classless society without exploitation of man by man.”
“It is no ordinary achievement and one has to ask what lessons we as South Africa can learn from China’s achievements.
“After 1840, the Chinese people suffered under the two-pronged repression of imperialist invasion as well as feudalism. The first baby step in the revolution took place in 1911 when Dr Sun Yat-sen overthrew the autocratic monarchy that ruled China for several thousand years.
“China was occupied and colonised by foreign powers from about late 1830s almost to the end of the Second World War.
“Years of civil war, imperialism and fragmentation due to the colonisation policy of divide and rule, had ravaged China and left the Chinese nation in a poor state.
“However, by 1949 the Communist Party of China defeated the Kuomintang reactionary rule and founded the People’s Republic of China.
“The Communist Party of China proved to be the most consistent in the struggle to attain national independence and to pursue profound changes in social and economic life.”
‘A singular vision’
Motlanthe said China’s greatest strength has been “its singular vision and ability to unite and organise a directed and focused effort towards a common goal of rejuvenating and building a prosperous nation and economy for all its people”.
“This common vision could only be achieved under a succession of iconic CPC leaders – from Chairman Mao Zeidong, Deng Xiaoping; Zian Zemin, Hu Jintao to H.E. President Xi Jinping.
“China had the vision and common purpose dictum because of the unity and structure of the CPC,” added Motlanthe.
According to Chen, the party received hearty congratulations sent to CPC general secretary Xi Jinping on the party’s 100th anniversary, which included messages from President Cyril Ramaphosa and SACP general secretary Dr Blade Nzimande.
“This speaks volumes to the deep friendship of Comrades Plus Brothers between our parties.
“General Secretary Xi Jinping has pointed out that history is the best textbook.
“History faithfully records every country’s journey and also gives inspiration for future development.
“China is an ancient civilisation with 5 000 years of history and has long been at the forefront of world development. However, since modern times, like many African countries, China was gradually reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society, having suffered the invasion of Western powers.
“The nation’s survival was hanging in the balance. Numerous men and women tried hard and put in painstaking struggles to find a way out for the country.
“They tried constitutional monarchy as well as presidential, parliamentary, and multi-party systems. But none of them worked.
“It was against this backdrop that the CPC was born in 1921 as Marxism-Leninism got adopted in the movements of Chinese workers.
“Through 28 years of painful struggle, the CPC united the Chinese people and led them to defeat Japanese imperialism, overthrow the reactionary Kuomintang regime, complete the new democratic revolution and establish the People’s Republic of China.
“The Chinese people have since risen up,” said Chen.
In what he regarded as the secrets of the CPC’s successes; Chen added: “First, always adhere to the lofty philosophy of people-centered development to firmly uphold the fundamental interests of all Chinese people.
“Chairman Mao Zedong once urged the whole party to serve the people wholeheartedly. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that political power comes from the people and the people’s support is key to the Party’s survival.
“Since its birth, the CPC has always represented the fundamental interests of all the Chinese people. The people’s aspiration to live a better life is always the focus of the Party’s efforts.”
Chen said through reform and opening up of the economy, China has lifted 770 million rural residents out of poverty, “which accounts for more than 70% of the global total over the same period”.
“This means we have achieved the poverty reduction targets set out in the UN 2030 Agenda a decade ahead of schedule.
“In this process, millions of party officials have worked hard with concrete measures, and more than 1 800 Party members and officials have sacrificed their lives for the cause.
“Their ultimate sacrifice speaks volumes to the original aspiration and mission of Chinese Communists.
“Faced with Covid-19 that caught everyone by surprise, the CPC has firmly put the people and their lives front and center.
“The Party spared no effort to protect people’s lives,” said Chen.
Long-term friendship between ANC and China
As the highest force for political leadership, Chen said the CPC exercised leadership in various fields, including economic, political, cultural, social and ecological advancement in China.
He said the SACP – “born in the same month of the same year as the CPC, has cooperated closely with the ANC during its century-long struggle”.
“Our Parties enjoy a time-honoured friendship. During the nearly 70 years of exchanges, we have always treated each other sincerely with mutual understanding and support.
“These efforts laid a solid foundation for China-South Africa relations,” he said.
In his address, Mashatile said: “We in South Africa owe the people of China – led by the Communist Party of China – a great debt of gratitude for the important role they played in helping us secure the freedom and democracy we enjoy today.
“Indeed, the liberation movement in South Africa drew tremendous courage and inspiration from the manner in which the people of China conducted their own revolution.
“It made us believe that we too can achieve our national independence.
We also recall that China played a direct role in the early, formative years of the People’s Army; Umkhonto weSizwe.
It was China that gave military training to the first select group of MK combatants: Andrew Mlangeni, Raymond Mhlaba, Wilton Mkwayi, Patrick Mthembu, Stephen Naidoo and Joe Gqabi.
“Throughout the struggle for liberation, the people of China chose the side of the oppressed people of South Africa.”
Mapaila said anti-imperialist war stance remained “relevant today, in the context of the imperialist states such as the United States and its allies that have stockpiles of nuclear weapons”.
“They consider the world to be a safe place only if they alone are in possession of the weapons of mass destruction.
“In contrast, the world can only be a safe place if every country completely disarms with the catastrophic weapons dismantled without any further production, which is what South Africa under the leadership of President Nelson Mandela did after its April 1994 radical democratic breakthrough.
“This will contribute to ushering in a shared future for humankind. The unfair approach by the United States and its allies will not work at all,” he said.
“Historical evidence – needless to mention their unilateralism – militarism, imperialist aggression, machination and interference in the domestic affairs of other countries, including inciting and sponsoring wars and destabilisation, shows that the world is a dangerous place to humanity in the face of the unfair approach pushed by the United States and its North Atlantic Allies.”
Said Monyae: “Chairman Mao stressed the centrality of the ordinary people in the struggle for power.
“The concept of the guerrillas being the fish and the people being the water showed that the people had an indispensable role to play in the revolution
“This is a philosophy they would later export to African liberation movements in the 1960s and 70s during the anti-colonial struggles.
“In governance, the CPC would continue to be people-driven Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s successor, initiated economic reforms upon assuming power in 1978 during the Third
“China’s economic growth has been accompanied by a historic poverty reduction which has contributed immensely to global poverty reduction.”
Masondo said China’s second great achievement has been to harness the process of capital accumulation to achieve a better life for the Chinese people.
“Over the course of a century of revolution, reconstruction and reform the CPC has blazed a path of economic development that is unprecedented in world history.
“Economic growth has created the resources for China to meet the needs of its people. This has created the material basis for China’s victory in the struggle against poverty,” said Masondo.