‘Poverty is not a characteristic of Socialism’ Deng Xiaoping

A webinar commemorating 100 years of the CPC and SACP was hosted by ChinAfrica magazine and the Diplomatic Society on 15 June. The webinar can be viewed here https://bit.ly/3xlTt6J

17 June 2021

By Kirtan Bhana

100 is a significant milestone, even though both China and Africa have histories that stretch back many millennia to ancient times. The period 1921 to 2021 is the century that could be considered an epoch in technological and societal transition and transformation. It is also the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

The emergence of China under the stewardship of the CPC has been as  profound as the communist doctrines. Only recently did President Xi announce that China has achieved its goal of lifting everyone in the country out of poverty, a goal many wealthy nations have not yet been able to achieve.

With over 91 million members, the CPC is in stark contrast to the SACP which was founded in the same year, CPC on 1 July and SACP on 30 July 1921. Was this just coincidence that two countries, with such a vast distance between them in different hemispheres not only geographically but in terms of history, politics and society among others, one hundred years ago, found a common ideology?

The webinar ‘Party Exchange: Prospects and Perspectives’ hosted jointly by ChinAfrica magazine and the Diplomatic Society on June 15 commemorated this significant milestone event. The panelist from both parties from South Africa and China presented dynamic and innovative narratives of a shared history and a shared future and the opportunity of the present moment.

Ms Liu Yunyun, Content Director and Chief Commentator of the Beijing Review which is China's only national English weekly news magazine, joined in from Beijing and expertly guided the discussions. Launched in March 1958, Beijing Review reports and comments on the country's social, political, economic and cultural affairs, policy changes and latest developments.


Chris Matlhako, Second Deputy General Secretary of the South African Communist Party is a full time functionary and has served in various high level positions in the South African government, including being an advisor to the premier, opened the webinar with his keynote address. ‘The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) was formed largely by a white emigre population founded in Cape Town. The Communist Party of China was founded around the same time in Shanghai, China. This makes these two parties almost twins borne apart in two separate settings and in varying locations.’

This statement itself opened the discussion to the similar conditions of underdevelopment and poverty in both countries that lead to the formation of these socialist movements. It also revealed the stark differences in the growth and developments of these ‘twins’. The Suppression of Communism Act, which was passed in South Africa in 1950 by the brutal apartheid regime, forced the SACP and its members underground, whereas the Chinese Communist Party established its leadership in the Peoples Republic of China.

READ ALSO: Chinese and South African scholars and officials celebrate the 100th anniversaries of the Communist Party of China and South African Communist Party

Prof Peng Yi, Director at the Center for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa reminded us of the diversity of a country with a population of 1.3 billion people and 56 ethnic groups. ‘Today I would like to share the advancing law-based governance by CPC that played a vital role in the governance of China,’ said Yi. In 1954 when China formulated its constitution the people were central to a government for, by and of the people, confirming that the power of the state belonged to the people. This was the first stage of development led by Chairman Mao Zedong. The next stage from 1978 was led by Deng Xiaoping (1978-1997) who is the chief architect of China’s socialist reform and opening and modernization building. This was carried out in a controlled manner under strict laws that had to be enforced and observed as the CPC focused on improving the socialist legal system. The third stage was led by President Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao (1998-2012). The socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics was established in this period. Rule of law and the construction of a socialist legal country were included into the Constitution of P.R.C (1992 Amendment). Some important legal opinions were put forward or emphasized, such as socialist market economy of China is the legislative economy, administrating according to law, and respect and protect human rights. The fourth stage and the most important stage is led by President Xi Jinping (2012 till now). During this stage President Xi put forward the goals of Moderate Prosperity, the well-being of the Chinese people and Chinese Dream. These concepts are detailed in the 3 volumes of ‘The Governance of China’ by President Xi.

Cde. Andile Mosha, the 1st Deputy National Secretary of the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) presented a youth perspective on communism. June is regarded as youth month in South Africa as it commemorates the youth uprising of June 16, 1976 when many school children were shot down by the notorious apartheid forces. It marked a turning point in the history to the peoples’ resistance against a racist and unjust regime. ‘The YCLSA was formed in 1922 shortly after the launch of the SACP with the aim of introducing the youth to Marxism and Leninism at an early age’ explained Mosha. Reflecting on the achievements of the CPC, the YCLSA are committed to the struggle for transformation of South Africa into a socialist society and to stop the exploitation of one person or a group by another. “Our campaigns, as well as our activities are directed in making sure that at some point the Communist Party of South Africa assumes a better position than it is playing now by being able to be like the CPC. We must adopt, as the Chinese have done, and make sure that we have socialist characteristics that are South African,” said Mosha.

Xia Qingjie, Professor in Economics, School of Economics, and Institute of South-South Cooperation & Development at Peking University presents himself as a classic case of being lifted out of poverty that gave him dignity and a sense of worthiness. Professor Xia has dedicated his time to sharing his knowledge, research and experiences. His detailed presentation with examples, graphs and figures proved the effectiveness of modest prosperity and socialism with Chinese characteristics and the beautiful dream that President Xi Jinping refers to in his books.

Dr David Monyae, Director at the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg, as the final speaker, posed a poignant question in his summation, “what do the next 100 years hold for the parties?” Monyae referred to the demise of the Communist Party in Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union. “What is the original mission of the CPC? The same question should also be asked on the African continent, particularly of the SACP. What is the original mission of the Party?” The people are the key to the success of the CPC. Monyae posits that the Soviet Union was too focussed on the ideological battle with the west and draws attention to similarities with China and its relations with the west. Resources should rather be targeted at developing nations of the South.

Co-moderators Liu and Bhana agreed that the insightful presentations needed further exploration and discussions and to possibly find innovative ways to implement the outcomes.