Mass Organizations

China Table of Contents

In its efforts toward enlisting broad popular support and involvement, the CCP in 1987 continued to rely on mass organizations, "democratic parties", and professional organizations. These organizations, affiliated directly and indirectly with the CCP, were without exception headed by and permeated with party cadres. As secondary or auxiliary vehicles for the party's "mass line," the organizations constituted a united front of support for the party line and policies and conveyed the impression desired by the party that the broad strata of the population endorsed and was unified behind the communist leadership. Moreover, mass organizations were used as a means to penetrate the society at large, encourage popular participation, mobilize the masses, and integrate them into party-directed political life.

Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference

The activities of the mass organizations in theory are represented by the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) but in actuality are directed by the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee. The CPPCC has national and local committees and is composed of a variety of groups and individuals: the Chinese Communist Party, the "eight democratic parties"; mass organizations, including the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, Communist Youth League, All-China Women's Federation, and All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce; minorities; compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan; overseas Chinese; and outstanding scientists, educators, cultural figures, journalists, and medical professionals. In June 1983 the Sixth CPPCC held its first session, which was attended by 2,039 delegates, including representatives from the Chinese Communist Party (technically a member of the united front associated with the CPPCC). CPPCC national sessions usually are held in conjunction with the session of the National People's Congress. The CPPCC has as its basic functions providing political consultancy on major state policies and encouraging a united front of patriotic intellectuals to contribute to modernization. The CPPCC is an important symbol of multiparty cooperation in China's modernization programs, and reform leaders have increasingly emphasized its role.

Democratic Parties

The eight "democratic parties" have existed since before 1950. They include the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Guomindang, founded in 1948 by dissident members of the mainstream Guomindang then under control of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek; China Democratic League, begun in 1941 by intellectuals in education and the arts; China Democratic National Construction Association, formed in 1945 by educators and national capitalists (industrialists and business people); China Association for Promoting Democracy, started in 1945 by intellectuals in cultural, education (primary and secondary schools), and publishing circles; Chinese Peasants' and Workers' Democratic Party, originated in 1930 by intellectuals in medicine, the arts, and education; China Zhi Gong Dang (Party for Public Interest), founded in 1925 to attract the support of overseas Chinese; Jiusan (September Third) Society, founded in 1945 by a group of college professors and scientists to commemorate the victory of the "international war against fascism"; and Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, created in 1947 by "patriotic supporters of democracy who originated in Taiwan and now reside on the mainland."

Trade Unions

The most prominent mass organizations were given key responsibility for supporting and implementing the reform program. CCP Secretariat member Hao Jianxiu, speaking to an executive meeting of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, said that "as mass organizations of the working class, trade unions should stand at the forefront of the ongoing economic reform in China. They should blaze a new trail with distinct Chinese characteristics for conducting trade union activities." Specifically, Federation organizations were to aid members in acquiring modern scientific knowledge and technological skill. Within the membership and its affiliated organizations, intellectuals were to be protected and considered as members of the working class. Workers acquired the right to examine and discuss their factory director's principles, management plans, reform programs, budgets, and accounts. They also had the right to vote and to supervise and appraise leaders at all organizational levels. The workers' congress, held twice a year, was the organization empowered to exercise those rights. The regular organization that managed the daily affairs was the trade union body. These liberalizing changes were designed to improve workers' morale and thereby their productivity.

Communist Youth League

The Communist Youth League, the other primary communist organization, functioned as an all-purpose school for party members. Except for its top-ranking officials, the league's members, from fifteen to twenty-five years of age, were indoctrinated, trained, and prepared to serve as future party regulars. The league was organized on the party pattern. Its leader (in 1987 Song Defu) was identified as first secretary and member of the party's Central Committee. The Communist Youth League's eleventh congress, held in December 1982, was attended by about 2,000 delegates. The congress elected a central committee of 263 members and 51 alternate members. In 1987 the league included 52 million members attached to 2.3 million branches. They were required to carry out party policies, respect party discipline, and act as a "shock force and as a bridge linking the party with the broad masses of young people." Since 1984 the league's leadership has increased ties with youth organizations worldwide through friendly exchanges and cooperation. The Communist Youth League was responsible also for guiding the activities of the Young Pioneers (for children below the age of fifteen).

Women, Artists, Students, and Others

Among the other CPPCC groups, the All-China Women's Federation enlisted women in the party's effort to spread ideological awareness and to raise educational and technical levels. It also protected women's rights, promoted their welfare, and assisted them in family planning. The All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles was guided by the principle "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend," but with the stringent official qualification that all works must conform to the four cardinal principles (socialism, dictatorship of the proletariat, supporting the party leadership, and Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought). The All-China Federation of Youth was designed as a patriotic united front, with the Communist Youth League as its "nucleus." An affiliated youth organization was the All-China Students' Federation for university and college students. The All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce took part in modernization efforts, offering consultant services in sciences and economics, training teachers and business managers, and running schools. The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries was responsible for promoting friendly relations and mutual understanding on nongovernmental levels through foreign contacts and cultural exchanges. In 1985 the association had connections with more than 150 foreign countries. There were also several politically active groups among Chinese adherents of Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, and Christianity.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress