This year marks the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, a political organization that, over the course of the past one hundred years, has become one of the largest in the world and has irrevocably transformed the lives of hundreds of millions.
What started as a gathering of only 50 idealistic agitators has since blossomed into a formidable governing institution with a membership of over 90 million. Over the past century, the party has beaten back foreign occupiers, won a civil war, established the People’s Republic of China, lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, and has expanded literacy and healthcare access on a scale never-before-seen in the course of human history.
But the organization’s legacy and accomplishments are not limited to China alone. Since its earliest days, the CPC has maintained robust relationships with political parties all across the world, including here in Africa.
One of the first encounters between the Party and the continent came in 1963, at a time when much of Africa found itself on the doorstep of independence. That’s when then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai arrived in Egypt to begin a ten-nation tour of the region to build relationships with local political parties and to offer support to Africa’s blossoming liberation movement.
Zhou Enlai’s nearly two-month journey would take him to Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.
This shared experience would lay the foundation for continued cooperation between the CPC and African political organizations in the decades to follow. Party officers found their way to places like Zimbabwe, where they played a central role in supporting the Zimbabwe African National Union’s struggle against white minority-rule. Or in Zambia, where tens of thousands of experts and construction workers dispatched by the Party labored over the course of more than half-a-decade to build a railway linking the landlocked country to neighboring Tanzania.
Today there is virtually no part of the continent where the CPC fails to maintain lively relationships with its African counterparts, many of whom have been sure to congratulate the organization on its centennial milestone.
Deputy Secretary-General of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, called the “extraordinary” achievements of the CPC “an example for many developing countries to follow,” while Evariste Ndayishimiye, president of Burundi and longtime secretary general of the country’s ruling National Council for Defense of Democracy praised the party for leading the Chinese people to what he called the “forefront of world development.”
In Kenya, the secretary-general of the ruling Jubilee Party congratulated the CPC for achieving what he called the “China Miracle,” crediting the party with China’s historic gains in GDP over the past few decades, while in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa called the CPC’s achievements “tremendous,” praising the organization’s ‘people-focused’ approach’.
These effusive commendations, and many others like them, reveal a longstanding history of political cooperation between organizations that stretches back decades and has yielded significant achievements for both China and its diplomatic partners in Africa.