Chinese Whispers

Why do people join the CCP?

36 min listen

In This Episode

At last count, the Chinese Communist Party has 98 million members, more people than the population of Germany. Its membership also continues to grow, making it one of the most successful and resilient political parties of the last a hundred years, perhaps with the exception of India’s BJP, which boasts 180 million members.

And yet the CCP’s track record is strewn with bloody crackdowns and systematic persecution. So what would drive someone to join the CCP, and what accounts for its success? Do party members today all support the atrocities committed by their government? I think these are important questions to ask, because without understanding the answers to them, one couldn’t understand China’s modern history or its society today. 

To delve into the psychology of card carrying communists, I’m joined by two great guests in this week’s episode.

Xinran Xue is a Chinese journalist, who had a popular radio show in China in the 90s, before moving to the UK and becoming an author of numerous books on China. Her latest book is called The Book of Secrets, which is a memoir of sorts, where her protagonist was one of the founding members of the CCP’s intelligence service. I recently reviewed it for The Spectator.

Professor Kerry Brown is Director of the Lau China Institute at Kings College London and a former diplomat in Beijing where he worked alongside Chinese government officials for many years. His latest book is China Incorporated: The Politics of a World Where China is Number One.

On the episode, we discuss the party membership’s divide between the intellectuals and the peasants; how the Cultural Revolution changed the party from an ideological body to a corporate one; and what a new generation of communists might have in store.