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Talking Points: July 1 - July 15, 2009

This week's issue of the USC U.S.-China Institute's newsletter touches on two anniversaries: the founding of the United States of America in 1776 and the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. It also offers a comprehensive list of China-related events and exhibitions in North America.
July 1, 2009

USC U.S.-China Institute Weekly Newsletter

Talking Points
July 1 - July 15, 2009

We note two birthdays this week. Americans mark Independence Day on July 4th and in China July 1st is the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party.

America’s Continental Congress declared independence in 1776. At that time, the Qianlong emperor had ruled China for forty years. His empire is estimated to have included 270 million people. There may have 2.5 million people living in America’s thirteen rebellious colonies. Before long, however, American traders were making their way to China. Robert Morris, famed financier of the revolution, was one of the first. He bought a ship, renamed it Empress of China, and sent it to China in 1784. That initial voyage was profitable and many others followed. In 1785, John Adams, the future vice president and president, wrote to John Jay, co-author of the Federalist Papers and the future chief justice of the Supreme Court, that “[t]here is no better advice to be given to the merchants of the United States than to push their commerce to the East Indies as fast and as far as it will go.” Similar advice is given in business schools across America today. U.S.-China trade totaled $408 billion in 2008.


China’s Communist Party had 57 members in 1921, 13 of which attended the party’s first national

Chen, ca. 1910s

conference in Shanghai. Chen Duxiu, a Beijing University lecturer and editor of New Youth magazine, was named general secretary. By the end of the decade, the party had survived a violent break with the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) and had grown to about 40,000 members. In the 1930s, the CCP and its army were nearly destroyed before retreating to caves in North Central China. Along the way, Mao Zedong became the CCP’s dominant

Mao, 1931

leader, a position he held for the next forty years. War with Japan kept the KMT from focusing all of its energies on the CCP and mobilization against Japan played a significant role in CCP growth, perhaps to 1.2 million members by 1943. The CCP continued to grow and by the time it defeated the KMT in 1949 it had about 4.5 million members. Even with such rapid expansion, the CCP constituted less than 1% of China’s population.

The chart below shows CCP growth from 1939 to today. The CCP now has about 76 million members, roughly 6% of China’s population.


Today’s CCP is younger, includes more women, and is better educated than the Party that seized power sixty years ago. Roughly a quarter of the membership is under 35 and more than a fifth of the members are female. In 1949, perhaps seven out of ten members were illiterate. Now, about 30% hold college degrees, including nearly 90% of those serving at the county level and higher.

And today’s Chinese Communist Party has room for capitalist entrepreneurs. As agents of economic development, the central task the Party has set for the country, businesspeople have been welcomed into the Party just as some members have left Party-State positions to go into business. The Chinese state’s large role in the economy and the utility of close ties with officials who control resources and approvals make Party membership attractive for many.

 Hu, 2009

CCP control is explicit in China’s constitution and is implemented through control of state, army, and the largest economic institutions. The Party has 3.31 million hierarchically-organized branches. Since 1993, the Party’s general secretary has also been elected president by the National People’s Congress. Hu Jintao has been general secretary since 2002 and president since 2003. Xi Jinping is expected to succeed Hu in 2012. He was

Xi, 2007


elevated to the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 and made vice president in 2008. Last spring he was placed in charge of Beijing’s Olympic Games. He’s 56 and will be the first of China’s top leaders to have been born after the founding of the People’s Republic.

Over the past three decades, the range of choices left to ordinary Chinese has expanded dramatically. Jobs are no longer assigned and goods are no longer rationed. Party-dominated work units no longer approve marriages (though they still monitor births and are active in enforcing family planning rules). But the Party still determines what sorts of beliefs, expressions, and associations are a threat to its domination. This was clear in the ban on protest during the Olympics and the crackdown on Charter 08 democracy activists such as Liu Xiaobo (who remains in detention, though his six month sentence has expired).




There are fewer China-related events across North America during the summer, but there are many interesting exhibitions and screenings to take advantage of and you can always learn about these in Talking Points and at the calendar section of our website. Please do share Talking Points with others and encourage them to subscribe at

Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute
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07/27/2009: 2009 Summer Residential Seminar at USC 
USC, Davidson Conference Center
Los Angeles, CA 90089
For more information please visit:
An intensive nine-day equivalent of our "East Asia and New Media in My Classroom" professional development seminar for K-12 teachers employed outside of the greater Los Angeles area.


04/11/2009 - 07/13/2009: Treasures through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection
Boone Gallery, The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA
An exhibition of Chinese painting and calligraphy highlighting works spanning 900 years

04/22/2009 - 07/15/2009: Eternal Sky: Reviving the Art of Mongol Zurag
IEAS Conference Room
2223 Fulton Street, 3rd floor
The Institute of East Asian Studies at UC Berkeley presents an exhibition of the work of artist Narmandakh Tsultem, who paints in the traditional Mongol Zurag style.

04/25/2009 - 07/19/2009: Urban China: Informal Cities
Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone: 310.443.7000
An exhibition that explores the dynamic and innovative content of Urban China.

02/10/2009 - 08/09/2009: Asian Journeys: Collecting Art in Post-war America
Asia Society and Museum
Address: 725 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021
Phone: 212-517-ASIA
Asia Society and Museum in New York presents John D. Rockefeller 3rd's exceptional collection of Asian art, as well as that of their adviser Sherman E. Lee.

11/03/2008 - 11/03/2009: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture. 

11/14/2008 - 11/14/2009: Chinese Art: A Seattle Perspective
Seatle Asian Art Museum
1400 East Prospect Street , Volunteer Park , Seattle, WA 98112–3303
The Seattle Asian Art Museum presents an opportunity to see a collection with representative works from each dynastic period. 

11/15/2008 - 11/15/2009: Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
The Bowers Museum presents a collection of exquisite textiles and silver jewelry that highlights the beauty and wealth of the Miao peoples of southwest China. 

02/12/2009 - 02/12/2010: Art of Adornment: Tribal Beauty
Bowers Museum
2002 N. Main, Santa Ana, CA
Cost: $5
An exhibit featuring body adornments from indigenous peoples around the world


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