July 1 and July 4 mark historical significance for both China and the United States respectively. While these dates mean something different to each country, they share similar sentiments and remind us that from East to West, commemorating prosperity and success is universal.
1st of July – founding of the Chinese Communist Party
A century ago in 1921, China held its first national congress for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Shanghai and Jiaxing. Influenced by the Russian Revolution, the CPP founded its principles on Marxism-Leninism and originally consisted of 50 members. While the Chinese Communist Party aspired to Russian communist ideals of revolution, class equality, and end of exploitation, they also held broader concerns over national unity and anti-imperialist sentiment, notes Andy B. Liu, a historian of China at Villanova University. Party members acted fast to promote their ideals and soon, the party attracted many followers. A year later, the CCP grew to 300 members, then increased fivefold to 1,500 by 1925. After the CCP won the civil war against the Kuomintang-led government in 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong, the founding father of the CCP, officially declared victory for the People’s Republic of China.
Today, CCP membership hits 95 million, making it the second largest political party in the world behind the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s Hindu nationalist party. According to the Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at Oxford University Rana Mitter, a combination of variables has contributed to the Party’s success in today’s China, which Mitter believes has no parallel in history: the government, the consumerist lifestyle, the global ambition, and the technology. In his eyes, these four factors are what define the 21st century CCP and contribute to the overall high level of satisfaction with the Party among the wider Chinese population. A series of surveys have illustrated a steady increase in CCP satisfaction throughout the years. Researchers from the U.S.-based Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University conducted face-to-face interviews of a nationally representative sample of 31,000 individuals in China between 2003 and 2016 in eight separate surveys. They found that satisfaction in the central government rose from 86% to 93% between 2013 and 2016. In the past year, the average levels of trust in both the central and local governments in China have steadily increased. On a scale of 1 to 10, surveys found the average level of trust in the central government increased from 8.23 in June 2019 to 8.65 in Feb 2020, and to 8.87 in May 2020.
Speaking at the country’s centennial celebration on July 1, 2021, President Xi Jinping addressed a crowd of thousands of Party members at the top of the Gate of Heavenly Peace. In his keynote speech, he announced that the CCP had accomplished its centenary goal of creating a “moderately prosperous society” in China.
"We are now marching in confident strides toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects," President Xi emphasized. Chinese citizens cheered as the ceremony opened with a 100-gun salute. Squadrons of helicopters flew over carrying red banners and formed the figure 100, which was then followed by fighter jets, a military brass band performance, and a youth choir production.
4th of July – adoption of the Declaration of Independence
On the other side of the world, the United States celebrated another year of independence on July 4. The 4th of July acknowledges the country’s separation from the British Empire and the founding of the United States of America in 1776. After the start of the American Revolution in 1775, Virginia’s Richard Henry Lee put forth an official proposal for independence when the Continental Congress, delegates from the United States’ original 13 colonies met at the Pennsylvania State House on June 7, 1776. Following a heated debate that postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, a five-man committee, including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin and Robert R. Livingston drafted a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain. On July 2, 1776, the Lee Resolution passed in Congress. Two days later on July 4, Congress formally adopted the country’s most acclaimed piece of legislation – the Declaration of Independence.
Despite growing optimism among the majority of Americans concerning the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the swift vaccine rollout, a recent Gallup survey released on February 4, 2021, revealed that only about a quarter of U.S. citizens are satisfied with the country’s system of government and its effectiveness. The poll found that only 27% of people were satisfied with the current system of government, a sharp decline from 43% last year. These levels have remained at historically low levels since 2011. The 2018 survey results indicated only 38% of U.S. adults were satisfied with the U.S system of government and how well it works. However, hope is on the horizon as another Gallup poll released on February 26, 2021, reported that 27% of U.S. adults are satisfied with the way things are currently going in the U.S. This was up from just 11% in January of 2021, 4 percentage points above the all-time low in October of 2008 during the financial crisis.
“You know, history tells us that when we stand together, when we unite in common cause, when we see ourselves not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans, then there’s simply no limit to what we can achieve,” U.S. President Joe Biden remarked on the South Lawn of the White House in a ceremony commemorating the 4th of July national holiday. The president recognized the nation's progress against the coronavirus pandemic by hosting military service members and their families, first responders and essential workers for a day of camaraderie and firework festivities. While the United States turned 245 years old this year, President Biden made sure to remind Americans of the significance of July 4th that still resonates all these years later: “Just as our Declaration in 1776 was a call to action, not a reason for complacency or a claim of victory, the same is true today.”
Whether in the East or in the West, July isn’t just a month to celebrate summer. It is a time to reflect on the past in order to learn for the future. A time to observe the successes of both China and the United States, while embarking on a new journey of promise and prosperity. One hundred years of the Chinese Communist Party and another hundred and some for the American Independence Day both hold a place in history and will no doubt influence the future.