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CPC100 - The Birthplace of the Communist Party of China: Why Shanghai?

27 April 2021 | By WANG Rui | Copyedited by GU Yiqing

  • CPC 1921-2021

    The year of 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

  • CPC 1st National Congress

    The 1st National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party was held in Shanghai and Jiaxing between July 23 and August 2, 1921.


    As the largest city in the East, Shanghai boasted combined effects of these favorable factors.

Important Dock to the world


Why was the Communist Party of China (CPC) established in Shanghai? There is a pivotal reason that Shanghai was China's most important terminal to the world at that time.


Japan had opened up to the outside world earlier than China. Through the Meiji Restoration, Japan comprehensively learned from the West, reformed its backward feudal system, and embarked on the path of capitalism. Therefore, a large number of Chinese intellectuals went to Japan for a way to save the country.


Japan is geographically close to Shanghai where it is convenient to depart to arrive in Japan. The same was true for the revolutionary wave more than 100 years ago. A large number of young intellectuals, such as Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao, and Chen Wangdao, had all studied in Japan and been exposed to many new ideas there. Out of the strong desire to change the status quo of China, they were always actively exploring which path would be suitable for this country.


In 1917, a big thing happened-the "October Revolution" broke out in Russia. This was a great socialist revolution accomplished by the Russian working class which united the poor peasants under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, and then the Soviet regime was established. After hearing about this event, some progressive intellectuals went to the Soviets, including Qu Qiubai, who had translated and introduced a large amount of works by Lenin and Stalin. Also, he had published articles in "New Youth" and other magazines, spreading the international communist movement to China.


The establishment of the Communist Party of China was related to the public opinion that had spread new thoughts because no other city in China, except for Shanghai, could accommodate various progressive publications and endlessly emerging new ideas.


After the May 4th Movement, Shanghai had gradually become the center for promoting socialist movements. A large number of advanced intellectuals, like Chen Duxiu, Li Hanjun, Shao Lizi, and Chen Wangdao, gathered in Shanghai to form a group for publishing Marxist. "Review" and other publications disseminated the ideological liberation movement and the Marxist theory. It was the diversified cultures that had made Shanghai at a core position for advanced intellectuals to explore China's development cause.


Populous industrial workers


Another important reason why the Communist Party of China was born in Shanghai is the choice of class.


The Communist Party of China has been composed of advanced proletarians. Its birth was the combination of Marxism and the Chinese workers' movements. The development and growth of the working class was indispensably required for the establishment.


The Party's revolutionary team was exactly in Shanghai at the teething period as Shanghai was the place with the largest number of working class people. A century ago, there were about 1 million industrial workers in Shanghai, which basically accounted for half of the domestic population.


Shanghai's urban areas had developed in an incredible pace with lots of industrial workers soon gathered. It was the growth of the working class and the improvement of their minds that laid the class foundation for the Party’s formation.


Local lanes and lofts as shelters


The reason why Shanghai became the cradle of the birth of the Communist Party of China is also related to the political situation and the characteristics of the city.


Shanghai is located in the middle part of our country's north-to-south coastline enjoying a superior geographical position. The capillaries-like alleys and small attics stacked on each other had provided a protective umbrella for underground work. Shikumen buildings, a type of special architectures constructed by the local people, are mostly three-story buildings with multiple entrances and exits surrounded by lanes extending to all directions. As meeting places, the spots were beneficial for underground party organizations to evacuate against emergency.


Except for Li Dazhao, most of the earliest Communists of China were from the east areas of the country’s Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces. They were familiar with the nearby Shanghai and had affections towards this land.


In contrast, Beijing's urban layout is quite different. From the Forbidden City to the square courtyard, the management system and architectural style formed by the feudal imperial family were not conducive to the underground work for the weak revolutionary forces.


In 1927, Comrade Li Dazhao hid in a barracks next to the Soviet embassy in Dongjiaomin Lane of Beijing to carry out secret Party tasks. However, he was arrested and imprisoned as a traitor betrayed him. After Li’s death, the CPC Central Committee sent an alternate member Wang Hebo to Beijing continuing the work. Wang successfully served as Chairman of the Jinpu Railway Federation, Chairman of the Shanghai Local and District Executive Committee of the Communist Party of China, and Chairman of the All-China Railway Federation. He was a pioneer of the Chinese labor movement and was also very skillful in underground work. But he was caught in the similar situations with Li and was captured and killed by reactionary political forces.


Guangzhou was the center of the bourgeois revolution 100 years ago, with a good mass foundation. Why was the Communist Party of China not established there? Because the Chinese Kuomintang led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen was based in Guangzhou, its revolutionary forces are mostly the emerging bourgeoisie.


As the largest city in the East, the largest gathering place of industrial workers and progressive intellectuals along the coast of China, and the center connecting the north and south areas of China, Shanghai boasted combined effects of these favorable factors. Therefore, a great party -- the Communist Party of China -- was born there!


Press Contact

SISU News Center, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Tel : +86 (21) 3537 2378

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Address :550 Dalian Road (W), Shanghai 200083, China

Further Reading