The CPC has developed party-to-party relations with different kinds of political parties and organizations. However, due to varied tasks and different eras, party-to-party relations have covered political bodies and individuals and this is a common practice found in other parties' history.
Out of the need of its tasks, also by reality and the international situation, the CPC had relations with different parties and organizations in different periods of history, with different key objects. Generally speaking, the parties and organizations it has associated with have become more and extensive.
The relations during the revolutionary war years: mostly with the Communist International and other advanced forces
In 1930s and 1940s, the CPC had contacts with the Communist parties of Vietnam and North Korea, and some political parties in Japan and Southeast Asia. In February 1930, Ho Chi Minh, in the capacity of a representative from the Communist International, organized the Communist Party of Vietnam (in October that year, the party changed its name to "Indochina Communist Party" ). In 1938, Ho Chi Minh came to Yan'an to begin contacts with CPC leaders. The CPC gave the Vietnamese Anti-French and later Anti-US struggles, led by the Vietnamese Communist Party, both material and spiritual support. The founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kim II Sung, for many years, did Anti-Japanese activities in China's Northeast. He joined the CPC in 1931, and after he returned to his country, he founded the North Korea Communist Party, and maintained a very close relation with the CPC. The long-standing friendship between the two parties has lasted until now.
Major tasks of the CPC during its early years were to grow quickly, gain international assistance, support and sympathy from advanced forces worldwide. Due to the class nature of the CPC, Kuomintang's blockage and limited information, the parties the CPC associated with were limited to the Communist International and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Hoping to see a stronger Communist party in other countries, the Communist International was willing to assist and placed much hope on the CPC. Beginning from the set-up of the Communist International until it was dissolved in 1943, the CPC made it and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union its major objects to have relations with. Mao Zedong commented on the 23-year relations between the Communist International and the CPC by the following, "Good beginning and the end, but poor in middle years. 'Good' didn't mean problem-free, and 'poor' was not without any merit."
By the September 18 Incident, Japan began its all-round invasion firstly against China, then Asia and the whole Pacific areas. At this life-or-death moment, Chinese nation's major enemy was Japan. In this situation, China no longer limited its relations to the Communist International and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, but expanded them to a wider range. The Political Bureau Meeting of the CPC held in Wayaobao in December 1935, said the following: "The party should adopt a flexible policy for foreign relations, reach more understanding, compromise if necessary, for the purpose of establishing relations or signing alliance treaties with all countries, parties and individuals so long they are willing to fight Japanese imperialism, its runners and traitors to their own nations."
In spite of Kuomintang's blockage, the CPC made active efforts in establishing relations with international friends and organizations. It invited many foreign journalists, army officers, writers, even missionaries over to Yan'an, the home of CPC Central Committee, and other anti-Japanese bases in the country. After his visit to Yan'an, American journalist Edgar Snow wrote about what he had seen in his famous book Red Star over China. By his faithful description, the international society began to understand the CPC. Doctor Henry Norman Bethune was sent over by American and Canadian Communist parties to help Chinese anti-Japanese war. He gave up his life to it. The CPC office in Kuomintang area and the Hong Kong office of the Eighth Route Army were very active in developing international relations. The CPC South-China Bureau in Chongqing set up a foreign relations office to be led by Zhou Enlai for the relations with foreign friends and institutes. They publicized CPC principles and policies, and through their efforts increased the influence of the CPC and Chinese revolution.
After the break-out of World War Two, at the change on international situation caused by German, Italian and Japanese invasions, the CPC realized the significance of the US, Britain and the Soviet Union to Chinese anti-Japanese war. The CPC quickly expanded its relations to cover the US and Britain. In June 1941, the CPC Central Committee said in "Decision on the International Anti-Fascist United Front," "In order to fight common enemies, we need to unite all American and British people who are against German, Italian and Japanese Fascists." In another document issued in December that year, the CPC emphasized the importance of Chinese nation and the CPC to the US and UK united front, saying, "On every occasion, for the purposes of increasing their strength and improving the situation in Chinese theater, the CPC should enter sincere and active cooperation with Britain and the US."
CPC's principles for the relations with UK and the US were paid off to some extent. In July and August 1944, two groups of military observers from the US government, 18 members, came to Yan'an. Patrick Hurley, the special envoy from the US president also came. By direct contacts and field study, both the US and British governments changed. Out of a fairly objective perspective, they began to provide some assistance to CPC troops. However, beginning from 1945, the relations between the CPC and the US government deteriorated due to the latter's policy of "assisting Chiang Kai-shek and against the CPC".
The relations in early years of New China: mostly with foreign Communist and workers' parties
After the founding of the PRC, facing the isolation and blockage by Western hostile forces, the CPC, for safeguarding nation's independence and sovereignty, "sided firmly with socialist countries." During this period of time, its party-to-party relations covered only the Communist parties, workers' parties and left-wing organizations in Socialist or non-socialist countries. CPC's foreign relations, Mao Zedong and other top CPC leaders said repeatedly, "mean to unite dozens of Communist parties and the Soviet Union First." While the founding of the PRC strengthened the socialist camp, foreign Communist parties and advanced organizations, willing to learn more about Chinese revolution and the CPC, asked to set up and develop relations with it. It was possible, also necessary, for the CPC to take foreign Communist and workers' parties as major objects to associate with. It was also out of the need of the then foreign diplomacy and world political party situation. In January 1951, the CPC Central Committee decided to set up the International Department to take charge its liaison work with foreign parties.
The CPC successfully established good relations and cooperation of various kinds with most foreign Communist and workers' parties and left-wing organizations between the founding of the PRC and late 1950s. Foreign delegations of Communist and workers' parties from 56 countries attended the 8th CPC National Congress in 1956. Mao Zedong said proudly at the meeting, "We are not feeling isolated, ...so many foreign delegations have traveled a long distance to our country, to attend our congress with genuine friendship, and this is a great support and encouragement to us." In the political report, Liu Shaoqi gave a part to CPC foreign relations, saying, "The CPC will continue to strengthen the unity with other Communist and workers' parties," and "continue to treat fraternal parties with warmth and modesty." In 1959, on the 10th anniversary of the PRC, party delegations and representatives from 61 countries came to attend the celebration.
While developing relations with the Communist and workers' parties in 1950s, the CPC had contacts with nationalist political parties in Indonesia, India, Burma, Guatemala, Chile, the United Arab Republic and Guinea. In 1960s, a great interest in China rose in Africa. Among others, delegations from South Africa African National Congress and Algerian National Liberation Front successively visited China.
While developing relations with Communist and workers' parties in capitalist countries, the CPC didn't refuse contacts with their parties of other kinds. Between 1950s and 1960s, the British Labor Party, Italian Socialist Party, the United Socialist Party of Iceland, Japanese Liberal Democratic Party, Socialist Party and Komei Party sent their delegations to China, all warmly received by Mao Zedong and other top leaders. Although the CPC did not have cooperation with Western European Socialist Party, both sides had fruitful discussions about international situation and peaceful co-existence of the countries with different social systems. Through these meetings, the CPC established a nice international image of safeguarding world peace and upholding justice. Its work on major Japanese parties was very helpful to the normalization of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations.
To the end of 1950s, the relations between the CPC and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union began to worsen. The international Communist movements were locked in serious debates and split. Out of the need to oppose party chauvinism and hegemony, the CPC adjusted its policy, limiting its relations only to the likely minded. During the Cultural Revolution, due to the influence from "ultra-left" thinking, the relations among socialist countries getting more complicated, and the disputes intensified inside the international Communist movements. The relations of the CPC with many foreign parties stopped. The number of parties the CPC had contacts with decreased considerably. The CPC foreign relation work was at an all-time low.
Relations after the beginning of the reform and opening-up: expanded to cover foreign political parties of different kinds
After the Third Session of the 11th Party Central Committee, with the working focus shifted to economic construction, Chinese socialist modern construction entered a brand-new era of reform and opening-up, so did CPC's party-to-party relation work into a period of "setting things right and pioneering." Following the changes of era, international situation and the party's work, the CPC broke the bondage of old thinking of "identical ideology and social system go before anything." By the four party-to-party principles, the CPC established relations with more foreign parties than ever before.
Josip Borz Tito, Chairman of the Communist Union of Yugoslavia, came to visit China in August 1977. CPC top leaders exchanged ideas with him about the relations between the two countries and two parties. Both sides agreed to put past disputes aside and to restore relations between the two parties. His visit made a prelude to a trend of restoring relations with Communist parties in socialist countries. In 1980, with successive visiting groups of Italian, Spanish and Greek Communist parties, China resumed its contacts with the Communist parties in capitalist countries.
"On the basis of Marxism," The 12th CPC National Congress held in 1982 emphasized, "the CPC will develop the relations with foreign Communist parties and other political parties of the working class by the principle of independence, equality, mutual respect and non-interference in other's internal affairs." These words defined the objects to have contacts with as "Communist parties and other political parties of the working class." This was because, from the beginning of the reform and opening-up until 1981, the CPC's party-to-party contacts were mostly with foreign Communist parties. That definition corrected the past practice during the Cultural Revolution, "categorizing foreign Communist parties as either Marxist and Leninist, or revisionist," and limited contacts only with those similar minded. By the new definition, any Communist party or a party of the working class, no matter how its relations with the CPC had been in the past, or were at present, the CPC was willing to develop the relations on the four principles. This was a significant change after the beginning of the reform and opening-up.
After the 12th CPC National Congress, international situation had a significant change. China's reform and opening-up continued to develop and China's influence grew bigger in international society. The governing principles and policies of the CPC caught much attention from foreign political parties. Many of them were willing to establish contacts with the CPC. To better serve the reform, opening-up and China's socialist construction, also to safeguard world peace and stability, the CPC needed to have relations with more foreign parties.
As early as December 1978, the CPC decided to increase its contacts with nationalist political parties in Africa. Gradually, exchanges and cooperation in multiple forms with the ruling parties in Latin America, Africa and Asia were established. In February 1981, the French Socialist Party leader Mitterrand led a delegation to China. Taking this visit as a nice opportunity, the CPC began, step by step and following a spirit of transcending ideological difference and seeking understanding and cooperation, established relations with them. Beginning from mid 1980s, to facilitate a stable progress on the state-to-state relations with developed countries, the CPC took active efforts in contacts with traditional central or right-wing political parties in Western Europe.
After summarizing the experience since the 13th CPC National Congress, by the fact that CPC's relations were no longer limited to Communist and workers parties but extended to parties of other kinds, in 1987, the CPC defined foreign parties to have relations with as "foreign Communist parties and political parties of other kinds". This expression inherited the spirit in concern from the 12th CPC National Congress, but had something new. Inheritance was seen on "foreign Communist parties", while "political parties of other kinds" were new.
At the abrupt change in 1990s in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Europe, and the trend of multi-party practices seen in Africa, the CPC conducted systematic contacts with old and new political parties in former Soviet Union, Eastern European and African countries. In 1992, the 14th CPC National Congress made a new description about its party-to-party relations, which included "the CPC values the relations with political parties in all countries," "The CPC will continue to follow the principles of independence, equality, mutual respect and non-interference in other's internal affairs in establishing and developing friendly relations with all of them." The description had a noticeable change, referring not only to "foreign Communist parties," but including all political parties from all countries. This description showed CPC's relations were to cover all political parties. And there was more: all the parties, in relations with the CPC, were equal and to the CPC, there was no difference in nature or size. This was a big breakthrough on CPC's international theory after the reform and opening-up.
The 15th CPC National Congress held in 1997 carried on the description from the 14th CPC National Congress, defining the objects of relations as "every foreign political party that is willing to have contacts with the CPC." This means, every political party, disregarding its kind and nature, so long it was willing to, the CPC would develop new party-to-party relations and cooperation with it.
Relations at the turn of centuries: all political parties, organizations and groups were included
With the faster pace of globalization, the role of political parties of different kinds was bigger and bigger in international political life. NGOs became very active. Apart from the work on old and new foreign political parties, the CPC increased its effort on establishing relations with other political organizations. In 1980s, the CPC began contacts with the Socialist International. Both sides sent delegations to visit each other. Following this, the CPC established relations with Christian Democratic International and other international or regional parties. After the relations established with European Parliament Party and its member parties, the CPC sent people to attend the Forum of Saint Paul and the International Conference of Asian Political Parties. In the year of 2002, the 16th CPC National Congress pointed out, "The CPC will continue to go by the principles of independence, complete equality, mutual respect and non-interference in other's internal affairs while developing relations with political parties and groups of other countries." "Political groups" were a new expression, which meant the CPC once again expanded its objects of international relations.
By August 2007, the CPC had established relations with about 400 political parties and organizations in over 160 countries and regions. The domain of foreign relations was quickly enlarged, with more parties and organizations on the list. Among them, some were in power, some were not, and some were coalition parties. Some of them were important parties though not in office, and some in the countries that had no diplomatic relations with China. They were in different kinds, Communist parties, workers' parties, socialist parties, labor parties, liberal parties, people's parties and conservative parties, some in developed countries like Japan and European ones, some in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The CPC international relations were seen all over the world.
Source: International Relations of the Communist Party of China, edited by Zhong Lianyan, Beijing: China Intercontinental Press, 2007.10