China’s Communist Party was actually founded on July 23, 1921 by a mixture of Chinese and foreign revolutionaries in Shanghai.
Fearful of spies, a group of Chinese-only members reached their final agreements on a boat in nearby Zhejiang province. However, nearly two decades later, party leaders sheltering in the dusty caves of China’s northern city of Yan’an decided July 1 would be the official date of commemoration.
For Xi and other leaders at the helm of the party, this year’s birthday is an important chance to recast an organization originally designed to foment revolution among rural peasants into one that can be seen as a powerful government overseeing an increasingly sophisticated global economy.
Party leaders must do so in a world that is now largely hostile to its global ambitions. The latest Pew Research polling shows negative views on China remain at historic highs around the world, spurred on by China’s increasingly aggressive diplomats and nationalistic citizens.
In his speech, Xi sought to reassure other countries that China’s rise was peaceful — yet vowed to conquer Taiwan, a democratic island China claims at its own. “A strong country must have a strong army. Only a strong army means a safe country,” Xi said.
He also said Beijing would maintain its iron grip over Hong Kong. By no coincidence, July 1 is also the anniversary for the resumption of Chinese control over Hong Kong. The same date was then chosen to implement a sweeping National Security Law, which already has quieted nearly all dissent in the territory.