China’s Communist Party on Thursday is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding, an event at which it is expected to argue that the country can keep ascending only if the party remains firmly in power.
The organizers have disclosed little about how the day’s pomp will unfold, but the official highlight will be a speech by Xi Jinping, China’s leader. Major policy announcements are unlikely, but the centenary is symbolically important for Mr. Xi, who is almost certain to claim a third five-year term as party leader next year.
If his recent comments are a guide, he is likely to assert that China would never have achieved its present-day prosperity and power without the party’s struggles against foreign oppression and domestic exploitation.
China’s setbacks over the past decades of Communist Party rule — such as Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the deadly crackdown against protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 — may receive brief mention, or none at all.
Instead, the day’s stagecraft will focus on conveying an image of China as confident and secure while much of the world struggles to shake off the pandemic.
Officials have said there will be no military parade, unlike the enormous show of force that marked the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in 2019.
Even so, the televised celebrations appear likely to feature a military flyover at Tiananmen and displays of military forces across the country.
Organizers may also assemble a carefully picked crowd at Tiananmen Square — of party members, workers, students and others — to listen to Mr. Xi’s speech. Rain is possible, so they and the organizers will be hoping that it holds off in the morning.
When China’s leader, Xi Jinping, takes his place on a deck overlooking Tiananmen Square in central Beijing on Thursday, he will strike a confident posture signaling China’s rising prosperity and influence in the world.
Since becoming general secretary of the Communist Party in late 2012, Mr. Xi, 68, has made it increasingly clear that he sees himself as a transformative leader — in the footsteps of Mao and Deng — guiding China into a new era of global strength and rejuvenated one-party rule. And by many measures he is already the most powerful leader since Deng or even Mao, and presides over an economy and a military much stronger than in their times.
Few Chinese leaders from recent decades are more steeped in the Communist Party’s heritage than Mr. Xi.
He was born into a revolutionary family, endured the upheavals of Mao Zedong’s era, and began his career as a party official when Deng Xiaoping and other leaders opened up market reforms.
Before Mr. Xi came to power, many in China thought that he would be a milder figure, because his father, Xi Zhongxun, was a revolutionary veteran who in the early 1980s oversaw the beginnings of market reforms in Guangdong Province.
Xi Zhongxun had suffered decades of confinement and persecution after Mao turned against him, and his family was torn apart during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Like millions of other youths at that time, the younger Mr. Xi was sent to labor in the countryside, and he spent seven years in a dusty village in northwest China.
But after coming to power, he pursued scorching crackdowns against official corruption and domestic dissent, and applied harsh measures to bring areas like Xinjiang and Hong Kong firmly under Chinese control.
Mr. Xi appears driven by the conviction that for China to secure lasting stability and prosperity, the Communist Party must reassert its control, and he must remain in command of the party.
In 2018, he abolished the two-term limit on the Chinese presidency, opening the way to remain in office — as president, party leader and chairman of the Chinese military — for many years to come. His next big step in that journey will be next year, when a Communist Party congress appears likely to acclaim him for a third term as party leader.