Ain’t No Party Like the Communist Party

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Communist troops march near Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War on May 21, 1949. The war, which eventually led to the separation of the Republic of China (now Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China (PRC), lasted -- with  the interruption for the war against the Japanese -- from 1927 until Mao claimed victory over Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek in October 1949. The People's Republic of China (PRC) was officially established on Oct. 1, 1949.

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From left to right: Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, Mao, and Liu Shaoqi, the 2nd chairman of the PRC, survey troops at Peking airport in 1959 as part of the PRC's tenth anniversary celebration. The Sino-Soviet split was widening even then, and by the opening of the 22nd Communist Party in Moscow in 1961, Khrushchev was referring to Red China as the "anti-party group" whose "Stalinist" leanings ran afoul of Moscow.

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Mao and Lin Biao, vice premier of the PRC, parade past crowds in Peking's (now Beijing) Tiananmen Square in 1966. Lin later disappeared in a mysterious airplane crash after plotting to have Mao assassinated.

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Young people pose for a photograph during China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1967. Begun in 1966 and lasting until Mao's death in 1976, the Cultural Revolution was an attempt to purge capitalism from Chinese society and, in particular, to eliminate those members of the "bourgeoisie" who had infiltrated the CCP. The result was disastrous: Economic activity came to a standstill and Mao's political opponents were eliminated.

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Above, a Chinese Red Army chorus honors Chairman Mao during a wheat harvest celebration in 1967.

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A crowd of "Little Red Book"-toting Mao supporters cheer in a Beijing stadium in 1967. Officially titled Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, the book is a collection of speeches and writings on a wide range of subjects related to socialist thought. It was considered a symbol of the Cultural Revolution and is among the most printed books of all time.

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Chinese peasants read aloud from Mao's Little Red Book in the Hungching region in 1969. The inscription under Chairman Mao's portrait reads, "Celebrating the Party's victorious opening of the Ninth Congress! Let's stir up studying and application of Mao talk to a new climax."

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A group of convivial Chinese Red Guards pose with farm tools in a photo released by China's official news agency in 1971. During the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards were tasked with eradicating old customs, culture, habits, and ideas, but by 1968 -- following a number of clashes with the People's Liberation Army -- they had been disbanded and sent to the countryside.

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Peasants from Beijing's outskirts pay their respects to Mao, who passed away on Sept. 9, 1976, at age 82. Eight days of memorial services followed his death in Beijing. His funeral, held in the Great Hall of the People, was attended by "all the world," according to Time magazine.

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A crowd of soldiers and civilians rally to support Hua Guofeng's appointment as chairman of the CCP. Hua, Mao's chosen heir, took office on Oct. 6, 1976, but was soon overshadowed by the more daring and savvy Deng Xiaoping, who would ultimately transform China into a market-oriented economic power. Still, Hua's stint at the helm of the CCP, which featured tepid economic and educational reforms, provided a critical bridge between the chaotic final years of Mao's anti-capitalist Cultural Revolution and Deng's foray into the global economy.   

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Above, Zhao Ziyang, one of the major architects of China's free market reforms and the country's premier from 1980 to 1987, is pictured in his first year in office.

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Zhao and Paramount Communist leader Deng Xiaoping confer during the 13th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October 1987. Although Deng never held the title of head of state -- he was chairman of both the CCP's Central Advisory Commission and Central Military Commission -- his commitment to international trade and technological advancement made him the hero of China's meteoric rise in the global economy.

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Hundreds of student activists square off with the police in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on April 22, 1989. Pro-democracy demonstrations erupted after the death of Hu Yaobang, a CCP official who had been sacked for supporting political liberalization, and were only quelled after regiments from the People's Liberation Army brutally massacred hundreds  -- possibly thousands -- of student demonstrators in June 1989.

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Above, Zhao Ziyang addresses student protesters in Tiananmen Square less than a month before the brutal crackdown. His conciliatory speech, in which he implored the students to end their hunger strike and engage in dialogue with the government, offered a rare admission of Communist Party failings. "Whatever you say and criticize about us is deserved. My purpose here now is not to ask for your forgiveness," he said, before asking the students to accept a more realistic pace for reform. "If you stop the hunger strike, the government will not close the door on dialogue, definitely not! What you have proposed, we can continue to discuss." The speech earned Zhao an early exit from party leadership and a lifetime under house arrest.

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Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin, Zhao's successor, addresses the 14th party congress on Oct. 12, 1992. During his tenure as general secretary from 1989 to 2002, Jiang played an important role in guiding China away from the state-led heavy industry of the Mao-era and toward a planned market economy.

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Above, traditional Russian matryoshka dolls are painted with the likenesses of various Chinese leaders since the toppling of the Qing dynasty in 1911. From left to right: the first provisional president of the Republic of China Sun Yat-sen, nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, founder of communist China Mao Zedong, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, and President Jiang Zemin.

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Above, Hu Jintao, the current general secretary of the CCP, addressing world leaders at a banquet marking the final day of the Beijing Olympic Games on Aug. 24, 2008. Hu replaced Jiang Zemin as general secretary in 2002.  

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Ninety-four-year-old veteran Liu Jiaqi sheds a tear as he dons his cap at a ceremony for "Retracing the Long March," on July 22, 2006. The Long March was a yearlong, 8,000-mile retreat by the Communist Red Army begun in 1934. It was during this retreat that many founders of the PRC, Mao among them, ascended to power.

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao addresses the 11th National People's Congress in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on March 5, 2010. China had recently surpassed Japan to become the world's second-largest economy.

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Above, "red tourists" brandish communist flags in a parade at a historic Red Army settlement near Qionghai on April 16, 2011. Renewed interest in Mao's revolutionary ideals stemming from the CCP's 90th-anniversary campaign has -- just a smidge ironically -- reinforced China's capitalist penchant by spawning a lucrative new brand of tourism. For a little more than $23 you can visit dozens of revolutionary sites in Yanan, a small city in China's Shaanxi province, and enjoy a re-enactment of the communist victory over the KMT, complete with artillery, tanks, and a burning airplane that falls from the sky. The whole enterprise has raked in $1.17 billion in revenue in the last year alone.  

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Dancers perform during the 90th-anniversary celebration in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on June 28, 2011.

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