They were joined by 151 leaders and officials of the CPC international department and associated state and party institutions to discuss the theme of “working together for a shared future for humanity.”
It was the biggest-ever gathering of the word’s political parties and follows decisions taken at the recent CPC 19th congress for their country to play a leading role in the struggle for global peace, development and security.
Scores of social-democratic, socialist and communist parties from around the world also took part in three days of panel and plenary sessions, but there were some noticeable absences, and not just from overtly racist or fascist parties.
Despite invitations, none of the main parties from Britain or Ireland was represented. Nor was the ruling Workers Party of Korea, although US Republicans and Democrats turned up.
Opening the meeting on Friday evening, Chinese President and CPC general secretary Xi Jinping said the world must turn its back on a history of war, conquest, disasters and plagues.
“When the challenges confronting humanity are greater than ever in a world increasingly interconnected through new technologies, we must seize this opportunity to work together to build a brighter future for mankind,” he said.
“Friendly co-operation between China and other countries is expanding and the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind is gaining support and endorsement from an increasing number of people,” President Xi added.
In his 20-minute address, he also announced plans to invite 15,000 political party representatives from across the world to China over the next five years.
While these would include right-wing and centre parties as well as social-democratic and communist ones, he reaffirmed his own party’s commitment to building a modern, prosperous and harmonious socialist society “with Chinese characteristics” in three stages by 2050.
“We remain guided by Marxism, the scientific truth we have learnt from other countries and now being applied to China’s realities and updated,” he insisted.
Other speakers in the opening session in Beijing included Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, Ethopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen and Myanmar’s National League for Democracy representative Aung Sang Suu Kyi.
In a meeting of 24 communist parties with CPC head of publicity and politburo member Huang Kunming, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) was one of the five selected to make a presentation.
I applauded China’s enormous development, based as it is on planning and public ownership of key sectors of the economy, which alone can ensure that the benefits of new technologies will be shared by workers and the people generally.
China’s willingness to engage in mutually beneficial projects with other countries is assisting it to develop independently of domination by Western monopoly capital.
The CPC is constructively challenging political parties everywhere with the tasks of building a world of peace, development and security. Its recent decision to play a central role in the organising the annual international meeting of communist and workers parties is another sign of the CPC turning outwards.
I also explained to the forum how leaving the the EU is essential if the peoples of Britain are to take the path of peace, development and security. In particular, a left-led Labour government must be free to exert democratic control of the economy and rebalance it away from finance capital in the City of London towards manufacturing and infrastructure. Such a government must also be free to pursue a genuinely independent foreign and defence policy.
CPB international secretary John Foster appeared in a lengthy interview on Chinese television’s main news programme on Saturday evening, discussing China’s presence on the world stage, peace and Brexit.
The positive spirit of the event was reflected in a draft statement issued at the end of the proceedings. The “Beijing Initiative” declared that the “world is undergoing major developments, transformation and adjustment, but peace and development remain the call of our day.”
Noting the growing impact of globalisation, information technology and cultural diversity and the trend towards a multipolar world, the statement pointed out that countries are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent.
People’s needs and aspirations for a better life are also on the rise.
Yet we also face growing uncertainties and destabilising factors — the lethargic and unstable recovery from the international recession, the growing gap between rich and poor, regional conflicts, terrorism, climate change, cyber-insecurity and major disease epidemics.
Hence the need for a growing awareness that just as the future of a country rests in the hands of its people so the future of humanity rests in the hands of the people of all countries in a “shared future.”
The Beijing Initiative united parties in recognising that peace (which “like air and sunshine is hardly noticed when people are benefiting from it”) is a precondition for development, while the latter holds the key to resolving many of the world’s problems.
But in urging development that can alleviate poverty and equality, the draft statement highlighted “economic globalisation” and an “open world economy” as potentially positive factors. The communist parties of India and Britain were among those proposing different formulations.
Less controversial was the call for a “mode of production” and lifestyle that is “green, low carbon, circular and sustainable.” The oceans, the polar region, the internet and outer space should be “new frontiers of co-operation” rather than “boxing rings for contest.”
Political parties themselves have common responsibilities to ensure that their states “discard the cold war mentality, power politics and sectarianism.”
Relations between countries should be based on mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and independence, on fairness and justice and what the Chinese call “win-win co-operation.”
The principles of the UN Charter should be upheld and the UN itself utilised for the peaceful mediation and resolution of conflict.
Approved by acclamation but subject to possible amendment, the Beiijing Initiative praised China’s “belt and road-style” developmental partnerships proposed for southern Asia, the Middle East and Africa and looked forward to the next global meeting.
Of course, what is unspoken can be as significant as what is proclaimed. There were few explicit mentions of class exploitation, capitalism and imperialism, although they represent a continuing and fundamental dividing line between the interests of the working class — and humanity as a whole — and the capitalist monopoly corporations.
The right of the Palestinian people to their own national state was reaffirmed from the rostrum, but the only mention of the plight of the Rohingya Muslims came from the ruling party of Turkey, whose speaker also condemned the Kurdistan Workers Party and other Kurdish groups as “terrorists.”
While European party representatives of left and right were very critical of the EU in private discussions, especially of the “arrogance” of the EU Commission, this was not reflected in the plenary contributions.
Nonetheless, the high-level meeting demonstrated China’s readiness to assume a leading role in the search for peace, progressive development and environmental security.
Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.