Consider two realities in China today, one political, one economic. Politically, it is no state secret that under General Secretary Xi Jinping the role of the Communist Party of China, the CPC, the Party, has expanded across all aspects of Chinese society.
The Party has committed itself to the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. As the zeitgeist slogan goes, "Party, government, military, civilian, academic; east, west, south, north, center - the Party leads all."
Economically, private enterprises are an indispensable part of China's economic growth, contributing (in 2017) more than 50 percent of tax revenue, 60 percent of GDP, 70 percent of technological innovations, 80 percent of urban employment, and 90 percent of new jobs. Thus, combining the two realities, the continuing political leadership of the Party and the private sector's increasing role in generating economic growth, it should come as no surprise that the Party is increasing its presence and participation in private enterprises.
Needless to say, this has triggered differing opinions, with strong critique in Western media. We explore the Party's role in private enterprises. We talk to entrepreneurs running companies and to Party theorists explaining why this all works.
There is no doubt that, given China's conditions, Party branches do benefit private companies. Though foreign media may think otherwise, business owners really believe they can use Party branches to benefit their companies - and business owners are concerned almost entirely about the growth, profitability, and success of their companies.
But I am not here to say that every business owner in China is thrilled to have Party branches in their companies, though some indeed are. I am here to say that business owners are a wily lot; they seek diverse ways to build their companies and realize their dreams, and many see Party branches as a special way to develop new business opportunities by leveraging Party relationships.
There are operational challenges, of course. For example, if company employees who are Party members try using Party branches to play corporate politics, seeking to advance their personal interests by wielding Party power. Looking macroscopically, the Party-Company system is integral to what China is calling its “modern enterprise management system”, which seeks to learn best practices from developed market economies and adapt and regularize them for China’s Socialist Market Economy with Chinese characteristics. It is a system that is still a work-in-progress, and it will always be. That's part of the CPC's strength.