BEIJING, March 23 (Xinhua) -- When the leaders of Communist Party of China (CPC) packed up and left the village of Xibaipo in north China's Hebei Province on March 23, 1949, the world changed forever.
Their destination was Beijing, about 350 km away. The journey from a mountain village to the city where emperors had ruled the Middle Kingdom for more than five centuries was epoch-making.
The question on everyone's lips was how long they would stay there. Today, the CPC leaders are still beating themselves up over the same question.
Party archives suggest that in 1949 the Party leaders were not dizzied by their success, following a string of military success against Kuomintang troops: They were alert.
Mao Zedong compared the trek to "going in for a big exam in the capital city" and pledged not to fail as Li Zicheng, a farmer who led an insurrectionist army in the seventeenth century did. Li only keep his grip on the city for 42 days after he deposed the Ming emperor.
Sixty-five years after leaving Xibaipo, the CPC is still in power, and the People's Republic of China, founded six months after Mao arrived in the capital, is the world's second largest economy.
Xi Jinping, elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in November 2012, brought up "the big exam" again when he visited Xibaipo in last July.
"Six decades have passed. We have made great progress. Chinese people are becoming independent and affluent, but we still face complicated challenges and severe problems. To be honest, the Party has a long way to go to pass the big exam," Xi told the people of Xibaipo.
The 18th CPC National Congress in November 2012 was in no doubt that the Party still had plenty of tests to face in governance, reform, opening up and developing a market economy. "The Party is confronted with increasingly grave dangers: lack of drive, incompetence, being out of touch with the people, corruption and other misconduct," read the congress report.
To deal with the problems, the new leadership has borrowed some wisdom from the old. What Mao's had said on Party members' work prior to the founding of New China in 1949 still has ideological and historical significance today, Xi said in Xibaipo.
In March 1949, Mao called on the whole Party to display modesty and prudence while guarding against conceit and impetuosity, to work hard and live simple lives.
Xi believes that Mao's remarks echoed lessons learnt from ups and downs in Chinese history, summarized the process of the CPC's development and showed profound thoughts about how to keep the CPC's advanced nature and purity as a ruling party and maintain long-term stability of a new nation.
The current leadership's attempt to sustain and improve Party's rule is a national campaign that has been underway since last June, the "mass-line", a renewal of the bond between people and Party.
The campaign was expected to be a thorough cleanup of undesirable practices by civil servants and Party officials. The targeted behavior was formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance: essentially, misuse of power.
Each of the seven members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee was assigned to supervise the campaign in a province. Xi got Hebei, where he made an inspection tour in July, paying tributes to Xibaipo, meeting local people and explaining why the Party needs such a campaign.
Two months later, he met members of the Party provincial committee, listened to them criticize one another and themselves about their lives and work, and told them what needed to be corrected. Then he made sure that they put their ideas into practice.
The feedback from the people in Hebei seemed positive.
"I will give him 100 (the highest score in Chinese school tests)," said Liu Chao, a Hebei villager from Tayuan where Xi went in July. "I met Xi. He is very down-to-earth."
He Yu, a resident of Zhengding County in Hebei, gave a score of 80: "I would like to leave room for improvement. People still worry that the campaign is a one-off thing. We expect the Party to continue improving its working practices."