Human beings approaching 100 normally think about death. But political parties celebrating their centennial, as the Communist Party of China (CPC) will on July 1, are obsessed with immortality.

Such optimism seems odd for parties that rule dictatorships, because their longevity record does not inspire confidence. The fact that no other such party in modern times has survived for a century should give China’s leaders cause for worry, not celebration.

One obvious reason for the relatively short lifespan of communist or authoritarian parties is that party-dominated modern dictatorships, unlike democracies, emerged only in the twentieth century. The Soviet Union, the first such dictatorship, was founded in 1922. The Kuomintang (KMT) in China, a quasi-Leninist party, gained nominal control of the country in 1927. The Nazis did not come to power in Germany until 1933. Nearly all of the world’s communist regimes were established after World War II.