Maintain the flesh-and-blood ties with the people: Xi Jinping's rhetoric on mass line.
There is sign of people's distrust and resentment towards the Party and the government, because they see more and more Party leaders and government officials are alienating themselves off from the masses. The traditional flesh-and-blood ties between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the broad masses are at risk. In order to regain people's trust and to save the Party, the CPC central committee headed by Xi Jinping tries to revive Mao Zedong's mass line to exercise an effective leadership, to win people's heart, and to rebuild the Party's legitimacy among the people. Xi sees the mass line as the lifeline of the Party and the basic line of work. He instructs the Party to focus on the need to serve the people, to be down-to-earth in work, to hold integrity in office, and to guard against the "four forms of decadence" (i.e., formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance). In order to examine Xi's rhetoric on the mass line, this paper first summarizes Mao Zedong' s mass line, then describes the serious problems of Party leaders and government officials alienating themselves off from the masses, and finally discusses Xi's rhetoric on the mass line educational campaign of the Party from June 2013 to October 2014.
Mao Zedong's Mass Line
The mass line, an effective political, organizational and leadership method developed by Mao Zedong in the prolonged war years of Chinese revolution, is considered as the lifeblood of the Party and the absolute guarantee for its immortality and prosperity. It is stated in the "Constitution of the Communist Party of China" (2012) that the mass line is "doing everything for the masses, relying on them in every task, carrying out the principle of 'from the masses, to the masses', and translating its correct views into action by the masses of their own accord" (p. 19). This definition shows the two-folded aspects of the mass line. On the one hand, the Party is to give top priority to the interests of the people, to be responsible for the people, and to serve the people whole-heartedly. On the other hand, the Party should believe in the masses, respect their initiatives, consult them before making policies, and rely on them in carrying all kinds of work. These are the essential elements of the mass line.
A few scholars (Xu, 2013; Cui, 2014; Zhang, 2015; Chen & Song, 2011) suggest that the formation and the development of this leadership method has been a long process in Chinese revolution and construction, and that the mass line was created and developed collectively by CPC major leaders. For example, Cui (2014) states, "'Mass line' is a great innovation on the leadership theory and methods made by CPC members represented by Mao Zedong; with the progress of the history of Chinese revolution, construction and reform, the Party has continuously enhanced the understanding of the 'mass line', and has tried to enrich, develop and improve it" (p. 65). However, many other Chinese scholars (Huang, 2013; Tian, 2013; Wang & Wu, 2013; You, 2013) uphold that the mass line was created by Mao Zedong in the revolutionary years, while other leaders have tried to inherit and promote it. The author of this paper believes that although phrases such as mass line and mass perspective have been mentioned sporadically by other communist leaders, the creator of the mass line is Mao Zedong. His successors have endeavored, to a certain degree, to promote and implement the method in order to effectively exercise their leadership. In times when the implementation of the mass line was not well enhanced, there would be serious problems of Party's divorce from the masses.
Mao's mass line is closely related to Marxism epistemology and Marxist mass view (Dong & Sun, 2015). Marxism dictates that the masses of people are the creators of history and the decisive force for social change. Moreover, the mass line is in accordance with, at least in certain way, Confucian concept of a humane government. According to Huang (2014), Confucius' idea of the good government was based on three fundamental beliefs. First, people are the most valued possession of the state. They take precedence over the altars of the soil and crops, and even the rulers themselves. Secondly, people represent the will of Heaven. They decide if the Mandate of Heaven would be given to or withdrawn from a ruler. Finally, people are the object of concern that ranks at top in the governing policy, and popular welfare and satisfaction should always be the government's priority (pp. 281-282). Confucius expressed the importance for a humane government to win the confidence of people in his reply to his disciple Tzu-kung:
Tzu-kung asked about government. The Master said: "Enough food, enough weapons, and the confidence of the people." Tzu-kung said: "Suppose you definitely had no alternative but to give up one of these three, which would you relinquish first?" The Master said: "Weapons." Tzu-kung said: "Suppose you definitely had no alternative but to give up one of the remaining two, which would you relinquish first?" The Master said: "Food. From of old death has come to all men, but a people without confidence in its rulers will not stand." (cited in Dawson, 1982, p. 64)
Mencius, a follower of Confucius, firmly believed that people are the most important element in a state. He pointed out, "The people are its [the state's] most valued possession, the altars of the soil and crops its next, and the prince its least. Therefore, he who has the confidence of the people may become Son of Heaven" (cited in Fung, 1952, p. 182). Mencius also upheld that a humane government must be run by benevolent rulers, who should have the heart which couldn't bear people's suffering, and that benevolent rulers should "perform the government unbearable to people-suffering with the heart unbearable to people's suffering" (Huang, 2001, p. 68). According to Mencius, benevolent rulers must care for people "as if to tend newborn babies," even to tend to them "as if they were invalids" (p. 87). They should devote themselves totally to the benefit of people. Both Marxist mass view and China's traditional human-centered concept of humane government are the basis for the development of Mao Zedong's mass line.
It is commonly agreed that Mao Zedong explicitly gave the definition of his mass line in his 1943 article, "Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership." He stated:
In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily "from the masses, to the masses." This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge. (Mao, 1965b, p. 119)
Here, Mao clearly indicated that his mass line is primarily the method of leadership of the masses. It includes three steps: (1) gathering the diverse ideas of the masses, (2) processing these ideas in light of the ultimate interests of the masses, and (3) returning these concentrated ideas to the masses in forms of policies, which will advance the mass activities toward a higher and better level.
Mao's mass line is closely integrated with Marxist mass view recognizing that the masses are makers of history, will liberate themselves through their own experience and struggle, and are the depending force of the Party. Mass view is the Party's stance and attitude towards the masses, as well as the theoretical foundation for the mass line. In Mao's eyes, masses are the real heroes, creators of the world history, and the driving force for revolution. Back in March 1929, in "Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan," Mao wrote enthusiastically:
The present upsurge of the peasant movement is a colossal event. In a very short time, in China's central, southern and northern provinces, several hundred million peasants will rise like a mighty storm, like a hurricane, a force so swift and violent that no power, however great, will be able to hold it back. They will smash all the trammels that bind them and rush forward along the road to liberation. They will sweep all the imperialists, warlords, corrupt officials, local tyrants and evil gentry into their graves. (Mao, 1965a, pp. 23-24)
In March and April 1941, in his "Preface and Postscript to Rural Surveys," Mao pointed out, "The masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding, it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge" (Mao, 1965b, p.12). He claimed in "On Coalition Government" in 1945, "The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history" (p. 257). Broad masses have been the motive force for Chinese revolution and construction, the source of CPC's strength, and the foundation of CPC's ruling.
To intensively carry out the mass line, the Party needs to understand, reflect and express the masses' wishes, represent their fundamental interests, and serve them wholeheartedly. In January 1934, at the Second National Congress of Workers' and Peasants' Representatives, Mao brought about this important issue in his speech, "Be Concerned with the Well-Being of the Masses, Pay Attention to Methods of Work." He said in all sincerity:
I earnestly suggest to this congress that we pay close attention to the well-being of the masses, from the problems of land and labor to those of fuel, rice, cooking oil and salt.... All such problems concerning the well-being of the masses should be placed on our agenda. We should discuss them, adopt and carry out decisions and check up on the results. We should convince the masses that we represent their interests, that our lives are intimately bound up with theirs. We should help them to proceed from these things to an understanding of the higher tasks which we have put forward, the tasks of the revolutionary war, so that they will support the revolution and spread it throughout the country, respond to our political appeals and fight to the end for victory in the revolution. (Mao, 1965a, p. 149)
As a leader of peasant revolution, Mao Zedong had always been very hostile to bureaucracy and bureaucrats who would alienate themselves from the masses. In 1927, when he led the army of peasant rebellion to the Jinggangshan Mountain and set up the first revolutionary area there, one of the important policies he pursued was "equality between officers and soldiers." He also instructed his Red Army to have a close relationship with the masses, speak politely to them, pay fairly for all purchases, and never take even a single needle or piece of thread from them. During the revolutionary years, Mao and his comrades enjoyed a good relationship with the masses and the Party organization was free from bureaucracy, though life was hard for them. When the Communist Party of China won over the power throughout the country, Mao began to worry about the possible deterioration of some Party leaders whose leadership might become bureaucratic and divorced from the masses. His worry was not without good grounds.
Serious Problems of Party's Divorce from the Masses
In his report at the 18th National Congress of CPC, Hu Jintao warned that "the dangers posed by mental laziness, lack of capacity, divorce from the masses, low spirit and corruption become more acute to the whole Party members" (Hu, 2012, p. 49). In June 2013, Xi Jinping said at a working conference of the CPC Central Committee, "The Party has always emphasized that Party conduct has a direct impact on its image, on its prospects of winning or losing public support, and indeed on the very survival or extinction of the Party and the state. Maintaining close ties with people is essential to improving the Party's conduct. Losing contact with people would pose the gravest threat to the Party" (Xi, 2014, p. 402). Both top CPC leaders are aware of the disastrous consequence of the Party's divorce from the masses, and the problem certainly exists.
In the early morning on June 22, 2008, a fourteen-year-old girl, Li Shufeng, was drowned in a river in Wengan County, Guizhou Province. Her family disagreed with the legal examiner from the county's public security bureau, suspecting that the girl was raped and murdered. Then, the public security bureau of the autonomous prefecture sent its legal examiner to conduct another autopsy, who also found that the girl was simply drowned. The family members would not accept the postmortem examination result and refused to bury the girl. Meanwhile, there were rumors that Li Shufeng had a classmate whose uncle Wang Qin was the Party Secretary of the county, that the girl had asked two young men to beat Li because Li would not let her copy her answers during a test, that one of the two men was the son of a deputy county magistrate so the county's public security bureau had released both men, and that Li Shufeng was naked when her corpse was retrieved from the water.
In the late afternoon on June 28, a few onlookers by the corpse made a banner petition out of a piece of white cloth and started to march towards the county's government building. They were joined by more people, especially peasants who had lost their land and those who had lost profits during the relocation of their households due to building demolition for the city's landscaping plan. When the procession passed Li's junior high school, over 200 more people joined in. When it reached the county government building, the number of demonstrators exceeded one thousand. In the evening, the number of demonstrators and onlookers increased to over twenty thousand, and over 300 of them started beating, smashing, looting and burning. The incident lasted over seven hours. More than 160 government office rooms and 42 patrol wagons and vehicles were burned. Over 150 people were injured. The direct economic loss was over 16 million RMB. During the incident, instead of having a face-to-face dialogue with the demonstrators, the Party leaders and the government officials of the county hid themselves inside their offices, holding one meeting after another, dispatching police and riot squads, trying to catch the "evil backstage manipulators," and ordering the county media to condemn the "lawbreakers."
The Wengan incident is a typical event that exposes a serious problem of the Party's divorce from the broad masses. First, the cause of the incident is on the surface of the rumors based on the death of a junior high school student, but the underlying reason is some people's resentment towards the Party and the government, and the long-term accumulated contradictions between people and some Party and government officials. For example, in urbanization, some peasants lost their land and their houses that were forced to be demolished without being adequately compensated, while the Party and government officials often dealt with these problems in an oversimplified and crude way.
Second, because some Party and government officials often use the power to seek personal gains, to compete with people for benefits, and to ill-treat the powerless, some people have become distrustful to the Party, the government and the officials. That's why when people in Wengan County heard the rumor that Li Shufeng's classmate was the niece of the county Party boss and one of the two men who attacked Li was the son of a deputy county magistrate, they immediately believed the rumor and sided with the victim. Finally, the relationship between the Party and people should like that between fish and water. Party and government officials should believe in the masses, rely on the masses, and maintain close ties with the masses. However, Party leaders and government officials in the county were afraid of the masses. Instead of coming out to have a face-to-face dialogue with the demonstrators and the on-lookers, they held one meeting after another in their guarded offices in an effort of catching the "evil backstage lawbreakers" who were supposedly provoking the masses to create the disturbance. Definitely, they were isolated themselves from the broad masses.
In his speech "On Coalition Government" on April 24, 1945, Mao Zedong acutely pointed out, "The reason why such evils as dogmatism, empiricism, commandism, tailism, sectarianism, bureaucracy and an arrogant attitude in work are definitely harmful and intolerable, and why anyone suffering from these maladies must overcome them, is that they alienate us from the masses" (Mao, 1965b, p. 315). Now, the problem of divorce from the masses is astonishingly common all over the country. The situation is serious and the challenge is real. Among other things, the most severe problems concerned by the Party and people are the four forms of decadence: formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance.
Formalism is a phenomenon of the Party and government officials being divorced from reality and the masses. Xi Jinping explains, "Formalism means doing things for form's sake-the separation of action from knowledge, neglecting what is truly effective, hiding behind piles of documents and immersing oneself in meetings, the pursuit of vanity and a resort to falsehood" (Xi, 2014, p. 405). People feel very resentful to those officials whose job is just holding meetings, listening to reports, and giving instructions. They are not interested in solving real problems for people, but are wild about putting on shows, or seeking fake achievements in their official career with vanity projects. When they are engaged in a grassroots survey, it "is no more than a comfortable ride in a car, a hurried glance through the window, an affable wave to the cameras, and a casual glance at events outside, rather than a proper investigation into shadows, nook and crannies" (p. 405). They bury themselves in a mountain of paper work and a sea of meetings. They may either do nothing or act randomly, while people have to pay for the consequence of their misconducts.
Bureaucatism is a disgusting form of decadence that people hate the most. The first formalized bureaucracy in China was formed in the second century A.D. by the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.). In ancient times, Chinese feudal bureaucratic machine was small. For more than two thousand years, from the Han time well into the nineteenth century, the bureaucratic government "was composed of at most thirty-to-forty thousand officials" (Grasso, Corrin, and Kort, 1991, p. 25). When the People's Republic of China established in 1949, the government employed over 2 million officials. By 1957, the civil service alone employed over 4.6 million people. Today, the number of government employees has reached to 5 million, and the total number of those who are employed by the government, the legislative bodies, organs of CPC and other parties, and social organizations is about 10 million. Bureaucratism is easy to grow in this huge bureaucratic system if some bureaucrats lose touch with the people. Xi Jinping points out,
Some Party officials, heedless of the people's wishes and the circumstances that apply in their locality, make casual decisions and empty promises. They blindly launch expensive projects, walk away when they fail, and leave behind an unresolved mess; some curry favor with their superiors, and rudely order their subordinates around. People in need of their services find them difficult to access, hard to talk to and impossible to get them to act. They even demand bribes before doing things that are part of their duties, and abuse their power." (Xi, 2014, p. 406)
In ancient China, when an official went on an inspection tour or just took a trip, a few runners of bailiffs would walk in the front and beat gongs to drive people away. The practice is called "to clear the way." Today, some Party and government officials would like to do the same to assume great airs. When they go to inspect work or to conduct a so-called grassroots survey, they will sit in a luxury car with the police escorting vehicles driving in front to clear the way. They will also require that all the crossroads on their way be closed to traffic, which often causes great inconvenience to people. For example, in 2013 one low-level township official in Yuyao County, Zejiang Province went to a disaster-affected village to inspect the flood situation there. He was supposed to help the villagers who were afflicted by the natural disaster. Because the road was muddy, and he was wearing a pair of luxury shoes, he let the sixty-year-old village head carry him on the back to a victim' s house. How could people expect this kind of officials to serve them wholeheartedly?
Some Party and government officials' philosophy of life is to indulge themselves in pleasure-seeking. They behave as what is described in Chinese classic poems--"drinking your fill as long as you have wine to drink," and "seizing the moments of contentment in life and making the most of them." This is hedonism. Xi Jinping lists those officials' misconducts,
Some have abandoned their ideals in favor of material comforts, vulgar amusements, revelry, drinking and a life of luxury. Some take on easy tasks and shirk hard work because they have no taste for hardship and effort. They lack motivation and new goals because they are happy with the status quo, satisfied with their limited knowledge and understanding, and content with their past achievements. They idle through the day flipping through newspapers, drinking tea and chatting, their gaze wandering abstractedly because they have no purpose. (Xi, 2014, pp. 406-407)
The fourth form of decadence of some Party and government officials is extravagance, which "means waste, squandering resources, expensive building programs, endless festivals and ceremonies, a luxurious and dissolute lifestyle, and abuse of power that can extend to actual corruption" (p. 407). CPC members, especially Party leaders, are required to be the first to bear hardship and the last to enjoy comfort. But the reality is that many of them are pursuing an extravagant and degenerating life. They spend millions of RMB to build luxury office buildings with top-grade facilities for feasting, drinking and amusement. When they hold or attend meetings, they stay at expensive hotels, luxury clubs, high-end sports complexes, or tourism scenic areas. They sit in luxurious cars, wear famous brands clothes, eat all sorts of delicacies, and drink check wines. They use tax payers' money to travel at home and abroad, buy articles of luxury for themselves, and even gamble in foreign casinos. They are avaricious, and some of them have embezzled as many as several hundred million RMB. Many of them have extramarital fairs and keep several mistresses more or less openly. Some Party and government officials are no longer people's public servants, but Jacks-in-office. Complains from people are growing. The traditional fish-and-water relationship between the Party and people is in danger.
Xi Jinping's Rhetoric on the Mass Line Educational Campaign of the Party
The top Party leaders and CPC Central Committee are well aware of the fact that the Party could be dangerously close to losing the hearts of people. The Party's divorce from the masses is listed as one of the four challenges in Hu Jintao's political report made in the 18th National Congress of CPC in 2012. This congress also decided to start a mass line educational campaign of the Party to keep the Party advanced and pure, to enhance its creativity and effectiveness, and to provide the solid and reliable mass bases for the Party's ruling position. On June 18, 2013, the CPC senior leadership held a working conference to kick off the planned yearlong mass line educational campaign of the Party. The main point of the mass line this time, as explained by Xi Jinping at a Politburo study session, is for the Party to focus on working for people as well as for cadres to be competent and incorruptible. Speeches by other top Party leaders have also focused on improving the overall competence and integrity of Party leaders and government officials, so that more effective governance can be provided. Thus, the mass line advocated by Xi "appears to be less about mobilizing the masses against entrenched elites to realize utopian visions than it is about mobilizing party elites to more effectively manage the masses in support of the national leadership's economic and political objectives" (Heath, 2013). The main purpose of the mass line educational campaign of the Party is to educate Party leaders and government officials to engrave in their hearts the thoughts of serving people (weimin), of being down-to-earth in work (shigan), and of upholding the integrity in office (qinglian).
"Serving the people" is the essence of the Party's mass line. Although the historical position of the CPC has changed from a revolutionary party into the ruling party, the Party's goal of serving people wholeheartedly and putting people first has never changed. In his speech at the symposium to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth, Xi Jinping pointed out, "Serving the people wholeheartedly is the fundamental purpose and outcome of all the work of the Party, and a symbol that distinguishes our Party from all the other parties. The supreme criterion for all Party actions is that it serves the interests of the great majority of the people. The effectiveness of all our work should ultimately be measured by the real benefits the people have reaped, by the improvement in their lives and by how well their rights and interests are protected" (Xi, 2014, p. 30). Back on November 15, 2012 when Xi was elected General Secretary of CPC Central Committee, he told the Chinese and foreign journalists at the press conference by members of the Standing Committee of Political Bureau of the 18th CPC Central Committee:
Our people have an ardent love for life. They want to have better education, more stable jobs, more income, reliable social security, better medical and health care, improved housing conditions and a beautiful environment. They hope that their children will have sound growth, good jobs and more enjoyable lives. The people's wish for a happy life is our mission. (Xi, 2014, p.4)
It is very clear to Xi Jinping that the people's aspiration for a better life is his goal as the top leader of the Party and the country. He claimed in an interview with the Russia Television on February 7, 2014, "I will govern by serving the people and fulfilling the responsibilities imposed on me" (Xi, 2014, p. 113). He also wants to let all the Party and government officials understand that the supreme political advantage of CPC is "its close ties with the people," and that "the biggest danger for a ruling party is for it to become divorced from the people" (p. 30). Serving the people wholeheartedly should be their utmost goal. They should work for people and meanwhile let people to judge their work.
"Being down-to-earth in work" is the important means of carrying out Party's mass line. A saying goes that empty talks would lead the country astray, while hard work can rejuvenate the nation. The 18th CPC National Congress proposed to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2021 when the CPC celebrates its centenary, and turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious by 2049 when the Republic marks its centennial. However, as the current export and investment-led growth model has reached a dead end, "the main engine of China' s spectacular economic growth over the past decades has exhausted itself' (Heath, 2013, p. 2). Chinese economy and reform are facing a grave challenge. Xi admits, "Having been pushed ahead for more than 30 years, China's reform has entered a deep-water zone. It can be said that the easy part of the job has been done to the satisfaction of all. What is left are tough bones that are hard to chew" (Xi, 2014, p. 113). In order to chew the tough bones, the Party leaders and government officials should be educated to adhere to a down-to-earth working style, to stay close to the grassroots, and to find and solve new problems.
"Upholding integrity in office" means that the Party and government officials should voluntarily guard against corruption. On December 4, 2012, the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee issued the "Eight Rules" to cut bureaucracy and maintain close ties with people. In the same month, the CPC Central Military Commission issued the "Ten Rules" for the army, which was equivalent of the "Eight Rules." Later, the CPC Central Committee issued a code of ethics for CPC cadres to follow to ensure clean practice in their work and prevent corruption. All the Party and government officials are advised to consciously abide by these rules. Those who violate these rules will be severely punished.
Since it is unrealistic to resolve all those long-term accumulated problems of the Party's divorce from the masses with a year-long educational campaign, the CPC Central Committee decided to focus on solving problems relating to the four forms of decadence (i.e, formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance), because they are the problems people hate the most. Xi (2014) reasons, "They [the four forms of decadence] are of the most pressing concern to the people, and they are at the root of the greatest damage to the relations between the Party and the people and between officials and the people. All the other problems within the Party are related to the 'four forms of decadence,' or have spun off from them. Once the 'four forms of decadence' are resolved, there will be a sounder base for treating other problems" (p. 411). Xi proposes to focus on promoting down-to-earth work style to fight formalism, to focus on solving the problem of isolation from people to fight bureaucratism, to focus on overcoming indulgence in pleasure and privileges to fight hedonism, and to focus on outing an end to unhealthy practices such as self-indulgence, luxury and dissipation to fight extravagance (pp. 411-412).
The major method for the mass line educational campaign of the Party is criticism and self-criticism, an effective method used in the Rectification Movement in Yan'an from 1942 to 1945. Mao Zedong said in 1945, "Conscientious practice of self-criticism is still another hallmark distinguishing our Party from all other political parties. As we say, dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly. Our comrades' minds and our Party's work may also collect dust, and also need sweeping and washing" (Mao, 1965b, p. 316). Now, Xi Jinping uses criticism and self-criticism, a tactic popularized by Mao Zedong himself in the revolutionary years, to tackle the serious problem of Party's divorce from the masses. Xi even uses the similar metaphor as Mao's to define the means of the campaign, which is to examine oneself in the mirror, straighten one's clothes and hat, take a bath, and treat one's disease. This process is "summarized in four phrases: self-purification, self-improvement, self-innovation and self-enhancement" (Xi, 2014, p. 413).
To "examine oneself in the mirror," Xi explains, means that Party members "should use the Party Constitution as a mirror" to "measure themselves," to "identify their shortcomings," and to "be clear in terms of how they will improve themselves" (p. 413). To "straighten one's clothes and hat," Xi continues to explain, "means that one should, after examining oneself in the mirror, and based on the principles of serving the people, being down-to-earth in one's work, and upholding integrity, dare to face one's weaknesses and shortcomings, strictly observe the Party's discipline, especially its political discipline, start with themselves in facing up to problems, and take immediate steps to rectify their conduct" (pp. 413-414). To "take a bath" means to engage in criticism and self-criticism, while to "treat one's disease" means to "learn from past mistakes to avoid future ones" (p. 414). This echoes Mao's saying, more than 70 years ago, "In opposing subjectivism, sectarianism and stereotyped Party writing we must have in mind two purposes: first, 'learn from past mistakes to avoid future ones,' and second, 'cure the sickness to save the patient'" (Mao, 1965b, p. 50). With this mass line educational campaign, Xi and CPC Central Committee have prepared "different remedies for different diseases," some Party leaders and government officials will be "educated and warned," and some "with serious problems" will be "investigated and punished" (Xi, 2014, p. 415).
The mass line educational campaign of the Party officially started on June 18, 2013. The campaign had two phases: the first phase being focused on provincial-level government and Party units, and the second phase targeting lower-level units including counties and cities. It officially ended in September 2014, and Xi Jinping gave a cloture speech on October 8, 2014 at a conference attended by all the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, and broadcast life to Party and government officials and military officers. Official results of the campaign are "astonishing both in terms of administrative simplification and the comprehensive crackdown on cadres' extravagance" (Doyon, 2014, p. 1). The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announces:
The number of official meetings has been reduced by 586,000, or nearly 25 percent; 162,629 phantom contracts (kongxiang dajun) have been removed from the government's payroll; the construction of 2,580 unnecessary official buildings was stopped; and 200,000 officials were punished after uncovering 380,000 cases of unjust implementation of public policies regarding the forced demolition of homes and medical care, among others. Overall, public expenditures on official receptions as well as cadres' vehicles and overseas trips were cut by 25.5 percent, or RMB 53 billion ($8.7 billion). (cited in Doyon, 2014, pp. 1-2)
Also, nearly 8,200 Party and government officials were punished for using public funds to pay for gifts or entertainment. All these numbers show that the campaign was quite successful in terms of fighting against the "four forms of decadence".
However, the end of the campaign is not the finishing point of Xi's advocacy for a closer relation between the Party and the people and better work styles for Party and government officials. Xi (2014) stated in the cloture speech on October 8, 2014,
Maintaining the Party's close ties with the people is a constant topic for study, and problems relating to conduct recur and persist.... As our first measure we should address pressing problems of keen concern to the people, and at the same time we should plan for the future and establish a long-term mechanism for encouraging Party members and officials to serve the people, be down-to-earth in their work, and upholding integrity in office." (p. 418)
Adhering to the mass line and maintaining close ties between the Party and the people will be one of the fundamental concerns and themes for the 18th CPC Central Committee headed by Xi Jinping. To regain the flesh-and-blood ties between the Party and people is the guarantee for an effective leadership Xi Jinping and his comrades are pursuing.
Yin (2016) suggests that the art of Xi Jinping' s leadership is reflected in his endeavor in improving the Party's and the government's governing ability in four aspects: regulating minds (li xin) which means to corroborate the ideal and belief, and to improve the moral cultivation; regulating speech (li yan) which means to cultivate language art and to emphasize dialectical thinking; regulating conduct (li xing) which means to adhere to the mass line and to pay attention to investigation; and regulating rules (li gui) which means to strengthen the construction of regulatory systems and to improve work styles (pp. 21-22). During the mass line educational campaign, Party and government officials were encouraged to cultivate their moral integrity and to firmly build up the sense of serving the people wholeheartedly. That's regulating minds. To avoid formalism, officials should not bury themselves in a mountain of paper work and a sea of meetings. Instead, they should go to the masses, conduct investigation, and communicate with them with a language they could understand well. That's regulating speech. All the Party leaders and government officials were required to adhere to a down-to-earth working style. They should work for people and meanwhile let people to judge their work. That's regulating conduct. Officials should follow a code of ethics for CPC cadres and other regulations to ensure clean practice in their work and prevent corruption. That's regulating rules. Thus, the mass line educational campaign of the Party was a comprehensive practice of Xi Jinping' s leadership in enhancing the governing ability of the Party and the government.
Mao Zedong's mass line, as the Party's lifeline and the basic approach to its work, was formed and developed from the combination of Marxism historical materialism and the concrete practices of Chinese revolution. In the war years, the CPC relied on the masses and mobilized them in fighting against all kinds of the enemies. In China's socialist construction and reform, the Party has also been adhering to its mass line, and its goal for "serving the people wholeheartedly" and "putting people first" has never been changed. Seeing the growing popular anger and resentment towards Party and government officials' malfeasance and corruption, realizing the serious problem of the Party's divorce from the broad masses and facing the danger of the possible collapse of the Party and the fall of the state, Xi Jinping and CPC Central Committee timely launched the mass line educational campaign of the Party. Xi's rhetoric clearly points out that the purposes of the campaign are to educate the Party and officials to remain close to the people, to serve the people wholeheartedly, to be down-to-earth in their work, and to uphold integrity in office; that the main task for the campaign is to promote Party's conduct through fighting the "four forms of decadence," i.e., formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance; and that the chief method used in this campaign is criticism and self-criticism, namely, self-purification, self-improvement, self-innovation and self-enhancement, or in a popular term, "examining oneself in the mirror, straightening one's clothes and hat, taking a bath, and treating one's disease." With the success of the 15-month-long austere campaign, Xi declared that the close of the campaign is not the end of good work styles. It is expected that maintaining the flesh-and-blood ties between the Party and the people will be a constant topic of Xi Jinping's leadership and that the momentum of improving Party's conduct will continue.
Dr. Shaorong Huang
Department of English and Communication
Blue Ash College
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH 45236
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Shaorong Huang, Renmin University of China, China & University of Cincinnati, USA
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|Publication:||China Media Research|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2016|
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