The Chinese Communist Party demands that its members cling to every word from the party’s general secretary, President Xi Jinping, and submit their thoughts to their superiors.
But for those who lack the time or the inclination to do so, the free enterprise spirit could come to the rescue with a service that allows them to buy ready-made studies of Xi’s comments.
A service advertised on WeChat, the country’s most popular social media platform, offers studies for as little as 28 yuan (US $ 4.30).
The man behind the service, who identified himself by his surname Wang, boasted that he already had a supply of writings on Xi’s July 1 speech to mark the party’s centenary.
The requirement that executives at all levels study the leader’s comments and submit their thoughts has become the norm in China’s top-down governance system, and since Xi came to power in 2012, a number of initiatives were launched to “unify thoughts within the party”. .
An app called Xuexi Qiangguo, or Study the Strong Nation, offers daily Xi thought tests with rewards offered to the most active users. Downloading and using the app is mandatory for the 95 million party members.
But enterprising autodidacts like Wang, who claimed to have a decade of experience in the official media, turned that motivation into lucrative ventures because many executives are either too busy or simply unwilling to perform these tasks.
Wang’s studies, all heavily loaded with party jargon, typically begin with an elaborate overview of Xi’s speech, contain an analysis of specific sections that are relevant to the client’s work, cast a pledge of loyalty, and then conclude by explaining how. the speech will inspire them in the future.
“Custom samples are available for officials at the township, county, municipal and provincial levels,” Wang said.
“They are also classified according to the different nature of their work, such as disciplinary commission, political and legal commission, organization department, Communist Youth League, tax, etc.
Wang claimed that his ever-growing archive contains more than 40,000 samples covering key leadership policies, including the latest party history education campaign, the campaign to “rectify” the Political Affairs Committee and legal, indications on how to respond to disciplinary checks, a summary of the annual work report and even self-criticisms.
For as little as 898 yuan (US $ 138) per year, members can access the entire archive. He said “dozens of people” buy his studies every day, and his clientele is mostly lower-ranking executives who “don’t have a secretary but have to submit a lot in writing.”
Wang is not alone. Hundreds of equally enterprising service providers tout their writing on major Chinese search engines and e-commerce portals.
Another ghost writer named Sun, who said he was a retired official from Shandong Province, said his prices started at 9.90 yuan. He declined to give his full name.
Sun said he gets a competitive advantage by providing a personalized writing service. “Tell me your function and the nature of the report, I will send you a tailor-made copy within 24 hours. The charges will depend on the detailed requirements,” he said.
“A lot of people find this useful, because their superiors or their inspectors can just do random checks on the submissions. Many have been arrested and punished for plagiarism.”
Unsurprisingly, the party takes a dim view of such practices and its disciplinary body has repeatedly warned against such practices, adding that some people have been arrested because they did not bother to suppress. the watermarks of the studies they had downloaded.
Those arrested face penalties ranging from a warning letter, to a face-to-face reprimand or a serious warning added to their personal file, which seriously affects their chances of promotion.
Many lower-ranking party members are tempted to take shortcuts because of their workload that leaves them “little room to breathe,” according to an employee named Chen from the Meisha sub-district in Shenzhen.
A recent Covid-19 outbreak in Yantian, a district that includes Meisha, had added to the pressure. “(There are) just too many reports to file, too many WeChat group messages to respond to, too many people to be tested,” the official said.
Chen said he watched Xi’s speech with other office workers on July 1, but they were “lucky to have an understanding boss” who didn’t ask them to return their thoughts until the second week. July.
Officials were finally allowed to step down on July 4, two weeks after discharge from hospital of all of Yantian’s Covid cases.
But Chen insisted that he didn’t need to use a template to write his latest study because he had written hundreds of articles for his bosses, adding, “I know how to handle the formula.”
Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said this phenomenon exists everywhere, China’s top-down Leninist system makes it difficult to effectively control it.
“To minimize ‘formalism’ a government must provide the right incentive to its officials … ‘right’ incentives are a combination of an esprit de corps that formalism is underneath us because we are committed officials and a system of public accountability that encourages members of the public, who suffer the harmful effects of formalism, to report them and seek redress, ”Tsang said. “Neither one exists in the Chinese system.
“If it is only top-down Leninist control, it is about the effectiveness of that control. Xi may like to think that he has restored the party to the most powerful Leninist machinery, but it is clearly not powerful and efficient enough to contain the formalism to a manageable level.
“The fact that the executives tolerate their subordinates paying someone else to write official documents shows that they themselves do not really believe in the value of these documents. It shows a limit to the scope of Xi’s power. , even if he is committed to improving it. “
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