Chinese President Xi Jinping’s secret in Giving Priority to mass line campaignPosted: May 4, 2017
This is the article I promised to write in my previous post “Xi Jinping’s Balancing Art” to elaborate on Xi’s secret goal in conducting his mass line campaign.
CCP’s Real Crisis of Survival
“Being divorced from the masses of the people” is Xi Jinping’s euphemism for local officials turning CCP into the people’s enemy. Local despots’ infringement on people’s rights and interests gave rise to tens of thousands of people’s protests each year. There is statistics from investigation that before Xi took over the reign there were in China more than one hundred thousand incidents of mass protest to protect their rights every year.
CCP has set up agencies of letters and calls at various levels for petitioners to submit their complaints and provide remedy for them, but local agencies failed to provide remedy for people’s petitions. On the contrary, they mostly shielded the officials whose misconducts had been exposed by petitioners and tried hard to silence complaints and even persecuted petitioners. That was why lots of petitioners went to central agency of letters and calls to lodge their complaints.
Local despots set up black jails in Beijing to round up petitioners and persecuted them to silence them. If a petitioner persisted in petitioning, they imprisoned him in a local reeducation-through-labor camp without any legal procedures. People were forced to take to the streets to protest. However, instead of understanding and making allowance for people’s complaints, local governments sent armed police to suppress protesters with the excuse of maintaining stability. The masses of the people, though silenced by violence, remained indignant. Their indignation might erupt any time and would be impossible to suppress like volcano eruptions. That was the greatest threat faced by CCP at that time; therefore, for CCP, rectification of the malpractice of “being divorced from the masses” was instead the most important.
That was why Xi closed black jails and rectified CCP’s letter and calls agencies as soon as he took over the reign. He said that his second task was to abolish the reeducation-through-labor system. In spite of strong resistance from police and local governments, he succeeded in abolishing the system on December 28, 2013, one year after he was elected CCP general secretary.
Xi has thus removed the obstacles to people’s fight against local officials’ malpractices including corruption. Xi knows well that he shall not entirely deprive officials of their authority as the official system will be unable to operate without authority, but there must be people’s power to balance officials’ power, i.e. people shall have the power to inspect officials so that officials have to perform their obligations without abusing their authority.
In addition, Xi has been improving China’s legal system for the rule of law so that people have the last resort to use law to protect their rights and interests. That is why Xi wants China’s legal system to be independent. Some China watchers have insight that China’s legal system cannot be independent from CCP. Certainly, Xi only wants it to be independent from officials so that the legal system can help the masses of people inspect officials.
From the above we can see that Xi Jinping’s mass line education campaign is in fact a campaign of democratic supervision. However, Xi avoided the use of the wording that despotic officials have turned CCP into enemy of the people as that will be too sensational. Nor did he mention democracy as due to the Tiananmen Protests most conservatives hate the mentioning of democracy and regard it as what the West exploits for regime change. Xi is wise to avoid debate with conservatives over democracy. What he cares is the actual result instead of the wording in that campaign.
From Xi’ closing of black jails and abolishment of the reeducation-through-labor system, we must already be aware that Xi had a plan long ago to use the power of the masses of people to balance that of the vested-interest group of officials. With such a balance, he can make his official system serve the masses of people satisfactorily.
The mass line campaign has indeed brought fundamental changes to China’s official system. Before the campaign, people waited in long queue to go through some official formalities in government offices but the officials dealing with the formalities worked slowly while chatting joyfully. There were no such scenes in government offices now. Having been severely criticized by the masses of people, government staff now has to work diligently without chatting or doing anything else.
That is but the work style of lowest ranking officials. Can Xi touch the work style of high officials? High officials were criticized much more severely and the inspection teams sent by Xi to local governments focused on the work style of high officials especially top province-level officials. Most of the top officials were taken by surprise as they believed that Xi would instead conduct a nationwide anti-corruption campaign. Most of them did not worry as they were not corrupt. Xi however conducted a mass line education campaign that focused on their work style such as dealing with masses of people’s petitions and protests, extravagance in the ceremonies, receptions, visits, etc. such as the use of red carpet, decoration of lots of flowers, let alone the attending of luxurious banquets and drinking of expensive liquors.
A provincial head had great trouble when he had been seen having a subordinate holding an umbrella to keep rain away from him during his visit of a work site in the open. Such irregularities were very common but high officials found themselves in great trouble for such minor issues. As a result, Xi’s mass line campaign became a real purgatory for officials ranking high and low.
In this way, Xi has attained his secret goal of removing official despotism that he calls being divorced from the people and regards as the greatest threat to CCP’s survival. In addition, he has broken officials’ resistance to the nationwide anti-corruption campaign he was to carry out after the mass line campaign. The greatest secret goal he has achieved is the establishment of democratic supervision of officials by the masses of people. Only democratic supervision can provide long-term insurance for removal of corruption and purification of China’s official system.
Certainly, what Xi has done is but a beginning. There shall be lots more efforts to consolidate masses of people’s power of democratic supervision.
Article by Chan Kai Yee