Thursday, November 06, 2014

A More Muscular Mass Line: Shan Gao on " Reshaping the leadership of People’s Democratic Dictatorship: Mass Line Education in a nutshell"

The mass line has been a central element of the Chinese Communist line for a long time.  But it has undergone significant development, especially in the first decades of the 21st century. 


But the mass line itself can be understood as containing two distinct dimensions.  One dimension is normative.  The mass line references the democratic obligation of the vanguard party to be responsive to the people as it moves society toward the achievement of a communist state.  That is inherent in the General Program of the Chinese Communist Party Constitution ("The Party follows the mass line in its work, 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. The biggest political advantage of the Party lies in its close ties with the masses while the biggest potential danger for it as a governing party comes from its divorce from them.").

But equally important, and perhaps more so since the 18th Communist Party Congress, has been its intra-Party and disciplinary dimensions. That is also inherent in the General Program of the Chinese Communist Party Constitution ("The Party's style of work and its maintenance of ties with the masses of the people are a matter of vital importance to the Party. The Party will establish a sound system for punishing and preventing corruption by fighting it in a comprehensive way, addressing both its symptoms and root cause and combining punishment with prevention, with the emphasis on prevention. The Party will persistently oppose corruption and step up efforts to improve its style of work and uphold integrity." ). In this aspect, the mass line serves as a disciplinary technique, a measure of the responsiveness of party cadres to the people and a standard against which to measure corruption, an important element of f Xi Jinping's Five Key Points on Chinese Rule of Law (see HERE). 
The upcoming education campaign, including cracking down on undesirable work styles, will bring a closer tie between the Party and the people, the editorial says.

Undesirable work styles, such as formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance, are like an invisible wall that cuts off the Party from the people, depriving the CPC of people foundation, it says.

Faced with the challenges in the new era, all CPC members should carry forward the glorious tradition of arduously struggle and make exemplary conducts, it adds. (People's Daily editorial stresses stronger ties with masses, Xinhua, July 1, 2013)

This post highlights a short essay produced by Shan Gao, a member of the research team at the Coalition for Peace and Ethics, that considers the current form of mass line education among party cadres.  The essay,  
-->Reshaping the leadership of People’s Democratic Dictatorship: Mass Line Education in a nutshell, looks in more detail at the shape and content of the current mass line education campaign.  While the effects appears solely aimed at Party discipline, its effects will likley be widely felt throughout Chinese society and business. 

Reshaping the leadership of People’s Democratic Dictatorship: Mass Line Education in a nutshell
Shan Gao


Since the new administration of 18th Central Committee of CPC, there is a visible shift of Party work from emphasizing the governing power of the democratic dictatorship into emphasizing what qualify as proper execution of democratic dictatorship. The party leader understand that undesired working style and illegal or malpractice during the execution are the real elephant in room that deteriorate people-party ties and destabilized governing power , thus reshaping the leadership became an imminent theme for this administration. The lunch of Anti-Corruption campaign and the current Mass Line Education campaign focused on improving public perception of party leadership through two aspects: prosecute illegal and malpractice conducts by party members; exposed and intervene problems of working and life style. Both of the campaigns revealed party intent to reshape the leadership in the short term and reinstall law and orders in the long term.

The background of the Mass Line Education

For the past few years, China’s glamourous urban transformation and Chinese corporations’ high profile global presentations have been shadowed by the rising social issues of rich-poor gap, bureaucracy, pollution, justice and corruption. The growing public outcry and great expectations for deep reform put China’s social transition and achievements under global spotlights and then casted severe criticisms and doubts on Chinese government as well as its social-political system. These attention and criticisms are like gloomy clouds, which concerned party’s new administration, as party leader Xi put this way “winning or losing public support is an issue that concerns the CPC’s survival or extinction… the CPC can only be stable when it maintains a single mind and shares weal and woe with the people, as well as relies on the people to push forward historical advancement.[1]

Since the 18th central committee of CPC, the imminent focus of the new administration is to transform Public’s perception of the Party, and more importantly, Party member’s perception on Party’ leadership. This is an enchanted topic that both western and china unresolved: how to carry out vanguard party’s leadership to governing a socialist state. The new administration intent to fix some problems within its system and ideology work, which is an uneasy project requires necessary institutional reforms as well as some ideology production that premised on the level of state, society and individual person.

The lunch of ideology campaign “Chinese Dream[2]” and “Socialist Core Value[3]” are the perfect examples showed new administration’s intention of rising social awareness on the modernized vision of socialist state. The new vision involved elements such as economy prosperity, social justice and personal virtue. Every Chinese are expected to learn these new elements of socialist state from every possible way: large banner of “Chinese Dream” and “Socialist Core Value” has been displayed in every outdoor billboards nationwide, even shared space with regular commercial post.

(From Left, “Chinese Dream, after all, is the dream of the people. We must realize it by closely depending on the people. We must incessantly bring benefits to the people. Realizing the great renewal of the Chinese nation is the greatest dream for the Chinese nation in modren history.” Quote Xi jinping)

(Right, “Socialist Core Vallue: (State) prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, (Society) freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, (Person) patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship”)

Besides large scale propaganda works try to reshape public’s perception on modernized notion of socialist state, other campaigns were set up to re-educate Party cadres and members with correct understanding on Party’s leadership. The lunch of the anti-corruption campaign[4] with the restructure of Central Discipline and Inspection agency and the lunch of nationwide Mass Line Education campaign both led to party’s effort on reshaping the party’s leadership and working style. If the anti-corruption campaign concerns the legitimacy of party members’ execution of power, then the nation-wide Mass Line Education campaign put great weight on reeducate party members for the quality and efficiency of such execution.

On June 18, Xi JInping proclaimed the year-long Mass Line Education Campaign in Beijing, which designed to “thoroughly reshape Party members’ working style” with the focus of rekindling a strong ties with people. As the CCTV webpage provided that:

“’Mass line’ refers to a guideline under which CPC officials and members are required to prioritize the interests of the people and persist in representing them and working on their behalf. The one-year educational campaign was launched in June by China´s leaders to boost ties between CPC officials, members and the people, while cleaning up undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance.[5]

The Education campaign is also a reinforcement on the tightening party discipline and regulation in order to reshape party officials’ revolutionary image, Xinhua news cited Xi’s words: “Party should take the campaign as a chance to introduce new rules, improve existing ones, and nullify outdated regulations.” Thus, the operation of Anti-Corruption campaign and Mass Line Education campaign could be considered together as a “house cleaning” that try to sweep away undesired party member and their working style in order to reshape their leadership.

What is Mass Line Education?

On May 9th, Central Committee of CPC issue Opinions on Strictly Implement the Mass Line Education, which detailed the significances of having mass line education, the main tasks and objectives. According to the Opinion, Party cadres and members above county levels[6]” (a group of party members who normally holding higher ranking posts in government, SOEs and other social organizations) shall participant the one year education program.

Unlike anti-corruption campaign targets the illegal and malpractice of party cadres and members, mass line education campaign has very specific goal that targeted the working and life style of party members: against undesired working style in order to improve people’s satisfaction on the work of party cadres and members, against extravagant spending in order to improve the public image of the party. Xi’s keynote on May 9th summarized this object as “fight against formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance; fulfilling the requirements of serving the people, being down-to earth, upright and corruption-free; making efforts to solve outstanding problems and firmly grasping the basic principles.[7]

The education campaign advice party members “watching from the mirror, grooming oneself, taking a bath and seeking remedies.” A metaphor of “self-purification, self-perfection, self-renewal and self-progression,” which requiring three stages of a one year education program. These stages designed to identify, confess and intervene some of the most undesired working and life style problems of the party members. The stages are: “study and communication, applying education material and Identify problems in the work, and Correct problems and introduce norms.” As the below diagram shows:

This three stage process designed to reeducate party cadres and members with correct understanding of their duties and responsibilities as a member of vanguard party and how to properly carry out these duties in order to satisfy the needs of the people.

How does Mass Line Education Campaign organized?

According to the data from, the first round education campaign focus on the more than 17 million Party cadres and members from the central committee of CPC level and provincial level. The second round focuses on more than 69 million party cadres and members above the county level[8]. In order to efficiently carry out a nation-wide education program on this scale, the campaign has been organized in hierarchy manner with a temporary working system that affiliate with the party organization.

As the above diagram showed, the headquarters of the education campaign is a temporary organ, “Mass Line Education Campaign Leading Work Group Office (hereafter the Office),” which carries out the day to day operation of the education work under its jurisdiction. The Office is led by Party secretary from higher ranking Party Committee, thus when higher ranking Party secretary finished their education through the first round of the program, they are eligible to charge the Office and direct the education program for his or her lower level Party colleagues. Other members of the Office is selected from the Party organization within the entity by local or central Party Committee. For example, in order to lunch an education program for all the government agencies and departments at city district level, a Leading Work Group Office is needed to be installed with the aid of district party committee. The party secretary of the district government would be the director of the Office, while senior officers and junior government employees would be selected to fulfill other duties to run the Office.

Three major sectors and other sectors had been set up to run specific area of education campaign. The General sector designs study activities and responses for the coordination and communication between different study groups that participated the education program. General sector reports to Office director and take out instructions or decisions made by the director. The propaganda sector promotes and publishes the study program or activity during the education campaign. The Inspection group is the most important one, which monitors the study quality of the participators under its assigned jurisdictions. They would closely oversee the operation of education program by sending their liaison officer to inspect study activity during the three stages. In practice, each inspector sector from the Office would oversee about 7-8 study groups.

Read, Confess and Intervene: Three Stage of Education Campaign

As previously suggested, the one year education program has three stages with different objectives. The first one is a study and opinion session that educate party members with party values, principles and socialism theory. The second stage is an admission and confession session: based on what you learnt from the previous stage, admit your weakness and wrongdoings in work and personal life. The third stage is a correction session that party members provide solutions to those identified issues. The entire three stages is a huge project that directed by the Office and overseen by the Organization Department of CPC.

Study reading materials is the core of the first stage. There are six books that been universally used during the education campaign, which are three white books, one blue book, one red book and one book on socialist evolution theory. The three white books are:

1. Strict Implementation of frugal and thrifty style, and Anti Waste: Anthology of Important Words from Leaders by Party Literature Research Office;

2. Selected Works On Mass Line, by Party Literature Research Office;

3. Selected Studying Materials for CPC Mass Line Education Program by Mass Line Education Campaign Central Leading Work Group Office;

The first two books are the anthology from previous and current party leaders’ instructions, orders and speeches on topics of Mass Line and anti-extravagancy, both of which had been structured in a chronologic order[9]. The third white book wholly devoted to selected speeches of Xi Jinping since the 18th congress of CPC with great focus on promoting the party working ethic and party members’ responsibilities to the party, people, and nation. Unlike previously published anthology by central propaganda department that omit the Xi’s speech on commemorate 30 anniversary of 1982 Constitution, this publication titled with “selected studying materials” not only included “Xi Jinping commemorated the 30th anniversary of China’s 1982 Constitution” but also “carefully study the Party Constitution and strictly follow it.”

(Three White Books: Selected speeches and instructions from previous and current party leaders on the Mass Line, anti-extravagancy and selected speeches by Xi Jinping on certain important issues)

The red book and blue book are two case studies that focus on good example and bad examples of party cadres’ behavior in their work. The Blue Book, or Case Study on Endangerment of Mass Interest, it listed some of the most high profile cases involved with mass petition and mass protest as examples to show how official’s wrongful conducts and misperception of the power would cause massive social grievance. For example, some citation of the book from the public provides that:

“The first and foremost question of the mass line education is about value, which Party cadres have to reconsidering who they are working for… some party cadres has misconception on their ruling power. Party cadres cannot always consider their power is come from party or his superior. In fact, our power come from the people. [10]

The Redbook, on the other hand listed all good example of party cadre behavior and working style that defend and promote people’s interest[11].

(Blue Book and Red Book, showing good example and bad example of party cadre’s working style)

The last book is Global Socialism in Five Hundred Years (Party Cadres Edition) by Central Propaganda Department Theory Bureau[12]. Unlike other books focus on the mass line and party cadres’ work and life style, this book concentrate on one topic: the evolution of socialism under the time frame of five centuries. It has six chapters, one epilogue and one postscript. The first four chapters devoted to the evolution of socialism in foreign land. Follow a chronological order, the writer introduced the origination of utopian socialism ideal in 16th century, the creation of Marxist-Engle’s Socialist Theory, and the establishment of Lenin State, the rise and fall of soviet state and other Eastern Europe socialist state. Chapter five and six focuses on the development of socialism in China with conclusion that socialism with Chinese characteristics would bring great prosperity for future china. The epilogue further concludes the historical trend of replacing capitalism with socialism and firm opinion on China’s unique socialism. In summary, this is a book about socialism and socialist faith, designed to reeducate party member for their socialist belief.

(Global Socialism in Five Hundred Years (Party Cadres Edition) by Central Propaganda Department Theory Bureau, Xuexi Publishing House, Dangjian Duwu Publishing House. A book about socialism and socialist faith, designed to reeducate party member for their socialist belief.)

The reading materials are the only one part of learning process, the education program also provided documentaries, study conference, and group discussions. The inspection sector of the Office would go examine the quality of the study activity by showing up without any advance notice.

After fair amount of time of the learning stage, participants of Mass Line Education are required to participate confession and self-reflection sessions. At this stage, the party cadres and members are expected to admit their personal wrongdoings and weakness for extravagancy life style. Just as the previous stage, the inspect sector of the Office would show up at the session without advance notice. Participants are required to admit these problems through the form of oral debates with other party members and written statements that handle to the Office for review. The subsectors of the Office would carefully review these written statements in accordance with specific sets of principles and requirements. When party cadres’ statement not satisfy certain evaluating criteria, even formatting issue, he or she need to revise and resubmit the statement. Frequent revise for “6 or 9 times” is quite normal as one junior employee of the Party Organization said. Although insubordinate and uncooperative behavior is highly unlikely, the subsector in fact lacks technics to verify the facts of submitted statements.

The criticism part of this session could be carried out in various forms. For some study group, this is like sending out customer review questionnaires, except the “customer” here are the people that they serve. Sometimes, the criticism could be organized in the form of Democratic Life Meeting, as some foreign experts noticed[13]. More importantly, the criticism session is not an exclusive close door or internal session. The education campaign provides open door sessions, designed to improve the transparency of party work by inviting people to participate the process and submit their complaints to the party cadres. During the first round of mass line education in last September, Hebei Provincial Party Committee Democratic Meeting had been aired on national TV[14] at prime time. Thus, inviting people to join the meeting and submit complaints became a standard process within the education program.

(Left: On September 25, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) aired a 24-minute segment about a recent self-criticism session by party officials in Hebei Province at prime time of evening news. This unusual move of high officials’ public confession had raise speculations on the exercise of left Maoism[15].)

(Right: Local Municipal Government Democratic Meeting invited representatives from people, party members and other cadres[16].)

The last stage of the education program is the session of assessing and correcting issues, and establishing prevention mechanism. At this stage, party cadres and members are required to submit reports to Inspector group showing they correct their problems. The subsectors from the Office would assess these reports, file the dock and provide comments to the study groups. All those files will be collected and reevaluated by special committee for the purpose of final report. The end of education program at each level is marked by the publication of such report at a specific conference.


Unlike Anti-Corruption Campaign that investigated and prosecuted illegal or malpractice conducts by party cadres and members, the Mass Line Education Campaign mainly reeducate party members for undesired working or life style. Substantial punishments are not the purpose of the campaign. Although insubordinate or uncooperative behavior is highly unlikely during the program, workers from Organizational Department admitted they lacks man power and technic to verify whether problems had been truly exposed and whether exposed problems would be properly fixed. Despite this flaw within the education program, the leader did emphasize after the year-long program, regulations and rules shall be installed in order to maintain long term order and quality of party working style.

By inviting the commons, and reintroducing party values and principles, the Party wish to expose and intervene problems, so its members and cadres could reshape their working style and revolutionary images to improve the connections with the people. At the end of the day, the lunch of Anti-Corruption Campaign and the Mass Line Education Campaign both suggested new Party Committee intent to reshape vanguard party’s leadership by reinforce revolutionary values, principles and modernized ideology works on socialism. Both campaigns are perfect example showing the new party committee wish to start reform from the party and party discipline first. Precisely those old thinking and old habits that halt a substantial reform.


[1] Xinhua News, Xi: Upcoming CPC campaign a "thorough cleanup" of undesirable practices, June 18, 2013, see

[2] Xinhua News, Profile: Xi Jinping: Pursuing dream for 1.3 billion Chinese, March 16, 2013, see

[3] Xinhua News, Xi stresses core socialist values, Feb 2, 2014,see

[4] Xinhua News, No ending for CPC anti-corruption war, April 25, 2014, see

[5] About Mass Line Campaign,

[6] CCTV News, Xi orders spicing-up of China's anti-graft campaign, March 19, 2014, see

[7] CCTV News, Xi: Upcoming CPC campaign a "thorough cleanup" of undesirable practices, June 18, 2013, see

[8] CPC News, Diagram Explaining the Mass Line Education, Oct 8. 2014, see

[9] Party Literature Research Office, Strict Implementation of frugal and thrifty style, and Anti Waste: Anthology of Important Words from Leaders, Central CPC Literature Publishing House. The preface provided that:

“[I]n response to Xi’s criticism on the ‘extravagant spending and waste on Dinners and Banquets’…we selected some Party cadres’ important instructions on anti-extravagant spending: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zeming, Hu Jingtao, Xi Jinping, Zhen Enlai, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, and Chen Yun for your Mass Line Education study.”

Selected Works On Mass Line, by Party Literature Research Office, Central CPC Literature Publishing House and Party Building Books Publishing House. The preface provided that:

2013 June: This book is specifically designed for Mass Line Education Campaign, which selected Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zeming, Hu Jingtao and Xi Jinping’s discussion on the mass line and historical materialism with great focus on “serve the people” and “being competent and incorruptible”


[11]各地联系服务群众经验做法选编, 中央党的群众路线教育实践活动领导小组办公室

[12] Webpage introducing Global Socialism in Five Hundred Years, see CPC News,

[13] Jerome Doyon, The End of the Road for Xi’s Mass Line Campaign: An Assessment, Oct 28, 2014, see

[14] Hebei Party Secretary criticized by its peers on national TV, September 27,

[15] Party’s TV ‘self-criticism’ and militant rhetoric raise specter of Maoism, Oct 9, 2013, see

[16] 市委组织部召开党的群众路线教育实践活动征求意见座谈会, April 1,

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