Party members complain of modern-day struggle sessions

And who can blame them? I thought the days of Mao were over.

China must be the fastest-changing society on earth. Yet those who oversee the Communist Party want the change to be on their terms. They want to preserve the old ways that have ensured that this highly centralised and secretive organisation has maintained its control over 1.3 billion people for more than half a century.

But grumbling is to be heard even at the grassroots of the party, and the latest source of the discontent among the party faithful has been a nine-month “education campaign” that ended this week.

Party members have been required to study a series of secret documents. They had to stop work for days to attend classes and group discussions.

They were required to put down their own views, a practice that conjures up the self-criticisms of the ultra-leftist days of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. This had to be done in longhand: using a computer was forbidden lest participants delegated the job to tech-savvy children or e-mail each other a pro-forma essay.

Party members complained that they were ordered to come to work more than an hour early or stay late to join study sessions. Many pretended to be abroad or out of town. Most were banned from unnecessary travel. “Maintaining the education of the advanced nature of Communist Party members” was the campaign’s less than catchy title, and even after nine months few party members could explain what it meant.

That’s almost as awkward as the Three Represents. China is still such an anomaly, one foot striving to enter the modern age, another deeply mired in the idiocies of Mao’s failed past.

The Discussion: 33 Comments

I am not sure if the funding of this kind of complete waste of time is from CCP’s own pocket or from the state. The sad thing is no one can tell the difference between the two.

July 2, 2005 @ 10:31 pm | Comment

Why do you call it “struggle sessions”? Doesn’t sound anything like the struggle sessions of old.

July 2, 2005 @ 11:58 pm | Comment

The article makes the comparison.

July 3, 2005 @ 12:05 am | Comment

It is very difficult for me to believe that the government is still praticing this kind of nonesense (considering much has changed for the better in Chinese society). Three Represents, in my opinion, is the most stupid thing China has in the last few years (I though there was not talk on this since Jiang stpped down).


July 3, 2005 @ 12:22 am | Comment

I wish, for the sake of my OCD, the Communist Party would just admit that China is not Communist, has never been Communist, but isn’t even trying anymore. Just let a full multi-party democracy in already. It’s driving me crazy. I mean, NOBODY believes the bullshit anymore. It’s just useless oppression. China has become such an advanced country; it’s sad it’s still stuck under a regime that just isn’t right for that.

July 3, 2005 @ 1:06 am | Comment

Another aspect of this campaign people joke about:

The full name is 保持共产党员先进性教育活动 (translation given in Richard’s quotation), where 先进性-教育 is “education of the advanced nature…”

With a different word-segmenting, it becomes 先进-性教育, “advanced sexual education”

July 3, 2005 @ 2:53 am | Comment

i guess the things desribed here did happen somewhere in china.

i’ve been away for beijing for quite some time. according my colleagues back home, they did use computer writing their essays; what they learnt were mostly people’s daily editorials (which were boring, i guess, but they are not secret documents); they don’t do extended sessions for group discussions which take up within normal working hour (though of course you can argue that time should be devoted to work that actually produces value), etc.

these, for me, represent more evidences how a policy/instruction from the centre is translated into utterly different practices in different locations or organisations. those badly managed, like described in this post, undoubtedly hurt the credibility of such campaigns.

July 3, 2005 @ 6:04 am | Comment


China government can not just admits (or pretends) China is not longer a communist country. The fact is that it is still a communist country. The government acts very much likes a communist country.



July 3, 2005 @ 9:38 am | Comment

I agree with Renxu, China is still communist. At the same time, it is also a third world country.

July 3, 2005 @ 9:44 am | Comment

communist? not completely. Not with Haier a free, private corporation. China is in the midst of ideological chaos, I would say, with incompetent socialist programs, communist farmers and a highly capitalist, unregulated nightmare of private enterprise. Haier seems like a good company, but the real estate development has been a nightmare for the communist farmers.

July 3, 2005 @ 10:33 am | Comment

Laowai, greetings! What do you mean with “completely communist”? Stalinism? Cultural Revolution? Khmer Rouge?
Is Haier a free, private, corporation? Why is it attacked in the Wall Street Journal as dangerous communist element?
What is ideological chaos? If people stop thinking uniformly?
What is competent socialist programme? Sweden? Germany? France? Or Canada? Why not India, South Africa?
If you call Chinese farmers communist, then what is capitalist farmer? Those in the U.S.. Why not those those in Columbia, or the Philiphines?
If China is a highly capitalist, unregulated nightmare, then what is just so capitalist as desired, nicely regulated, sweet dream of private enterprise? The U.S., Hong Kong, Britain? Why not India, Haiti, or Nigeria?
Haier seems good, at least presently. But what if it failed? The Doomday of the Chinese economy?
The real estate development is a nightmare for the communist farmers. Indeed. But what’s the alternative? Let urbanites continue their urbanization on the moon? Or let farmer farm on their tiny piece of land for ever while watching it being devided smaller and smaller between their children?

July 3, 2005 @ 11:23 am | Comment

Communism has political and economic elements. Politically, China is still very much a Communist country. Economically, it is semi-free and Communist at the same time. Wherever a free market can achieve goals the State/Party wants, it is allowed. Wherever the results will hurt the Party, it is not allowed. Thus SOEs can sell 30% of their shares, but the other 70% is owned by the State. They’ll take people’s money, but not give them control. They allow a free market where they want it and when they want it, but it’s hardly ever a real free market. By definition a free market has no one in control. The CCP is very much in control. However, as I like to say, the trend is your friend. The trend is liberalization and until it’s reversed I’d have to say they are on a path to capitalism and democracy.

July 3, 2005 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

Chaos, because it isn’t purely any of those things.

Haier is private, isn’t it? That’s what I read. They shrugged off the CCP trying to get them to buy up some failing steel initiative or something. COONC is not public, but I was pretty sure Haier is. Why wallstreet is so scared? don’t know. There’s a sort of “China scare” floating around the states, but I think it’s over-rated.

What do I mean as completely communist? Well, there’s not been a tremendously good example, since no one has gotten past the dictatorship of the proletariat to communism, but I’d say that earlier China was much more communist, when they didn’t have the three represents, before Deng, when everyone was part of Baojia and it was “communal-ist” as opposed to the race-to-get-rich we see now. There is still central planning, yes, but that’s not entirely indicative of communist. Just that planning is central.

Competent Socialist programmes? I’m not convinced there are any at the moment, but most of them are incompetent for totally different reasons than China. Most make people lazy – hence the high unemployment rates in Europe. China’s health care system has been failing poor people left and right.

Ideological chaos is when the government tells farmers that they can’t own the land, and then a corrupt low level official kicks them off and sells it to a private development for lots of money – and the private development CAN own the land. Or more formally than the farmers. That is ideological chaos. It’s a split between some old style thinking and new style thinking. And it’s in this split that people are taken advantage of.

I shouldn’t say unregulated. I should say ineffectively regulated. Check out my post on my site about pollution in china. 3/4 of the cities studied in a recent Nature article have air quality above acceptible limits. Do regulations exist? yes. Are the followed effectively? No.

What is nicely regulated? It doesn’t matter what is. I’m not saying “the US is Great and China is BAD.” I’m pointing out that China is, in fact, killing its people by not enforcing regulations. That, hopefully, raises as much anger in you as it does in me. There’s no reason for allowing industrial waste to be dumped into water supplies.

I also never said it was highly capitalist. Some parts are and some aren’t. China present is stretched over its past and its future – both exist.

You know what the solution to the real estate development is? Give the farmers their FAIR due. If the land is worth so much, give the farmers that much, and don’t let the stupid fricking official keep it. It pisses me off so much to see exploitation like this.

Why did I call the farmers communist? not for ideology, and it’s not a value judgement – i’m not saying they are BAD (I actually like communism in some ways) I’m just saying that they aren’t really part of the free market. They don’t own their land, they live in collectives etc. They are communist, much more than more “modern” china because of their life-style, which hasn’t been as renovated as the city life.

It happens in the states too. The F*cking coal companies are cashing in on land mining rights that they more or less tricked illiterate people into signing away 80 years ago, and now they are going around blasting mountains into smithereens in West Virginia, one of the most bio-diverse temperate rainforests in the world. It’s total exploitation and should be stopped.

Leo, I’m not saying China is BAD for any of these reasons, I’m just saying that China is in tremendous transition, and isn’t really communist. It’s still authoritarian, but not communist.

What I will say is really awful is the inability to treat people fairly and compensate them fairly in many of these land developments. And I don’t really want to hear the “what else is there to do?” argument. I think there are lots of things to do, but people just want to do it as cheaply as possible, and so they F*ck over the poor farmers.

July 3, 2005 @ 12:15 pm | Comment

Oh god my posts are getting as long as MAJ and Dr. Myers’

forgive me.

I feel for poor evicted peasants.

July 3, 2005 @ 12:16 pm | Comment

There’s a difference Laowai, I actually DIDN’T mind reading the above long post!

July 3, 2005 @ 12:58 pm | Comment

Yeah, Laowai, great post. I especially liked the part about “ideological chaos.” Another term for this I think is “cognitive dissonance.” The government is saying that reality is THIS way and their policies mean THIS, but what actually goes on challenges those assertions on a near-constant basis. If you try to deal with the conflict by pretending it isn’t there, it will make you crazy, and if you acknowledge it, it can make you very angry. Which I think is why we are seeing so many riots in China, some of which have been provoked by seemingly trivial things.

It’s never about what it’s about.

Just as here, we have our President once again doing his “9/11 means we fight in Iraq, and things are going better, and Saddam really was a threat,” etc., routine. And people just aren’t buying it any more. It goes against the reality of their own experiences.

Who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes, in other words?

July 3, 2005 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

Chaos, because it doesn’t fit in any of your pigeonholed, textbook style, conceptions.
Is Haier private? I checked their website, which cannot explain much.
But CEO Zhang is the party boss of the company. This is a sign. I must admit I am not sure. Today in China a lot of enterprises act against administrative decrees, in the meantime a lot of private enterprises do what the government tells. Even a village mayor can do whatsoever he pleases without any regards to the Party or the state, why not a manager?
When I say China is communist. You retorts China is not completely communist, which is why I ask you what is THE communism in full programme. Now you tell me China was much more communist before Jiang, and much much more before Deng, which sounds plausible. But I can also argue with the facts that it is just recent a social welfare system is in part established (no more restricted to a bunch of governmental and SOE employees), and that more public service is available, which is also commonly supposed to be essence of communism.
Originally I thought you were arguing that there is no good socialist programme in China. Now it is clear to me you are arguing against the point that there is any socialist programme. OK, you are not interested in public health care, public unemployment insurance, public pension but a lot of people, whether in the West or elsewhere, are still advocating it. Then you said China’s public health care is failing. The fact is that the so-called social welfare, which was bound with employer and available to only a fraction of the population, has been dissolved, and is slowly replaced with a new one, which some say is modelled after the Scandinavian countries but is also much closer to the soviet model than the previous one. This replacing process is very slow but happening and already completely or partly accomplished in areas like the Pearl and Yangtze Deltas, Beijing, Shengyang, Fujian, Jiangxi, and is expanding. Of course, you can still call it failing as it is not in the position, for example, to pay your medical bill as generously as even the much battered British system. But a dozen of dollars per year also help, and I haven’t heard any other countries at the similar development stage is implementing a comparable policy.
Regarding the land use, yes, not allowing farmer to own land is an ideological issue, but kicking them out of land with no due compensation is not prescribed by the ideology. It is lawlessness, and lawlessness is not a part of the communist ideology. On the contrary to your supposition, developers CANNOT own any land. They have to pay rents and tax to lease it. If they fail to do so, the state will confiscate the land lawfully. The fuss about the communist public ownership is widespread in the West, which is, regretfully, largely not true. The public ownership of land claimed by the PRC government has been in part inherited from the former RoK goverment, partly caused by the land reform and followed land collectivision, or left by the refugees whose right has been waived after a certain period of time. So today you still can see small pieces of land owned by the private persons in the old urban areas and in the meantime you still can hear cases in which oversea Chinese are reclaiming the ownership to various properties in the governmental possession. In legal terms the general conditions in China is not drastically different to those in the U.S.. The difference is only that China is no more ready to sell any pieces of land already in the public possession to private person. And this is also justifiable, at least presently. For, although farmers are locked on the land, the government is obliged to provide them with a minimal support. What if the government let them own the land? Supposedly, if farmers sell their land, they can earn a start capital, which is true if in a country with abundant land supply and a sparse population such as in the U.S. or Russia. But this won’t work in China as the land supply is short and the land population is huge. The small area to sell and the huge population wants to sell will cause land to be sold at a minimal rate. On the other hand, the existent industry and service are already struggling in absorbing the present urban working force, and they are obviously not going to take up the new population. Further more, the present pay rate, which is already minimalist, will be crashed in the face of the drastic working force surplus. There will be slums and mass unemployment and serious social conflicts. In the face of such problems, the much loathed public land ownership and hukou system, however looking unhuman, is providing a practical valve.
I have to say I don’t care whether you think China is good or China is bad. The fact is only that the U.S. is GOOD! But if the US is not going to issue a poor Chinese farmer a green card, or even better, a citizenship, as she once did to the European farmers in the similar dire situation, then the aforementioned fact is really not very much relevant to all the issues we are talking.

July 3, 2005 @ 4:00 pm | Comment

Sorry, the “RoK” is actally meant with “RoC”.

July 3, 2005 @ 4:41 pm | Comment


The Haier Group is a state-owned company.

(I read the book “The Haier Way” about CEO Zhang Ruimin as he’s a great man).

One of his first acts as CEO in 1984 was to pile up nearly one hundred fridges which had failed the quality control check in front of the workers and smash them to pieces with a sledgehammer!

‘The Haier Way’ TPD Amazon link:

July 3, 2005 @ 5:00 pm | Comment

Martyn, thanks for the information.

July 3, 2005 @ 6:32 pm | Comment

No probs Leo but I better just clarify that the Haier Group’s legal ownership status is slightly ambiguous.

It’s legally called a “collective” as it was set up by a group of people employed by the state, however, the state has not “officially” asserted ownership of it BUT 100% of the profits are retained by the firm and all assets are held by the company (save for an insignificant minority share of a refrigerator subsidiary that are publicly held).

Howver, the company “in spirit” is exactly the same as a state-owned firm and it definitely CANNOT be called a private company, never in a million years.

July 3, 2005 @ 6:56 pm | Comment

Yes, actually I know something about this story but there is no web resource to support it.
It is really nice of you to show up and testify!

July 3, 2005 @ 7:06 pm | Comment

I also think labelling such inconveniences to civil servants as “struggle sessions” is a disservice to the phrase and a misnomer. If you really want to see struggle sessions at work today, come to my school. You wouldn’t believe what I have to go through! The paperwork! The senseless meetings that go on and on and on… And having idiots as your ‘coordinator’…. Don’t get me started. I mean, our ‘coordinator’is a lo

July 3, 2005 @ 9:02 pm | Comment


China is clearly a communist country; at least you can call them Wall-Street communists. What a single company (Haier is) has not much to do with the fact. People’s lifes are relatively free; but some of the old ideologies still works in the background and appears on the surface from now and then (how they handled SARS, for example).

China has come a long way from the old days. And most open-minded people will aknowledge the acomplishments that China has achieved in the last 2 decades (and the government plays a very important role). But when one learns that they are still praticing the study session of the old days, one has to be outragious. These study sessions aree absolute nonsense and poisons the minds of the Chinese people.

I think you are wrong to label Chinese farmer communists. Every one knows fully well, Chinese farmers are at the bottom of the society. The discrimation they face is much worse than the racial discrimation in this country.


July 3, 2005 @ 10:04 pm | Comment

Leo, I think you managed to completely misread my own personal beliefs, but that’s not really a problem. I’m a firm believer in giving the poor and disenfranchised help, and although I don’t think there is a great socialist system, this doesn’t mean I favour its absence.

Anyway, I take your points very well, but I’m confused as to if your belief is that I’m a staunch supporter of the US? I don’t believe the US is good, particularly. It doesn’t take care of its poor as well as Europe, Japan or Canada, and this area is important to me.

I’m not sure what you mean about land not being valuable in China – as in the bit about “Supposedly, if farmers sell their land, they can earn a start capital, which is true if in a country with abundant land supply and a sparse population such as in the U.S. or Russia. But this won’t work in China as the land supply is short and the land population is huge. The small area to sell and the huge population wants to sell will cause land to be sold at a minimal rate. ”

It seems to me that if developers are buying up land for lots of money that there is sufficient demand. Whether or not the farmers own the land, they should be compensated money in an amount that reflects the worth of the land to the developers. The government can tax this of course. But I think this is only fair.

I stick with my assessment of ideological chaos though. I’m not saying people are ideologically chaotic, but that China as a whole is. I think you’re dismissal of my assessment is a bit unfair, but it’s your right to do so if you like.

July 3, 2005 @ 10:49 pm | Comment

Oh, and renxu, what does communist have to do with discrimination? I think we might be using the word differently. My mom was a communist when she had a commune in West Virginia in her hippy days. When I use the word in this manner it is much less politically charged than when we discuss the CCP. Perhaps my use is unfamiliar to you? My only point was that the farmers are still living much like they did during the more communist days, whereas urban residents’ lives have changed more.

July 3, 2005 @ 10:51 pm | Comment

I think this is a great idea!

Presumably time spent in class won’t be available for supressing dissidents, assaulting Falun Gong practioners, looting state owned banks, soliciting bribes, stealing land from peasants, lying about epidemics, threatening Taiwan, deporting North Koreans, compelling abortions, detaining journalists, censoring the internet or any of the other myriad activities that take up a Chinese official’s day.

July 4, 2005 @ 12:21 am | Comment

“But this won’t work in China as the land supply is short and the land population is huge. The small area to sell and the huge population wants to sell will cause land to be sold at a minimal rate.”

Congratulations Leo. You’ve managed to get the most fundamental rule of economics completely ass-backwards.

A short supply would lead to higher not lower prices.

July 4, 2005 @ 12:46 am | Comment


Farmers are the most oppressed people in China. It is the direct result of the communist system. Amlost all farmers and their future generations have to stay on the farm forever. And farmers have to pay many levies imposed by the local communist governments….


July 4, 2005 @ 12:48 am | Comment


A high school student from the rural area has to on the fram and have no future if he or she can not go on to college. But the admission standdards are very different between students in the rural areas and the urban areas (the later much much lower). It it is not discrimination, then what is it?


July 4, 2005 @ 12:55 am | Comment

Renxu, you haven’t answered my question. What you are saying is exactly my point. I’m not saying the farmers are communist in ideology, necessarily, but they’re living in the system more than others. I’m not saying any discrimination is justified – if you read my posts carefully I think you’ll find that I am incredibly, passionately for giving peasants more rights, more money, and more help.

July 4, 2005 @ 2:12 am | Comment

As far as these current CCP “struggle sessions” go, probably the biggest struggle is the one to keep awake.

July 4, 2005 @ 5:31 am | Comment

My dear Laowai, actually I have reckoned you were doing something more than you intended. I just couldn’t stand missing a chance to damp my emotion and enjoying the casualty. So it is my fault. I hope you won’t take it personal. But I must also say what I said was just a possible interpretation of the words from your lips. Sometimes it might deserve a second thought that harmless words could be understood in a very absurd way.

To clarify my land supply/land value passage, I must point out that the presently high land price is fictive. The ones you see are only the offers of real estate developers and of the industrial, which will only benefit a minority of farmers whose land is adjacent to major urban areas. The urban area, you know, is not very extensive in China. Even those offered by the developers and the industrial are artificial as only a fraction of such land is released for development.

For example, after years of expansion the urban area of the Municipality of Shanghai only takes up an area of somewhat 250 square miles out of the total 2,447 square miles under its jurisdiction, among which there were 993 square miles arable land that makes up the most of what can be released for development. If it were to be divided by a base of 2,5 million strong working force who are entitled to a piece of it, the area per capita is a quarter of an acre, children and pensioners not counted. If all the farmers were to be allowed to sell their land and only a fraction of them were really doing so, I don’t know whether the price would immediately crash into basement but I am sure they were to be greatly disappointed. Today there are already abundant housing supply, and it would still be adequate even if all Shanghainese could afford it. And there is already a large number of unemployment among the urban young population who would not be able to consume the new developed housing but contest for jobs which the population shifted from the land would also be heading for, despite the fact that Shanghai is China’s most densely populated and most intensely invested and the most thoroughly industrialised area.

The major part of the land in China can never be sold for the purpose of housing or industrial development. If there were minor mismanagement or natural disasters, the farmers would damp the land at a lowest rate on the market, or simply desert it and flee to cities. In fact, millions of farmers have already taken the latter step, which is only deterred by the hukou system.

Some are arguing that if the supply is short, then the price is high, which is not always applicable to land as land is a special commodity. A piece of land in Anhui province can never be used as a piece of land in Shanghai. A piece of land in the mountainous Guizhou can be ignored of its existence.

July 4, 2005 @ 9:56 am | Comment

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