Fearing public humiliation or losing their jobs, government employees and Party members spend hours strenuously accumulating points on “Xi Study Strong Nation” app.
by Ye Jiajia
Since its launch in early 2019, the “Xi Study Strong Nation” app has been extensively promoted across all sectors of Chinese society. For CCP members, studying Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, a political theory that the president launched after accessing to power, has become a political task that must be completed at all costs.
Although the app’s scoring rules have been optimized and upgraded, removing the original features of accumulating ranking points and “happy hours” to double them, many state-run institutions continue ranking their employees and force them to use the app every day for “work supervision and assessment” purposes. Afraid of being reprimanded or criticized publicly, people have to seize every minute to “study Xi” in order to meet the Party’s requirements and keep their jobs.
Party member dies while “studying Xi”
One day this April, a Party member in his late 50s from the eastern province of Shandong was answering questions on the app when he suddenly collapsed on the floor and died. Scattered around him were two smartphones and several sheets of paper that he had been using for notes.
According to a source close to the family, the deceased man had maintained a regular schedule and work-rest pattern for most of his life, he even took time to exercise every day. But his life was disrupted in January when he was required to download and start using the “Xi Study Strong Nation” app.
“Every day, he got up at 5 a.m. to study and answer questions. He would go to work then. After returning home in the evening, he still had to study and answer questions. He would sometimes answer questions or listen to Xi Jinping’s speeches until 11 p.m.,” said the source. “Not only did he answer questions for himself, but he also did so for another Party member who doesn’t know how to use a smartphone. He took turns using two cellphones to work on the app every day. The studies were very intense, and it proved too much for him to handle physically.”
Village director: “Xi Study Strong Nation” is the second Cultural Revolution
A Party member in Shandong’s Weifang city revealed to Bitter Winter that he also helps others to answer questions on the app – in his case, three comrades – on top of struggling to keep up with his tasks and sustain the score. As a result, he goes to sleep past 2:00 a.m. every night.
“Staying up late every night is exhausting, but this is a political task, and everyone has to complete it. If I don’t answer the questions for them, they won’t be able to finish their tasks and will be criticized. Membership in the Party is now used to punish and manage people, to make them study Xi. If you don’t obey, you might be sent home and lose everything. The Communist Party is not to be offended,” said the Party member.
A village director from a county under the jurisdiction of Shandong’s Heze city suffers from high blood pressure and gets ill frequently because of this condition. Regardless, he continues studying Xi Thought even when receiving an intravenous infusion. To avoid being at the bottom of the ranking and fined, another village director not only uses two cellphones to study but has even hired several villagers to help him accumulate more points. He offers 30 RMB (about $ 4.30) for every 500 points.
“I had to spend my own money to hire these people to help me accumulate points; otherwise, I would be reprimanded,” the village director said helplessly. “Every day, six people with the lowest score will each be fined 100 RMB [about $ 14.2]. To put it bluntly, ‘Xi Study Strong Nation’ is the second Cultural Revolution!”
People regret joining the Communist Party
Some enterprises and institutions in Shandong’s cities of Ji’nan and Liaocheng have also implemented a reward-and-punishment system that should “motive” employees to study Xi Thought. Those with a high score will be praised and receive material rewards, while those with a low score will be publicly criticized and have their wages reduced. Those who are not proactive in “studying Xi” could be forced to write a self-criticism essay, between 800 to 2,000 Chinese characters in length, admonishing themselves for having “problematic ideology” and being “unpatriotic.”
Many people are unhappy with the enforced nature of the studies. “Studying Xi Jinping’s speeches every day takes up a lot of our time. It’s the same as studying Mao Zedong’s quotations during the Cultural Revolution. Simply speaking, people’s thoughts are being shackled. If you don’t study, the leader of your workplace will circulate a notice criticizing you. This has had a major impact on my life and my work. It’s like my thoughts are being controlled!” an employee from Weifang city complained.
A teacher in Shandong commented that those who had never been forced to use the app wouldn’t understand the suffering involved. “I really regret joining the Communist Party; I want to leave it but can’t. Those who leave are demerited. This is a high-pressure political wire that no one dares to touch. I have no choice but to bear it.”