The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council has jointly issued the Opinion on Strengthening and Improving Ideological and Political Work in the New Era
Introduction and Translation by Adam Ni
The Central Committee and the State Council jointly issued a document titled the Opinion on Strengthening and Improving Ideological and Political Work in the New Era on Monday, July 12, 2021.
Xinhua published a summary of this document, which appeared the next day (July 13) as the front page lead article of the People’s Daily. Clearly, the Party leadership sees the Opinion as an important document.
My translation of the summary is below.
In Partyspeak, “ideological and political work” (思想政治工作) refers to efforts aimed at influencing the worldviews, ideological frameworks, political orientations, and emotional affinities of the Chinese people.
Education, propaganda, and the shaping (and limiting) of public discourse are the main means adopted for this effort today. In the Mao era, however, this effort often went hand-in-hand with political prosecution and state violence. There are some exceptions today in Xi’s China. For example, in Xinjiang, ideological and political indoctrination and state violence work together as parts of Beijing’s social engineering project in the region.
The Opinion provides high-level guidance for the Party’s ideological and political work. It puts forward the Party leadership’s view on its importance, outlines the principles for carrying it out, and highlights work priorities.
The Opinion calls the Party to work towards the strengthening of the Party’s overall leadership, integrate ideological and political work with all other work, including economic policymaking, and innovate in concepts and means.
For context, we have seen a tightening of Party control over Chinese society in the last decade. Under Xi, this process has continued and accelerated. The Opinion, in emphasising the importance of ideology and political work, underlines larger trends in the Party’s approach to ruling.
Essentially, it is about reinforcing Party legitimacy through ideological, political and moral indoctrination. The Party leadership understands its rule can only be maintained over the long term by winning the hearts and minds of the people.
The Opinion is about winning the battle for the minds. As Xi put it back in February during a speech on Party history:
History has fully proved that the realm is the people, and the people is the realm: the support of the people or the lack thereof is a matter of life and death for the Party. If we win the trust of the people and obtain their support, the Party will be able to overcome any difficulty and will achieve victory in any circumstances.
Xinhua (Beijing), July 12 — Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council jointly issued the Opinion on Strengthening and Improving Ideological and Political Work in the New Era (hereinafter abbreviated as "The Opinion").
The Opinion points out that ideological and political work is a part of the Party's fine tradition and distinctive character, and a prominent political advantage. Indeed, it is the lifeline for all Party work. Strengthening and improving ideological and political work has bearing on the future prospects and fate of the Party, the long-term stability of the country, and the cohesion and unity of the Chinese people.
The Opinion includes six parts:
- general requirements;
- take ideological and political work as an important way to govern the Party and the nation;
- carry out in-depth ideological and political education;
- improve the quality and standard of ideological and political work at the grassroots level;
- promote the correct and innovative development of the ideological and political work in the new era; and
- build a jointly driven broad programme for ideological and political work.
The Opinion points out that since the 18th Party Congress, the Party Central Committee, with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, has attached great importance to ideological and political work and taken a series of major initiatives to effectively promote it. Ideological and political work has effectively played an important role in unifying thoughts, coalescing consensus, inspiring morale, and uniting for the purpose of struggling. The unity in thoughts across the entire Party and society has become more consolidated, and the situation in China's ideological field has undergone a holistic and fundamental transformation.
The Opinion clarifies that the guiding ideology for strengthening and improving ideological and political work in the new era includes the following:
- Take Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as guidance; and comprehensively implementing the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress and the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Plenary Sessions of the 19th CPC Central Committee.
- Enhance the “Four Consciousnesses”, cement the “Four Self-confidences”, achieve the “Two Safeguards”; closely focus on the “Five-in-one” overall programme, and coordinating and advancing the strategic programme of the “Four Comprehensives”.
- Adhere to the fundamental that is seeking progress while maintaining stability; and focus on the fundamental task of consolidating the guiding position of Marxism in the ideological field and as the common ideological basis for the unity and struggle across the entire Party and the nation.
- Consciously undertake the duty and mission of raising the banner; and gathering the people's goodwill, nurturing a new generation, promoting culture, and displaying a positive image;
- Take ideological and political work as an important means of governing the Party and the nation; and focus on strengthening the roots, leveraging and enhancing advantages, and mending shortcomings and weaknesses.
- Improve the level of scientific standardisation and institutionalisation; fully mobilise all positive factors and widely unite all forces that can be united to serve the people, the CPC in its governance, and the consolidation and development of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, reform and opening up, and socialist modernisation.
The Opinion points out that the guiding principles for strengthening and improving ideological and political work in the new era are:
- Adhere to and strengthen the Party's overall leadership; integrate ideological and political work into all areas of Party building and national governance; and firmly grasp the leadership and initiative in carrying out this work.
- Put people in the centre; put into practice the Party's mass line; take the people’s aspiration for a better life as the goal of struggle; organise the masses; target the masses with propaganda and educate them; serve the masses; and strengthen confidence, gather goodwill, warm the hearts of the people, and build a common outlook with masses.
- Insist on serving the overall situation for the Party and the state by fully implementing the Party's basic theories, basic lines and basic policies; maintain an outlook that is systematic; combine ideological and political work with economic construction and other work; and provide strong political and ideological support for the core work of the Party and the state.
- Insist on following the laws and regulations of ideological and political work; combine explicit and implicit education; solve ideological and practical problems; combine mass coverage with targeted guidance; and conduct work in a way that takes into account contextual factors, such as localities, people and groups, events, and timing.
- Adhere to the right path and innovate; and promote innovation in concepts, means and grassroots work so that ideological and political work in the new era will always remain vibrant and dynamic.
The Opinion points out that ideological and political work should be taken as an important way to govern the Party and the nation. In carrying out this work, the principal responsibility of Party committees (Party groups) must be strengthened. Party committees (Party groups) at every level must earnestly assume political responsibility and leadership, and a robust responsibility system for ideological and political work should be established with a list of responsibilities formulated. This would serve to clarify the implementation measures and the path of advance for this work.
The Party’s grassroots organisations should conscientiously implement the requirements of the Party's constitution and regulations. They should carry out ideological and political work well with respect to Party members and the masses. They should adhere to the principle that the Party must take charge of itself; the Party must govern itself strictly in all aspects; take the political construction of the Party as the priority; adhere to the integration of the Party’s ideological construction and institutional governance, and implement ideological and political work throughout all Party programmes.
We will strengthen the Party's overall leadership of the state and society; leverage the advantages of ideological and political work and the institutional system; and promote economic and social development, manage social affairs and serve the people. This is to ensure that the enterprise of the Party and the state will always move forward in the right direction.
The Opinion points out that ideological and political education should be carried out in-depth. We must insist on the use of Xi Jinping Thought of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era for ideological arming across the entire Party. We must educate the people. We must improve and perfect the work system by which the people are educated and the Party armed using the Party’s innovative new theories. We must promote the political, ideological, theoretical and emotional affinity between the people and Xi Jinping Thought of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.
We must promote the normalisation and institutionalisation of education on people’s beliefs and ideals; extensively carry out propaganda and education on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and the China Dream; promote the national spirit and the spirit of the times; strengthen education on patriotism, collectivism and socialism; and enhance education on Marxist historical materialism and atheism.
We must cultivate and practise Core Socialist Values, and promote the integration of these values into social development and the people's lives through strengthening education, guidance, practice, and institutional support.
We must strengthen education on the history of the Party, the history of the new China, the history of reform and opening up, and the history of socialist development, and current policies. This is to guide Party members, cadres and the masses to oppose historical nihilism in a clear-cut manner and continue on the path of the long march in the new era.
We must strengthen education on the socialist rule of law; deeply study and extensively publicise Xi Jinping's thought on the rule of law; carry out widespread education and propaganda throughout society on the Constitution; carry out tailored propaganda and popularisation of laws, regulations and the general knowledge of jurisprudence; and increase the level of propaganda with respect to the Party’s constitution, rules and regulations.
We must elevate our sense of vigilance; promote the spirit of struggle; widely carry out propaganda and education to prevent and neutralise major risks; summarise the experience of the struggle against the coronavirus epidemic; and through the conscientious practice of struggle open up new horizons and seize new victories.
The Opinion points out that the quality and level of ideological and political work at the grassroots level should be improved. We must strengthen the ideological and political work in enterprises, combine ideological and political work with production and operations management, human resources development, and the cultivation of enterprise spirit and culture etc. This is to quench confusion in minds and alleviate psychological and cultural pressures.
In rural areas, we must strengthen ideological and political work, enhance the construction of spiritual civilisation and morality, promote new norms to replace old customs and practices, resist the erosion of corrupt and backward culture, and cultivate peasants of the new era with ideals, morality, culture and discipline.
We must strengthen ideological and political work in Party-state organs; insist on taking the “Two Safeguards” as the primary ideological and political work task for these organs; deepen education within political organs; celebrate exemplary organs; carry out education on loyalty to the Party; carry out special rectification actions for the building of work style; and strive to build exemplary organs that are political, disciplined, responsible and efficient.
We must strengthen ideological and political work in schools. We must accelerate the construction of the ideological and political work system in schools; implement the project of nurturing a new generation for the era; perfect the mechanism of co-management of education on ideals and beliefs in young people; and cultivate builders and successors of socialism with comprehensively developed morality, intelligence, and physical fitness.
We must strengthen ideological and political work in local communities. We must improve the system of community party organisations leading grassroots mass self-governing organisations to carry out ideological and political work; strengthen the construction of work networks for community ideological and political work; and leverage the collaborative role of social forces, so that ideological and political work can really penetrate into the production and life for the masses.
We must strengthen the ideological and political work on the internet. We must implement internet content construction projects; strengthen internet communication capacities; enhance internet social management in accordance with the law; and promote the deep integration of the traditional strengths of ideological and political work with information technology, so that the internet, the biggest variable, becomes the biggest positive driver.
We must do a good job in ideological and political work with respect to various groups; carry out ideological and political guidance activities; and unite the masses under the great banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.
The Opinion points out that we need to promote the development of positive and innovative ideological and political work in the new era. We must consolidate and strengthen the mainstream ideology; adhere to the correct political direction, public opinion guidance, and value orientation; and integrate ideological and political work into propaganda, including on a thematic and ad hoc basis as well as with respect to policy and achievements. This must be implemented by Party newspapers and publications, radio and TV stations, municipal newspapers and publications, new media, and indeed, all kinds of media at all levels so as to constantly improve the levels of transmission, guidance, influence and public credibility of news media and discussions.
We must deepen and expand mass-targeting campaigns that are thematic and focused on the practical; make full use of important traditional festivals, major festivals and anniversaries; give full play to the civilising effects of the ritual system; enrich campaigns on practical morality; and drive the formation of ideological concepts, mental attitude, civilised style, and behavioural norms that meet the requirements of the new era.
We need to pay more attention to transforming and educating the people with culture; deeply implement the project to elevate the quality of literary and artistic works; deeply implement the project to develop and pass on the excellent Chinese traditional culture; and to push forward with the construction of an integrated public cultural service system in urban and rural areas in order to better meet the new expectations of people’s spiritual and cultural life.
We must give full play to the exemplary and leading role of advanced models; intensify the study of these models and related propaganda; deepen the study and propaganda with respect to the “models for the era”, moral models, “the most beautiful people”, and “the good people around us” etc; and continue to effectively tell the touching stories of heroic role models of different time periods. We must explore and improve the long-term mechanism to enable advanced models to effectively play their roles, and turn the power of role models into vivid practice for hundreds of millions of people.
We must strengthen humanistic care and psychological guidance. We must improve the work systems for Party members and cadres to communicate with the grassroots and for Party members to connect with the masses. We must complete the building of the system for social and psychological services, the mechanism for crisis intervention and guidance, and establish the mechanism for investigating and analysing the dynamics of thinking in society. We must cultivate a social mentality of self-respect, self-confidence, rationality, peace, and positivity.
The Opinion emphasises the need to jointly drive forward the building of a broad programme for ideological and political work. We should improve the leadership system and working mechanisms so as to enable the entire Party and whole society to jointly participate in this broad programme. We should improve the unified leadership of the Party and the state, the joint control and supervision by Party and state organs, the organising and coordinating efforts of propaganda departments, and the division of responsibilities among relevant departments and mass organisations.
We must train experts in ideological and political work, and create a workforce that integrates well-equipped and strong professional personnel with an optimised non-professional, volunteer team. We must constantly expand the volunteer pool, systematically carry out training for all staff, and deepen the reform of the system for the recruitment and job evaluation of ideological and political work professionals and technical personnel.
We must make good use of cultural facilities and bases of all kinds at all administrative levels; strengthen the planning, construction and management of Party member education bases, and patriotic education bases, at all levels; continue to drive the opening of free-access public cultural facilities for the community; and run pilot projects for grassroots ideological and political work.
We must establish a scientific and effective evaluation and assessment system for ideological and political work, one that is comprehensive and with reasonable criteria and scientific methodology.
We must incorporate the evaluation results into the implementation of comprehensive strict governance of the Party through supervision and inspection. We must incorporate them also into the comprehensive assessment and evaluation of Party and state leadership teams and leading cadres. We must turn “soft indicators” into “hard constraints”.