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China is ramping up the manpower behind a mobile app used to test Communist Party members’ loyalty to President Xi Jinping and the party, as millions of citizens download the program to score points with the government.
State-run CCTV is recruiting 300 people to work in its so-called new media division, half of whom will be tasked with managing the “Study the Powerful Country” app. Basic requirements include “maintaining a high degree of unity with the ideological and political actions” of the Party and Xi, and “practicing the core values of socialism,” according to an ad published on the company’s WeChat account this month.
The app is the latest push to spread “Xi Jinping Thought”—the president’s take on socialism that was enshrined in the constitution two years ago in a show of power. It topped Apple Inc.’s domestic download charts shortly after it was released in January, and has become a major topic of conversation among bureaucrats and party officials.
Many government employees are required to use the app regularly. They have been told they can prove their loyalty by racking up points, which are given out to users depending on how often they log on, comment on posts or take quizzes, according to bureaucrats who spoke to Bloomberg on the condition of anonymity.
So far, enforcement of rules to use the app appear to vary drastically across government departments. One official in Beijing said she had a score of zero, but her supervisors didn’t really care. Several provinces, meanwhile, have established special committees to ensure that employees are using the app regularly.
China’s State Council Information Office didn’t reply to faxed questions seeking comment on requirements to use the app.
National “party building” campaigns have become the norm under Xi, who took control of the party in 2012 and has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. Xi has put himself at the center of the Chinese political system: He heads dozens of policy committees and this year chaired four politburo meetings that produced sweeping new legislation tightening control of the ruling party.
Reaching people through their phones is a strategy China’s leaders have employed before, hoping to leverage the country’s obsession with the internet. An app designed by Tencent Holdings Ltd in 2017 that awarded points to the fastest applauders during a streamed speech by Xi also went viral. Researcher eMarketer estimates adults in China spent three hours a day online in 2018—more time than watching TV—with 71 percent of that on mobile devices.
Once logged into the app, users are confronted with a seemingly endless trove of information. Besides watching Xi’s speeches, studying party propaganda and keeping up with breaking news, they can also read about topics including technology, culture, 5G, and the military. There are free documentaries, books, films and operas. Classes range from art tutorials to English lessons.
Still, poring over dense political documents and watching speeches that can drag on for hours isn’t how many government officials want to spend their free time. Quick-thinking party members have found different ways to trick the program into awarding them points without actually doing any studying, including keeping the app open while they eat and watch TV shows and using software designed to cheat.
One government employee figured out how to kill two birds with one stone: She lets her 5-year-old learn ancient Chinese poetry on the app, logging in hours of activity every day in the process.
Test Your Knowledge of Xi Jinping Thought
China’s “Study the Powerful Country” app gives users a chance to answer multiple-choice questions and fill in the blanks on topics ranging from spring plowing to poetry, party building to financial reform. Here’s a selection of translated questions taken from the app. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t score a perfect eight.
Answers at the bottom of the page.
1. To be loyal to the party, we must strengthen our “four consciousness,” be firm in our “Four self-confidence,” and uphold [……….], strictly observe the party’s political discipline and political rules, and always maintain a high degree of consistency with the Party Central Committee in political positions, directions, principles and paths.
2. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that a cadre’s [……….] and style of work can best be seen by his or her ability to take responsibility.
3. The report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) proposed that the state supervision law be formulated to give the supervisory commission the power of responsibility and means of investigation in accordance with the law, and replace the “shuanggui” measures with [……….].
4. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that the mainstream media should provide more real, objective and clear-cut information in a timely manner, and grasp the [……….] and [……….] in the field of public opinion.
5. Among the following crops, [……….] and [……….] were first cultivated by the Chinese.A. RiceB. WheatC. CornD. Soybean
6. What year did Qian Xuesen (Hsue-Shen Tsien), a prominent scientist who led China’s missile and space programs in the 60s, come back to China from the U.S.?A. Oct. 8, 1954B. Oct. 8, 1955C. Oct. 8, 1956
7. On Dec. 14, 2016, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out in his speech at the Central Economic Work Conference that to solve the real estate problem, we should insist that “houses are [……….] and not for speculation”.
8. In recent years, General Secretary Xi Jinping has repeatedly mentioned Wang Shouren, who is also known as [……….], a thinker of the Ming dynasty. He affirmed that Yangming philosophy of the mind is the essence of Chinese traditional culture and one of the entry points to enhance the cultural confidence of the Chinese people.
Answers: 1. “Two upholding.” 2. Party character. 3. Detentions. 4. Initiative and dominance. 5. A (Rice) and D (Soybean). 6. B (Oct. 8, 1955). 7. For living. 8. Wang Yangming.
--With assistance from Dandan Li and Lulu Chen.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, Sharon ChenDaniel Ten Kate
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