Chinese president Xi Jinping’s recent "criticism and self-criticism" campaign might have brought a few soul-searching Hebei cadres to the brink of shedding shameful tears - according to People’s Daily - yet it has failed miserably in impressing the masses. Many Chinese netizens have resorted to parodies, racy jokes and graphic cartoons to mock what they call a “disgusting show” by the ruling party.
During four separate half-day meetings Xi attended himself with standing committee members of Hebei's provincial party committee this week, officials criticised themselves and their colleagues, pointing out issues such as bureaucracy and lavish spending.
One official revealed to People’s Daily that while he was working on his self-criticism speech, he felt so ashamed of “what he had become” that it brought him to the verge of tears several times.
Yet Chinese readers quickly pointed out that it was really a campaign of “praise myself and others” judging by the “flattering” tone of some criticism and the doomed-to-fail nature of the campaign.
“This whole campaign is a perfect example of bureaucracy,” a microblogger wrote.
“Why don’t they start criticising the size of their bank accounts and personal assets?,” another one suggested. The comment was immediately seconded by others.
Jokes and parodies of the campaign have became instant hit on Weibo this week and were reposted thousands of times.
In a viral gif image posted by a microblogger, two cute taekwondo-practising toddlers, "armed" to their teeth, attempt to put on a fight but in the whole time never touch each other. They end up in what looks like entertaining dances.
“This is the best graphic explanation of the self-criticism campaign,” commented the blogger.
Sex jokes have also been coined up to poke fun at the latest campaign. In one such joke, Pan Jinlian, the adulterous wife in Chinese classic novel Jin Ping Mei, launches a “criticism and self-criticism” session with her ugly and poor husband Wu Dalang. It’s joined by Ximen Qing, the rich and handsome man she’s having an affair with.
Ximen Qing, the libertine, criticises Wu Dalang for not keeping a close eye on his wife, “You need to start locking your doors and windows from now on,” he advises Wu in the joke.
Criticism and self-criticism sessions, first launched in the 1950s by Mao Zedong, have been employed frequently over the decades by leaders seeking to enforce Party discipline, solidarity and consolidate personal authority.
To many of those familiar with the Party's history, Xi's reenactment of the Maoist campaign and its slogans bring back fears and painful memories. Hundreds of thousands of Party officials and ordinary members suffered reprisals and persecution in past political movements after participating in such sessions and criticising those in power.