Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping urges party to 'toe mass line' to win over public

President calls on party to toe a 'mass line' against 'illnesses' such as bureaucracy and extravagance, in an effort to improve its public image

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 4:40am

The Communist Party will urge its members to toe a "mass line" in an attempt to clean up government and forge closer ties with the public.

A year-long campaign, beginning in the second half of this year, would aim to crack down on excessive bureaucracy, formalism and extravagance, Xinhua reported yesterday.

Echoing his earlier call to purge unqualified party members, party chief Xi Jinping told a Politburo meeting yesterday that everybody should "look into a mirror, neaten their dress, take a bath and have the illnesses treated".

The illnesses refer to formalism, bureaucracy and lavishness - which remain severe and prevalent among some party cadres, according to Xinhua, citing a post-meeting statement.

Some cadres were found to "be hankering for fame and gain, faking achievements and behaving irresponsibly", and some were even "abusing power and becoming morally degenerate", the Politburo statement said.

Some cadres were found to "be hankering for fame and gain, faking achievements and behaving irresponsibly", and some were even "abusing power and becoming morally degenerate"

"Such problems have severely damaged the party's image among the public and hurt the relationship between the party and the people, and have to be addressed in an earnest manner," it said.

The campaign would focus on cadres at county level or higher, Xinhua reported.

In a January meeting, the Politburo vowed to control the size of the party and to optimise its membership structure and quality.

"Unqualified party members will be handled in a timely manner," the Politburo said then.

By returning to a "mass line", which harks back to the Mao Zedong era, the campaign is an obvious attempt by the party to deal with a crisis of public trust, said Professor Zhu Lijia , from the Chinese Academy of Governance.

"In the early days, such a campaign could be achieved through large-scale propaganda and publicity, because public distrust was limited to individuals within the party," Zhu said. "However, things are quite different now. As a result of rampant corruption, as well as lavish working styles, among other problems, the public distrust towards the party is targeted at the whole system."

The country's top leadership warned recently that a culture of corruption could threaten the legitimacy of Communist Party rule, and vowed to rein in lavish spending on official receptions, bureaucratic meetings, car purchases and overseas trips.

The party's official mouthpiece, the People's Daily, ran a lengthy article denying widespread rumours that public spending on such issues was close 900 billion yuan (HK$1.13 trillion) per year, though it gave no detailed figures.

The report instead said that spending in 2004 was about 120 billion yuan - the only published figure up until now.

However, despite Xi's earlier call for officials to cut down on extravagance and banquets, media investigations have found that such activities have, in fact, moved underground and continued - often in even more lavish style.

Zhu said that to regain the public's trust, any crackdowns would have to include institutional changes.