Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping turns to Mao Zedong's thoughts in his efforts to counter corruption

Critics argue that Xi's 'mass line' campaign may not be successful as lower-level authorities may not become enthusiastic supporters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 July, 2013, 5:12am

Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has turned to an austerity lesson given by Mao Zedong more than six decades ago to advance his campaign against party corruption.

During a visit last week to Xibaipo - the People's Liberation Army's headquarters at the end of the civil war - Xi reminded party members of Mao's so-called six nos, which barred officials from things like hosting birthday parties and exchanging presents.

Xi likened party members' efforts to meet the guidelines to a student going through rigid exams - they had failed to shape up. He said his campaign to rid the party of "formalism, bureaucratism and hedonism and extravagance" would help them make the grade.

The party secretary's visit to Hebei province was his latest effort to push his year-long "mass line" campaign, which is designed to bolster the party's ties to the people amid growing discontent over corruption.

Unveiled in April, the campaign obliges officials from the county level or higher to "reflect on their own practices and correct any misbehaviour" in accordance with public sentiment.

The campaign's similarity to Mao's efforts has caused unease.

But Sima Nan, a leftist and conservative scholar, said that Xi's mass line campaign was less about leaning to the left, than reaffirming a fundamental party doctrine for the party.

Sima said that Xi's mass-line movement was of greater significance because it specifically targeted official corruption, which the public has blamed for widening the wealth gap and pushing rapid development at the expense of the environment.

"I have my concerns that such a campaign could become another formality as with some other campaigns because the central authorities might not necessarily bring lower-level authorities on board," Sima said. "They have developed many sophisticated ways of pushing ahead with their own priorities without overtly upsetting higher authorities."

Xi's pilgrimage to Xibaipo followed similar visits by former party leaders such as Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said Xi's attempt to revive some of Mao's legacy underscored that the party was suffering from a lack of creativity.

"It has no other choice but to delve into some of the old doctrines even though they have had little appeal, particularly among the older generations," he said, noting growing disappointment with Xi among those who hoped for change. "That's why we have seen his popularity go down."

Zhang said the "mass line" campaign could do little to shake up the party as it lacked support from low-level authorities who would condemn it as another formality.

He noted, however, that Xi could still use it as a political tool to purge undesired cadres and consolidate his power base.