Ghost writers hope to cash in as Chinese officials pushed to write 5,000-word reports on their missteps

Taobao vendors see a gold mine in president's renewed push for self-criticism sessions to improve discipline among cadres

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 7:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 7:43pm

President Xi Jinping’s order to revive the Communist Party’s decades-old “criticism and self-criticism” sessions has given rise to a new online business: ghost-writing lengthy self-critiques.

At so-called party-life meetings, cadres are asked to evaluate the things they need to improve on in their work or lives so they can serve the people better. The sessions aim to fix party problems and enforce discipline.

Xi’s push aims to encourage party officials to follow the “mass line”, stressing a close connection with the grass-roots.

Officials must write self-criticism statements that are often required to be at least 3,000 to 5,000 words long – sometimes reaching longer than 10,000 words. 

Officials say they spend days cautiously writing it. But some ghost-writers are claiming they can churn an article overnight.

I saw it on TV that officials are all writing this criticism article, so I just want to try it
Baisha, ghost writer

On China’s biggest e-commerce site Taobao, there are at least six outfits – out of 4,800 ghost-writing agencies there – that cater to officials in the government and state-owned enterprises.

While they do not specialise in criticism and self-criticism statements, these outfits accept requests when asked. Some are one-man operations while others have a pool of hired writers.

Several of the ads state the article can be ready overnight or – for an extra fee – on the same day. According to their Taobao pages, the papers typically take two to three days to prepare.

Among the six vendors is Baisha (not his real name), who says he just launched the service this morning.

A Sun Yat-sen University graduate who majored in Chinese and who always dreamed of becoming a writer, Baisha highlighted “party-life meeting” services on his page for a starting price of 100 yuan (HK$126) per paper.

“I saw it on TV that officials are all writing this criticism article, so I just want to try it,” Baisha told the South China Morning Post.

“I have never written anything about [the] party-life meeting, but it’s easy – just criticism and self-criticism, right?

“I don’t think there is any risk to what I do. I am not publishing it, just writing. And above all, I am ‘criticising myself’,” Baisha added.

Mainland media have reported that officials sweat over the papers, revising them nearly 30 times. “Almost in tears”, the officials confess their mistakes in front of fellow cadres.

However, the party’s main newspaper, People’s Daily, last month pointed out that the criticism and self-criticism session has become more like a show in some areas. It urged officials to participate “deeply from the heart”.

But another Taobao ghost-writing outfit based in Jiangsu, Jiguan Shuobo, is offering materials that can be “copied and pasted” into official statements.

For just 5 yuan, this comes with a variety of resources including six sample articles designed for various positions, such as management or staff.

It says it can write papers just by getting two pieces of information: first about one’s company and second about one’s boss.

Another outfit, based in Shenzhen, charges 80 yuan per 1,000 words.

“We have written for employers in state-owned companies and governments. Send us your personal situation, and we will write it for you,” the firm told the Post after an inquiry.

The Jiangsu agency has sold 51 articles in the past month. Client reviews for the ghost-writing service were positive, according to its page.

“The owner discussed with me till 2am. It’s hard to find someone serious and responsible about the article. The article has clear structure and well written, very good!” one customer, who paid 300 yuan for writing services, wrote on Sunday.