The Chinese Communist Party has dispatched an unprecedented number of cadres to the countryside to prevent grassroots party cells from disintegration.
The official media yesterday disclosed that organisation departments of all levels would this year station 470,000 full-time functionaries in the countryside to help resuscitate party organisations and conduct ideological training.
Last year, 450,000 cadres were commissioned for this purpose.
In addition, more than 80,000 'liaison points' were established by provincial, district and county-level administrations to keep track of the political purity and strength of party cells.
According to official statistics 99.7 per cent of all counties have set up 'responsibility systems' to ensure that party units are not over-run by the forces of corruption and bourgeois liberalisation.
Internal party documents have admitted that at least one-third of the nation's 800,000-odd grassroots party cells had 'decayed'.
Reasons included party committee members and other cadres spending most of their time in business and 'feudalistic' practices.
A dispatch yesterday by Xinhua (the New China News Agency) pointed out that at an initial phase the party had selected 50,000 villages with 'weak and lax' party cells for rectification.
Another 30,000 economically underdeveloped villages were also picked for special assistance.
Xinhua quoted central authorities as saying that 80 per cent of this target group had been rendered healthy.
This year, the rectification campaign will be carried out in 90,000 villages.
Last winter and this spring, 210,000 village and township cadres and 660,000 rural party secretaries and village committee chiefs received special training in party ideology and administration.
Xinhua said that in addition to rural party cells, village committees, co-operatives, women's groups and militia had benefited from the rectification exercise.
Political analysts in Beijing said the party's zeal in resuscitating rural cells could hurt nascent experiments with popular elections of village committees.
They pointed out that to ensure control of the party, real power in the villages might reside with party cells and cadres instead of the elected village committees. In a large number of instances, candidates not designated by the party have been elected to village committees, which are in charge of day-to-day administration.