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Xi Jinping

Xi looks to legacy of Mao for inspiration to solve corruption

Campaign to tackle graft and win public support is compared to tactics of late leader

Xi Jinping
Raymond Li

The Communist Party, under new general secretary Xi Jinping, is delving deeper into the legacy of the late Mao Zedong for inspiration to help clean up its ranks amid rising disillusionment over widespread official corruption, analysts said.

The party held a teleconference in Beijing yesterday to kick-start a clean-up campaign to reinforce the "mass line" of its 80 million members. The mass line is a party policy aimed at broadening and cultivating contacts with the masses.

Xi, who became party leader seven months ago, said the year-long campaign would be a "thorough clean-up" of undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance, Xinhua reported.

"Winning or losing public support is an issue that concerns the party's survival or extinction," Xi said.

The new campaign is an addition to an ongoing anti-corruption campaign Xi launched when he became party leader in November, which is targeting mediocrity, laziness and extravagance amid rising public dismay over rampant official corruption and a widening wealth gap.

Tuesday's conference was also attended by the other six members of the party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.


Beijing Institute of Technology political economist Professor Hu Xingdou said Xi's new mass line campaign had some similarities with Mao's tactics, but was as far as the Xi administration could go in tackling corruption without introducing genuine political reform.

Hu said the legitimacy of party rule appeared to have been weakened by the central authorities' failure to rein in lower-level agencies where official corruption was rife.

"Such a campaign is still of significance at a time when vested interests are getting in the way of political reform," he said. "But officials could fundamentally make themselves accountable to the masses via a democratic system under which the masses could decide their fate."

Renmin University political scientist Zhang Ming said that with such a campaign, the central authorities were demonstrating their willingness to heed public grievances, but they had stopped short of offering concrete measures.


Zhang said the revival of Mao's mass line campaign underscored the sense of anxiety among the new leadership due to an ideological void. "The new leadership is still caught between a political regime largely reminiscent of a feudal monarch and the temptation of a democratic system, which will continue to cause trouble for the party in the future," he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Xi looks to Mao's legacy for inspiration