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China's Communist Party

The Communist Party ghostwriters who wrote the book on Xi Jinping

Ten academics, two years and one key job – to define Xi Jinping’s thinking for the party rank and file

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 10:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 October, 2017, 11:29pm

The call came in 2015. He Yiting, a vice-chairman of the training ground for top Communist Party cadres, was given a mission that would take up the next two years of his life.

A veteran of three presidents, He was a seasoned expert on ideology and propaganda and qualified for the task at hand.

He had spent 24 years at the Central Policy Research Office, where he worked with others as a national policy adviser and chief speech-writer.

He was also widely seen as a trusted aide of President Xi Jinping.

His new job: to research and define Xi’s approach to governing the country and put it in a digestible form for 90 million members of the party’s rank and file to absorb and apply.

He was aided in his two-year task by nine other academics from the Central Party School and together the team of ghostwriters built a propaganda campaign to try to win hearts and minds over to Xi’ s way of thinking.

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It was a monumental effort that also delved into Xi’s youth during the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

Details of the two-year project have come to light as the party prepares to meet next week for a five-yearly national congress that will likely enshrine Xi’s name and political thinking in the party charter, a move that would put him on a par with late leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

As soon as the mission was given to the school, it became the institution’s main focus, the report said.

“The school treated it as its prime political mission, and formed a panel of 10 elite scholars for it immediately,” the report said.

The panel of political ghostwriters came from various generations, ranging from academics in their 30s to scholars in their 80s.

The panel was part of a broader project called “Marxist theory study and construction”, dedicated to cataloguing the party’s jargon.

One of the advisers on the project, Cao Zhenghai, a communication specialist, died this year aged 58 before the project was completed.

The early years: the troubled times that ‘forged Xi Jinping’

Another was journalist-turned-cadre Xu Guangchun. Xu was the party’s spokesman for the national party congress in 1997 and rose to be the party chief of Henan province.

The panel quickly started pumping out the volumes.

When Xi was anointed the party’s “core” at a top-level meeting last autumn, the panel swiftly came out with a title to explain why he had been elevated to the status, like Mao, Deng and Jiang Zemin before him.

The panel was also behind a widely promoted book that detailed the Xi’s seven years of hard labour during the Cultural Revolution.

Xi was sent to a remote village in Shaanxi province from 1969 to 1975 and the book Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth, published anonymously earlier this year, is a collection of interviews with people who used to live and work with him.

It also detailed how Xi and his fellow teenagers from Beijing were shocked by the poverty of the village, had to adapt to everything from fleas to a lack of nutrition in their diet.