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People ride tricycle carts past a poster of Chinese President Xi Jinping, along a street in Beijing, Thursday, October 26, 2017. Photo: AP

Xi protégé on high-powered propaganda team to spread president’s message

Three dozen senior cadres will fan out across the country from this weekend to drive home key points from the top

Xi Jinping

Three Politburo members, including a prominent protégé of President Xi Jinping, will embark on a nationwide tour this weekend to promote the president’s ideology and policy initiatives.

Observers said the decision to include Chen Miner, Xi’s close associate and one of the youngest Politburo members, in the group pointed to his expanding role in the leadership.

The Politburo trio will be part of a 36-member “central publicity team” that from Sunday will go to companies, villages, schools, communities and government departments to talk about the key points made in Xi’s 3½-hour speech at the Communist Party’s national congress last month, according to Xinhua.

They would expand on the party’s governance goals for the coming decades as well as Xi’s new ideology, which was enshrined in the party’s charter, the report said.

The party usually deploys such groups to spread the message after each congress but this time the team is particularly high-powered.

Besides Chen, the line-up includes Yang Xiaodu, the party’s No 2 anti-corruption official, and Huang Kunming, head of the propaganda department.

Three officials from the Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, a shadowy body playing a growing role in economic policy, will also join the team.

The advocates are expected to touch on Xi’s calls to maintain economic development while addressing problems like poverty and pollution.

Chen Min'er, Chongqing municipality party chief speaks during Chongqing open delegation discussions of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the Great Hall of the People (GHOP) in Beijing, China, 19 October 2017. Photo: EPA-EFE

The team also includes top officials in charge of agriculture, health and information technology. Two other members come from bodies related to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan affairs.

It is a sharp contrast with five years ago when the 20-member group sent out to spread the word about former president Hu Jintao’s report comprised mostly party theorists and policy researchers. There were also no Politburo members on board the 2012 and 2007 teams.

Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said the inclusion of high-ranking officials this year reflected Xi’s efforts to strengthen the party’s influence at grass-roots levels.

He said the tour could help raise the profile of Chen, who is seen as Xi’s favoured leadership contender.

“The tour will be well reported and covered,” Tsang said. “He can only get good publicity from it.”

At a preparatory meeting on Wednesday, Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Huning told the team to communicate face-to-face with local cadres and members of the public.

They should also use creative ways to get their message across and respond to the concerns of grass-roots people, Wang said.

Beijing-based political analyst Wu Qiang said that while the party’s propaganda apparatus had mastered the internet and mass media, the direct approach of the publicity team was meant to shore up cadres’ loyalty.

Xi Jinping, China's president and general secretary of the Communist Party of China, in the East Hall of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Oct. 25, 2017. Photo: Bloomberg

“The talks are given in a religious atmosphere,” Wu said. “When studying together, officials are more disciplined and can develop a stronger sense of party identity.”

Meanwhile, the party’s foreign relations headquarters is on a mission to take Xi’s word abroad, with the International Department of the Central Committee inviting diplomats from more than 150 countries to a briefing on the party congress this week. Foreign ministry officials in Hong Kong also held a session for consuls general in the city.

The party said it had also been giving talks to visiting foreign politicians and raising issues from the congress during bilateral meetings.

It is unclear whether state leaders visiting China are also being briefed but Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the first foreign leader to go to China since the party gathering, said in Beijing that decisions made at China’s party congress were of strategic importance.

“From the perspective of improving China-Russia relations, the achievements made at the 19th party congress are all very successful,” People’s Daily quoted Medvedev as saying on Tuesday. “They give us a lot of inspiration.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Politburo team to spread Xi thought among the people