The members of China’s Politburo have undergone a two-day “self-criticism” session in which they pledged loyalty to President Xi Jinping, state media reported late on Tuesday. The two-day event was the first such gathering since the 19th party congress in October. Members of the party’s decision-making body had to deliver a speech following in-depth discussions with unspecified party officials who had been assigned to them before the “democratic life meeting” started on Monday, official news agency Xinhua reported. The party’s elite reviewed their own performance according to party internal regulations, according to news footage released by CCTV, the state broadcaster, which gave no details about what they had said. In their speeches, members of the 25-strong Politburo made a pledge to take the lead in studying Xi’s thoughts and rallying behind the president. They also said they would follow Xi’s regulations on combating party corruption and extravagance as well as pledging to execute the decisions made in the party congress, Xinhua said. Chinese officials in Guizhou told to fight pollution or forget about promotion It remains unclear whether Xi had undergone the self-criticism process himself. He presided over the meeting and made a lengthy speech. “Politburo members should set an example by remaining true to their original aspirations and keeping their mission firmly in mind,” Xi was quoted by Xinhua as telling his colleagues. Mao Zedong began using self-criticism sessions to his consolidate power and build loyalty within the party in the 1940s. Their use became notorious during the Cultural Revolution when cadres who had fallen out of favour were forced to perform public acts of self-abasement. Former party general secretary Hu Yaobang, who was seen as a liberalising figure, was ousted as a result of being subject to fierce attack during the party’s internal democratic life sessions in early 1987. His death in 1989 prompted the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. It is widely believed that Xi is using the process to tighten his grip on power. Xi once said that criticism and self-criticism were a forceful weapon in fixing contradictions within the party. Numerous such internal conclaves were held within the Politburo during Xi’s first five-year term, which began in late 2012. Xi sai his colleagues’ reflection helped unify thoughts and improve the strength of the upper echelons of the party. The president warned his colleagues against paying lip service to the policy goals outlined in the party congress. “Words are not enough. Actual action is needed. Holding meetings and handing out papers is not enough,” said Xi. Why a Xi Jinping protégé came under fire in Beijing over mass eviction of migrant workers He stressed that the key yardstick by which officials would be measured would be whether they could implement the party’s policies and told senior officials they must be willing to take on the hardest issues and the most difficult problems. Xi repeatedly urged his Politburo colleagues to get rid of formalism and bureaucratism while suggested them to do solid investigation and research ahead of making decisions. “Every Party member should avoid empty talk; instead, they should make a concrete effort to implement the policies and decisions of party’s Central Committee,” Xi said. In the political report Xi delivered in the party congress in October, he vowed to make China a top-tier innovative nation by 2035 and a leading global power within 15 years afterwards. He also warned attendees to discipline their family members and close friends, and prevent them from enjoying unfair privileges, Xinhua reported.