We didn't think it was possible, but then again, when it comes to the CPC's leveraging of technology for the purposes of ideological indoctrination and social control, nothing surprises us anymore.
After Tencent created a mobile app that awarded 'points' to government employees who were the fastest to stand and applaud during a speech by President Xi, the Chinese government has released a smartphone app of its own that takes its indoctrination efforts to a whole new level. Th app awards points to state employees for studying lessons on socialist ideology, taking quizzes on "Xi Jinping thought" and watching lectures about aspects of Chinese culture and Communist Party history.
Bureaucrats and managers at state-owned companies are supposed to incorporate these scores in their evaluations of employees, Bloomberg reports, though some have said these rules are sparsely enforced.
To help fill the app with content and assist in the monitoring of its users, state-run CCTV is recruiting 300 people to work in its "new media division", half of whom will be tasked with managing the app.
Basic requirements include "maintaining a high degree of unity with the ideological and political actions" of the Party and Xi, and "practicing the core values of socialism."
The app, called "the Study of the Strong and Powerful Country", climbed to the top of the 'most downloaded' list after its January release.
The app is the latest push to spread "Xi Jinping Thought" - the president’s take on socialism that was enshrined in the constitution two years ago in a show of power. It topped Apple Inc.’s domestic download charts shortly after it was released in January, and has become a major topic of conversation among bureaucrats and party officials.
Many government employees are required to use the app regularly. They have been told they can prove their loyalty by racking up points, which are given out to users depending on how often they log on, comment on posts or take quizzes, according to bureaucrats who spoke to Bloomberg on the condition of anonymity.
The app is part of a trend of quantifying Chinese citizens' loyalty and obedience. Last year, Beijing started rolling out its 'social credit score' system across the country. It corresponds with Xi's unprecedented consolidation of power, which has made him the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao.
So far, enforcement of rules to use the app appear to vary drastically across government departments. One official in Beijing said she had a score of zero, but her supervisors didn’t really care. Several provinces, meanwhile, have established special committees to ensure that employees are using the app regularly.
China’s State Council Information Office didn’t reply to faxed questions seeking comment on requirements to use the app.
National "party building" campaigns have become the norm under Xi, who took control of the party in 2012 and has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. Xi has put himself at the center of the Chinese political system: He heads dozens of policy committees and this year chaired four politburo meetings that produced sweeping new legislation tightening control of the ruling party.
By using mobile apps, the CPC hopes to leverage Chinese citizens' "obsession" with the Internet and their mobile devices and use it as a tool of state repression.
But in an amusing twist, some government employees have found ways to 'cheat' and earn points for activities and studying they didn't actually do. One woman said she uses her 5 year old to sit in front of the phone and watch videos. Others employ special software designed to game the app.
After all, what government employee wants to work for free?
Think you have what it takes to prove your fealty to the Communist elite? Take Bloomberg's quiz on "Xi Jinping thought" below (text courtesy of Bloomberg):
1. To be loyal to the party, we must strengthen our “four consciousness,” be firm in our “Four self-confidence,” and uphold [……….], strictly observe the party’s political discipline and political rules, and always maintain a high degree of consistency with the Party Central Committee in political positions, directions, principles and paths.
2. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that a cadre’s [……….] and style of work can best be seen by his or her ability to take responsibility.
3. The report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) proposed that the state supervision law be formulated to give the supervisory commission the power of responsibility and means of investigation in accordance with the law, and replace the “shuanggui” measures with [……….].
4. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that the mainstream media should provide more real, objective and clear-cut information in a timely manner, and grasp the [……….] and [……….] in the field of public opinion.
5. Among the following crops, [……….] and [……….] were first cultivated by the Chinese. A. Rice B. Wheat C. Corn D. Soybean.
6. What year did Qian Xuesen (Hsue-Shen Tsien), a prominent scientist who led China’s missile and space programs in the 60s, come back to China from the U.S.? A. Oct. 8, 1954 B. Oct. 8, 1955 C. Oct. 8, 1956
7. On Dec. 14, 2016, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out in his speech at the Central Economic Work Conference that to solve the real estate problem, we should insist that “houses are [……….] and not for speculation."
8. In recent years, General Secretary Xi Jinping has repeatedly mentioned Wang Shouren, who is also known as [……….], a thinker of the Ming dynasty. He affirmed that Yangming philosophy of the mind is the essence of Chinese traditional culture and one of the entry points to enhance the cultural confidence of the Chinese people.
Answers: 1. "Two upholding." 2. Party character. 3. Detentions. 4. Initiative and dominance. 5. A (Rice) and D (Soybean). 6. B (Oct. 8, 1955). 7. For living. 8. Wang Yangming.