The Mass Line: Fundamental to the CPC*
June 18, 2013
The mass line is the life of our Party and the fundamental approach to the Party's work. Launching a program of mass line education and practice is a significant decision taken by the Party to supervise its own conduct and enforce strict discipline. It is an important measure to respond to public demand, to strengthen the Party as a Marxist party that learns, innovates and serves the people, and to advance socialism with Chinese characteristics. It has far-reaching significance for the Party to maintain its progressive nature and integrity, consolidate its governing base and status, and complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
First, the program of mass line education and practice is an essential requirement for the Party to realize the objectives set by the 18th CPC National Congress. The Congress proposed to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects when the CPC celebrates its centenary in 2021, and turn China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious when the PRC marks its centennial in 2049. After the Congress the CPC Central Committee proposed the Chinese Dream of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. To realize the Chinese Dream and the objectives set by the Congress, all Party members must follow the fine tradition of the Party.
What does this mean? It means respecting the Party's long-held traditions of linking theory with practice, maintaining close ties with the people, engaging in criticism and self-criticism, cultivating tenacity in work, pursuing the truth and being pragmatic. All through the Party's long period of revolution, construction and reform, the Party has always demanded that all its members maintain its fine tradition, and this is what has underpinned one victory after another for the Party and the people.
We must be cognizant, especially during this new era of reform and opening up, that the Party will be exposed to unprecedented risks and challenges as China drives reform and opening up to a deeper level. The task of improving the Party's conduct will never be more important or urgent. Not for one moment should we be lax or suspend our efforts in this regard.
"In the present period of historical change, when problems have piled up and a thousand things wait to be done, it is crucial for us to strengthen the leadership of the Party and correct its work style,"1 said Deng Xiaoping at the initial launch of reform and opening up. The second generation of the Party leadership headed by Deng Xiaoping, the third generation of the Party leadership headed by Jiang Zemin, and the CPC Central Committee with Hu Jintao as general secretary all made it one of their top priorities to improve the Party's conduct, and carried out a succession of programs to this end – the Party Consolidation2, the "Three Emphases" Education3, the Education to Maintain the Pioneering Role of the Party Members4, and the in-depth study of the Scientific Outlook on Development5.
The Party has always emphasized that Party conduct has a direct impact on its image, on its prospects of winning or losing public support, and on the very survival or extinction of the Party and the state. Maintaining close ties with the people is essential to improving the Party's conduct. Losing contact with the people would pose the gravest threat to the Party.
Since the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in 1978, the Party has reestablished the guiding principles of freeing the mind and seeking truth from facts, attaching more importance to the Party's conduct, and maintaining close ties with the people. The whole Party has burnished its image and improved its conduct, guaranteeing the smooth progress of reform and opening up and the drive for socialist modernization.
As has been the case throughout the Party's history, its close ties with the people are the embodiment of its nature and purpose, the hallmark that distinguishes the CPC from other political parties, and an important factor enabling the CPC to grow strong. The fate of the Party's undertakings relies on whether it can maintain its ties with the people.
Our Party comes from the people, is rooted in the people, and serves the people. Without popular support, none of the Party's achievements or aspirations would be possible. We must always keep close ties with the people, so that the Party can continue to respond to the challenges of governance, reform and opening up, and the market economy, as well as the external environment. Under no circumstances will we ever forsake our commitment to sharing weal and woe with the people. We will never forget the Party's purpose of serving the people wholeheartedly. We will never forgo the historical materialist viewpoint which regards the people as the true heroes. The Party will always serve the public, and govern for the benefit of the people.
In this new era, in order to realize the Chinese Dream and the objectives set by the 18th CPC National Congress, we must remain close to the people, rely on them, and fully mobilize their initiative, enthusiasm and creativity. We have launched the campaign of mass line education and practice with the aim of reminding all Party members that their fundamental purpose is to serve the people whole-heartedly, unite the people through the Party's fine tradition, and work hard with them to realize the objectives set by the Congress and the Chinese Dream.
Second, launching the program of mass line education and practice is an essential requirement for the Party to maintain its progressive nature and its integrity, and consolidate its governing base and status. This is an issue, fundamental to the Party and its future development.
As we have so often repeated, the Party's pioneering role and its role of governance do not remain unchanged once acquired. Even if you had played a pioneering role in the past, there is no guarantee that you will always do so; the fact that you are playing the role now does not mean that you will be progressive forever. Just because you possessed it in the past does not mean that you will own it forever. This is the conclusion of our analysis based on dialectical and historical materialism.
How can we maintain the Party's progressive nature and its integrity, and consolidate its governing role and status? The key is to keep to the Party's mass line and maintain close ties with the people.
As an old Chinese saying goes, "Those who win the people's hearts win the country, and those who lose the people's hearts lose the country." Likewise, the people's support is the most solid foundation for the Party's governance. Winning or losing public support is vital to the Party's survival or extinction. The Party must dedicate its soul and mind to the people, share their weal and woe, and rely on them to continue to make progress. Only then "steadfastly we stand our ground"6 against "ominous storms that threaten to engulf us."7
We have launched the program of mass line education and practice so that the values of honesty, serving the people and remaining down-to-earth can take root in the hearts and actions of all Party members. In this way we can consolidate the Party's governing status, increase the Party's creativity, cohesiveness and professional capabilities, maintain its progressive nature and its integrity, and consolidate its position through broad, profound and reliable public support.
Third, launching the program of mass line education and practice is essential if we are to address the people's pressing concerns. In general, Party organizations, members and officials are practicing the Party's mass line well at present. Party members and officials have set a good example, dedicating themselves to reform, development and stability. They have maintained good relations with the people and won their approval and support. Most of them have done a good job, for which we must give them full credit.
Nevertheless, we must realize that as the world, the country, and the Party undergo profound changes, the perils of mental laxity, mediocrity, isolation from the people, passivity and corruption have become increasingly serious. Many Party officials are losing touch with the people, and some problems are very serious, especially the Four Malfeasances of going through the motions, excessive bureaucracy, self-indulgence, and extravagance.
Going throngh the motions means doing things for form's sake – the separation of action from knowledge, neglecting what is truly effective, hiding behind piles of documents, and immersing oneself in meetings, the pursuit of vanity and a resort to falsehood.
Some Party officials stop studying Party theory or learning information which they need in performing their duties, while others content themselves with the most superficial understanding, which they can use as window-dressing instead of applying it in real work. They have no intention of studying, nor have they the ability to put what they do know into practice. Some use the requirements for documents and meetings simply as a pretext for generating further documents and meetings; some love to put on a show and seek the limelight; in some places the priority is to highlight leaders' speeches in newspapers and on TV, while neglecting practical work; some have no interest in achieving actual results or solving genuine problems – their only aim is to ingratiate themselves with their superiors, generate headlines or decorate their work reports...one ceremony after another, one summary after another, one award after another. We call this Krikun8 style.
For some officials, a "grassroots survey" is no more than a comfortable ride in a car, a hurried glance through the window, an affable wave to the cameras, and a casual glance at events outside, rather than a proper investigation into shadows, nooks and crannies. Some turn a blind eye to fake reports, data and models, or even go out of their way to gloss over the truth with lies. No wonder people say that paperwork keeps officials well clear of real life, and a mountain of formalism detaches policies from their implementation.
Excessive bureaucracy means departure from reality, losing touch with the people, arrogance, indifference to facts, conceit, and inflated egos. Some Party officials do not understand or concern themselves with reality. They are reluctant to go to areas experiencing harsh conditions, or help grassroots organizations and people solve problems; they prefer to having nothing to do with them lest there should be more trouble. Their duties are a game to them – they pass the buck or muddle through. Some Party officials, heedless of the people's wishes and the circumstances that apply in their locality, make casual decisions and empty promises. They blindly launch expensive projects, walk away when they fail, and leave behind an unresolved mess; some curry favor with their superiors, and rudely order their subordinates around. People in need of their services find them difficult to access, hard to talk to and impossible to get them to act. They even demand bribes before doing things that are part of their duties, and abuse their power; some follow plans and directions from their superiors without trying to understand them properly. Some implement the decisions of superiors to a superficial degree, while others awkwardly imitate – doing things according to the old way or following others without considering the particular circumstances that apply to them. Some are "empire-builders," high-handed and arbitrary in their approach, intolerant of any alternative view. They reject criticism and offers of help, and refuse to listen to different voices.
The main features of self-indulgence are mental laxity, resting on one's laurels, vanity, coveting pleasure, pursuing ostentation, and seeking to keep oneself amused. Some Party officials have become demoralized, and their faith has been shaken. Their philosophy of life is to indulge themselves in pleasure-seeking – "drinking your fill as long as you have wine to drink"9 and "seizing the moments of contentment in life and making the most of them."10 Some have abandoned their ideals in favor of material comforts, vulgar amusements, revelry, drinking, and a life of luxury. Some take on easy tasks and shirk hard work because they have no taste for hardship and effort. They lack motivation and new goals because they are happy with the status quo, satisfied with their limited knowledge and understanding, and content with their past achievements. They idle through the day flipping through newspapers, drinking tea and chatting, their gaze wandering abstractedly because they have no purpose.
Extravagance means waste, squandering resources, expensive building programs, endless festivals and ceremonies, a luxurious and dissolute lifestyle, and abuse of power that can extend to actual corruption. Some Party officials spend hundreds of millions of Renminbi on construction of a luxury office building that occupies acres of land and contains facilities for feasting, drinking and amusement. Some are devotees of festivals and ceremonies, sometimes squandering millions of Renminbi or more on a single event. It is the blood and sweat of the people they are tossing away! For some who seek comfort and pleasure their homes can never be too many nor too grand, their cars can never be too luxurious, their banquets can never be too exquisite, and the brands of clothes they wear can never be too famous. Their excesses show disdain for the rules; they take things for granted and always want more. Some demand excessive receptions, stay at expensive hotels, eat all sorts of delicacies, drink fine wines and then take bribes. Some hold membership cards and consumption cards of great value, and indulge themselves in luxury clubs, high-end sports complexes, free travel at home and abroad, and even foreign casinos, where they spend money like water. Some even glory in their misconduct, moral corruption and dissolute lifestyle, instead of feeling shame.
I give these examples to warn all Party members. If we allow these problems to spread like weeds, the consequences will be disastrous, and the tragedy of Farewell My Concubine11, which Mao Zedong used as a metaphor for losing power, may come true. Some of our colleagues have become accustomed to such problems, and take them for granted. This is even more dangerous. As a saying goes, "Stay in a fish market long enough, and one will get used to the stink."12
We should keep in mind the ancient warning that "self-indulgence and extravagance lead to decline and demise,"13 and launch full-scale examinations, overhauls and clean-ups to eliminate defects and misconduct from the Party, and address the people's most pressing concerns.
* Part of the speech at the conference of the Program of Mass Line Education and Practice held by the CPC Central Committee.
1 Deng Xiaoping: "Uphold the Four Cardinal Principles," Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Vol. II, Eng. ed., Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1994, pp. 185-186.
2 "Party Consolidation" refers to the overhaul of the Party's working practices and organization. The program, which lasted from the winter of 1983 to 1987, aimed to unify the Party members' mindset, rectify the Party's work practices, reinforce discipline, and cleanse its organization.
3 The "Three Emphases" Education refers to the education program in Party spirit and work practices for Party and government leaders above county level. The program, conducted from November 1998 to December 2000, emphasized theoretical study, political awareness, and being honest and upright.
4 Education to Maintain the Pioneering Role of Party Members refers to the Party-wide program focused on the important thought of the Three Represents. From January 2005 to June 2006 over 70 million Party members and more than 3.5 million grassroots Party organizations participated in the education program.
5 All Party members took part in the program of in-depth study and implementation of the Scientific Outlook on Development, during the period from September 2008 to February 2010. The program was themed on the Scientific Outlook on Development, with focus on educating Party and government leaders above county level.
6 Mao Zedong: "Jinggang Mountains," Mao Zedong Poems, Eng. ed., Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1998, p. 9.
7 Li He: Ode to the Journey of Yanmen Prefect. Li He (790-816) was a leading poet of the Tang Dynasty.
8 Krikun, a journalist in Frontline (1942), a drama written by Alexander Korney-chuk during the Great Patriotic War of the former Soviet Union. He created news by reporting rumors and making up stories, and his name is often used to describe fabrication and exaggeration in news reporting.
9 Luo Yin: For Myself. Luo Yin (833-919) was a writer of the Tang Dynasty.
10 Li Bai: Invitation to Wine.
11 One of the final episodes in the life of rebellious warlord Xiang Yu during the late Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). Xiang, the self-proclaimed "Overlord of Western Chu" could not tolerate different opinions, and his flawed personality finally resulted in his downfall following the siege of Gaixia. Xiang drank his final toasts with Concubine Yu, and sang lyrics of heroism and lament. Concubine Yu danced for Xiang one last time, took his sword and committed suicide. Xiang broke out of the siege and fled to the banks of the Wujiang River, where he committed suicide by slitting his throat with his sword. Farewell My Concubine is a metaphor for final downfall resulting from arbitrary conduct and losing touch with the people.
12 The Family Teaching of Confucius (Kong Zi Jia Yu).
13 New Book of the Tang Dynasty (Xin Tang Shu).
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)