The Guiding Thoughts and Goals for the Program of Mass Line Education and Practice

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China I Updated: 2021-12-13

The Guiding Thoughts and Goals for the Program of Mass Line Education and Practice* 

June 18, 2013 

The Party Central Committee has stipulated the guiding thoughts, goals and tasks, basic principles, methods, and steps for the Party's program of mass line education and practice. To implement the Central Committee's requirements, we must uphold socialism with Chinese characteristics, and fully implement the plans and decisions made at the Party's 18th National Congress. We must follow the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of the Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development, and make every effort to implement the plans and requirements set forth by the Central Committee since the CPC's 18th National Congress. 

We must maintain and develop the Party's pioneering role and integrity, and effectively strengthen education for all Party members on the Party's mass line and the Marxist viewpoint on the people, focusing on serving the people and on being down-to-earth, honest and upright in conduct. We should start by implementing the Eight Rules1 of the Party Central Committee, and strive to solve the most pressing problems. The key lies in the following: 

First, focusing on goals and tasks. We have learned from previous education programs within the Party that well-set goals are central to the success of such programs. When we organize these activities we naturally expect them to produce results, and the greater the better. We should also be realistic when making plans. This education program will last a year, and be conducted in quarterly units, so we cannot expect to resolve all problems inside the Party at one stroke. 

Many problems will remain to be addressed through regular work. Here we must consider one question: Ten wounds partially treated or one completely cured – which is better? Based on this consideration, the Party Central Committee has decided that promoting Party conduct should be the first priority, and our efforts should be concentrated on solving problems relating to the Four Malfeasances of going through the motions, excessive bureaucracy, self-indulgence, and extravagance. 

Why should we concentrate on these four problems? Because they run contrary to our Party's very nature and purpose, and because they are the problems that the public hates the most. They are of the most pressing concern to the people, and they are at the root of the greatest damage to the relations between the Party and the people and between officials and the people. All the other problems within the Party are related to the Four Malfeasances, or have spun off from them. Once the Four Malfeasances are resolved, there will be a sounder base for treating other problems. 

Following the Party's 18th National Congress, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee made improving Party conduct its priority as a result of the same considerations. We should consolidate our previous achievements in improving Party conduct, and expand them through studying and practicing the Party's mass line. 

To solve the Four Malfeasances, we must set an accurate focus, locate the "acupoints," and firmly grasp the vitals, and we must not allow ourselves to be distracted. In fighting against going through the motions, we should focus on promoting down-to-earth work, and educate and guide Party members and officials on improving their approach to theoretical study, meetings and official documents, and working practices. They must be prepared to stand firm on cardinal issues of right and wrong and hold to their principles without flinching. They must devote themselves wholeheartedly to their duties, and spare themselves no effort in understanding the true conditions faced by the people, in promoting concrete measures, and in achieving solid results through a down-to-earth approach. 

In fighting excessive bureaucracy, we should focus on solving the problems of isolation from the people and failure to protect their interests. Again we should educate Party members and officials, and guide them in working at the grassroots to understand the true conditions faced by the people, in remaining committed to democratic centralism, in learning from the people, in answering to the people, in serving the people, and in accepting oversight by the people. We must be resolute in correcting problems such as perfunctory performance of duties, evading and shirking responsibilities, and infringing upon the people's interests. 

In fighting self-indulgence we should focus on overcoming indulgence in pleasure and privileges. Once more we should educate Party members and officials, and guide them in keeping to the "two musts,"2 in being wholeheartedly devoted to public service and performing their duties with diligence, in upholding political integrity, and in preserving a spirit of high principles and hard work. 

In fighting extravagance, we should focus on putting an end to unhealthy practices such as pleasure-seeking, luxury and dissipation. Again we should educate Party members and officials, and guide them in practicing thrift and standing against waste, in leading a simple life, in being strict with their spending, and in doing everything in a no-frills manner. 

To put an end to the Four Malfeasances, we must start from reality, identify the main pressing problems, and concentrate on those problems which are most severe or most pressing. We must be precise in identifying our targets, and achieve effective results. 

Second, implementing general requirements with diligence. During the Rectification Movement in Yan'an3, Mao Zedong proposed an intensive campaign to fight against subjectivism, sectarianism, and "eight-legged Party essays."4 He said that it was not easy to cleanse the Party of these defects, and that patients must be given a heavy dose of stimulus to wake them up and make them sweat before being sent for treatment. Learning from the experience of the Yan'an Rectification Movement, the current requirements for studying and practicing the Party's mass line have been clearly defined: "Examine oneself in the mirror, straighten one's clothes and hat, take a bath, and treat one's disease." It can also be summarized in four phrases: self-purification, self-improvement, self-innovation and self-cultivation. However, it is easier to say than to do. 

To "examine oneself in the mirror," Party members should use the Party Constitution as a mirror in which to measure themselves. How do they perform in terms of the Party's discipline, the people's expectations, and their role models, and how can they improve themselves in performance and conduct? They should identify their shortcomings in upholding the Party's principles, promoting healthy working practices, and maintaining integrity and self-discipline. They should recognize how far they have fallen short of these standards, and they should be clear in terms of how they will improve themselves. 

A mirror can be used for self-reflection, and it can also be directed towards others. On this occasion it is to be used for Party members themselves. In real life, some people always feel good about themselves, and seldom look in the mirror. Some are only too well aware of their shortcomings, so they are afraid of looking in the mirror. Some like to admire themselves in the best possible light, and so they put on make-up before looking in the mirror. Some take the view that they are perfect; it is others who are disfigured – they only hold up the mirror in front of others. None of these is compatible with Communist principles. Party members and officials should dare to look in the mirror, and do so frequently; in particular they should use the mirror for profound self-examination, to reflect upon even the tiniest flaws. In this way they will be able to see their shortcomings and rectify them. 

To "straighten one's clothes and hat" means that one should, after examining oneself in the mirror, and based on the principles of serving the people, being down-to-earth in one's work, and upholding integrity, dare to face one's weaknesses and shortcomings, strictly observe the Party's discipline, especially its political discipline, start with themselves in facing up to problems, and take immediate steps to rectify their conduct. They should take the initiative to renew their faith in the Party character, review their obligations as Party members, and stiffen their resolve to observe Party discipline and state laws, so as to present a positive image as good Communists. It is not enough to "straighten one's clothes and hat" only once, they need to "examine themselves three times a day."5

It takes courage to face problems and try to solve them, and this means taking the initiative. "Disasters often result from neglecting the smallest things; the wise and brave are often trapped by their minor indulgences."6 Developing a habit of regularly "straightening one's clothes and hat" will help prevent small wrongdoings from growing into big ones, and can also effectively protect against "falling feathers submerging a boat and an excess load breaking a cart axle."

To "take a bath," Party members should follow the spirit of the Rectification Movement and engage in criticism and self-criticism among themselves. They should conduct in-depth analysis of the reasons for their problems, dust off their minds and their actions, and on the basis of what they find beneath, address both problems in their way of thinking and in their conduct, so as to maintain the political integrity of Communists. 

We are exposed to dust every day, which is why we need to take showers regularly. Use some soap, give yourself a scrub with a loofah, and then rinse yourself off – you will feel clean and refreshed. Similarly, our minds and actions can get dusty too, tainted by political microbes, so we also need to "take a bath" to rid ourselves of dust and grime, refresh our body and mind, unclog our pores, and get our metabolism working, so that we carry out our duties earnestly and uphold personal integrity. Some prefer to cover up the dust in their minds and actions, and are loath to "take a bath." In such cases, our colleagues and our Party organizations should provide them with some help. 

To "treat one's disease" means the Party believes that it should learn from past mistakes to avoid future ones, and cure the disease to save the patient. Our Party draws distinctions between different cases, and prepares different remedies for different diseases. Party members and officials who have problems in conduct are educated and warned, those with serious problems are investigated and punished, and special programs are organized to crack down on serious misconduct and major problems. 

When a person is ill, he must visit the doctor for treatment, perhaps even have an operation if the case is serious. If it is an ailment in mind or conduct, it should also be treated as soon as possible. A minor illness can develop into a serious complication if we conceal the ailment and avoid the doctor, and a disease can spread from the skin to internal organs, and eventually become incurable. This is exactly what we mean by "curing an illness is easy at the start, but saving a terminal patient is hard."8

Party organizations at all levels should take strong measures to help Party members and officials who have problems in identifying their diseases, and provide remedies according to the symptoms. Those who need to take Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) should take TCM, those who need to take Western medicine should take Western medicine, and those who need combined treatment of TCM and Western medicine should be given such treatment. Those who need operations should have operations performed on them. We must effectively ensure that the Party is run with strict discipline. 

Third, engaging in criticism and self-criticism following the spirit of the Rectification Movement. Criticism and self-criticism is a good Party tradition, and an effective weapon for enhancing the capacity of Party organizations in their effort to maintain unity and solidarity inside the Party. Why do we need to follow the spirit of the Rectification Movement and engage in criticism and self-criticism? Because various problems afflicting the people inside the Party, especially the Four Malfeasances, are chronic and persistent conditions that need to be addressed with courage. We must dare to lose face in exposing shortcomings and mistakes, dare to take up our hammers and crack the tough nuts, dare to engage in battles, and dare to dig down to the roots and touch the soul. Currently the keen blade of criticism and self-criticism has become dull and rusty in many places, and cannot reach down to the deeper levels of problems and deal with them. Like hitting a person with a feather duster, it causes no pain. In some places self-criticism has morphed into self-praise, and criticism into flattery. In our new program we must work hard on criticism and self-criticism. 

We should ensure that Party branch meetings effectively carry out such criticism and self-criticism. Party organizations at all levels should educate Party members and officials in the formula of "unity-criticism-unity," and relieve them of the worries of losing face when criticizing one's self, of suffering from retaliation for criticizing one's superiors, of damaging friendships with colleagues by criticizing persons of equivalent rank, and of losing support by criticizing subordinates. 

Party members and officials should not only conduct in-depth analysis and examination of themselves, but also share genuine criticism of each other to touch the mind and soul. Their reddened faces and sweat that so result will bring a host of problems into the open, and show the direction towards rectification. Both criticism and self-criticism should be conducted with respect for facts, with good intentions towards others, and for the public good. There will be no burying of heads in the sand. No one will act either superficially or excessively during criticism sessions, and personal grudges will be avoided. Good advice is jarring to the ear, just as good medicine is bitter to the tongue. In response to criticism, you should correct mistakes if you have made any, and guard against them if you have not. We should never use "criticism" as a weapon against criticism, or fight each other without principle. 

The eyes of the people are sharp. They see very clearly and are only too aware of problems with Party members and officials. In conducting our program we must be open to the public, and solicit opinions and suggestions from the people. We must organize orderly public participation at each stage of the process, and allow the people to supervise our actions and air their views. We should avoid "talking to ourselves or singing to ourselves," or working behind closed doors where the air circulates only internally. We should avoid isolating ourselves from the people. 

Fourth, leading officials taking the lead. We often hear voices crying out that long-standing problems cannot be solved because they are rooted in the upper levels, although the symptoms appear at the lower levels. The upper level is sick, but the lower level receives the medicine. Indeed, many problems of isolation from the people are apparent in leading bodies, leading groups and leading officials. This program should concentrate on leading bodies, leading groups and leading officials above the county level. 

As the saying goes, one must discipline oneself before disciplining others, and one must be a good blacksmith to forge good tools. The Central Committee has decided to start the program from the Political Bureau, aiming at setting a good example. Leading bodies, leading groups and leading officials above the county level must also set good examples. 

Leading officials at all levels are the organizers, promoters and supervisors of the program, but they are also participants. They should take part in activities as ordinary Party members and strive for greater achievements in studying and practicing the Party's mass line, and also in bettering their ability to analyze and solve pressing problems. 

Whether an official can conduct a precise, in-depth and strict self-assessment is an important gauge for judging his role as a leader in this program. Those who are selfless are fearless. 

Officials should put aside their airs and listen carefully to the opinions of their subordinates, of the grassroots organizations, of Party members, and of the ordinary people. They should engage in self-examination by setting themselves as standards and carefully looking for any pressing problems in improving their own conduct. They should look into the conduct of their leading groups, their departments and their regions, conduct in-depth analysis of the root causes of any problems, and decide on the direction for rectification and any concrete measures to be taken. 

In examining problems officials must avoid at all costs dealing with problems while avoiding those who are behind the problems, dealing with the problems of others while avoiding their own, and dealing with minor problems while avoiding serious ones. Backed by confidence and resolve, we will boldly engage in criticism and self-criticism, achieve positive results in solving pressing problems, and succeed in making upper levels set the example for lower levels. 

Fifth, establishing a long-term mechanism. Maintaining the Party's close ties with the people is a constant topic for study, and problems relating to conduct recur and persist. It is impossible to accomplish the whole task at one stroke, and we cannot promote Party conduct in temporary phases, like a passing gust of wind. Our efforts in this regard must be constant, and we must have long-term plans. As our first measure we should address pressing problems of keen concern to the people, and at the same time we should plan for the future and establish a long-term mechanism for encouraging Party members and officials to serve the people, be down-to-earth in their work, and uphold integrity in office. 

After many years of experimentation and practice, we have developed a systematic framework of regulations for implementing the Party's mass line and maintaining close ties with the people. Most of the regulations are effective and are recognized as such by the people, and we should continue to follow them. At the same time, the Party Central Committee has new requirements for the future, and departments and regions will also participate in creating new and fresh experiences. 

We should integrate the requirements of the Central Committee, actual needs, and fresh experiences to develop new systems that are appropriate to the current situation, to upgrade the existing systems and to abolish those that are not required. Any newly-developed or improved system must be easy to implement, be coherent with the established laws, and function within the existing legal framework. Attention must be given to formulating supporting measures to match the new systems and make sure that they are precisely targeted and able to guide our work effectively. 

Once a system is in place we must all abide by it, and ensure that everyone is equal before it and that no exceptions arise in its application. We must be firm in protecting its authority, and resolute in responding to those who refuse to be bound by it or feign compliance while undermining it. We should let our systems act as rigorous constraints for ensuring that Party members and officials maintain close ties with and serve the people, and that Party members and officials have the individual will to implement the Party's mass line. 

* Part of the speech at the conference of the Program of Mass Line Education and Practice held by the CPC Central Committee.


1  The Eight Rules were proposed by the Political Bureau of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC to cut bureaucracy and maintain close ties with the people. They are summarized as follows: improving inspection and fact-finding trips, streamlining conferences and other activities, reducing documents and briefings, standardizing arrangements for visits abroad, enhancing security procedures, improving news reports, imposing restriction on publishing of writings without authorization, and practicing diligence and frugality. 

2  The "two musts" refer to "our comrades must remain modest and prudent, neither conceited nor rash, in our working practices; and our comrades must remain hardworking despite difficulties in our working practices." They were proposed by Mao Zedong in the Report to the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the CPC. At the time, the CPC was about to win state power nationwide. Mao cautioned the whole Party on standing the test of exercising governance and against arrogance and complacency, love of pleasure and estrangement from the people that would end the rule of the CPC. 

3  Yan'an Rectification Movement refers to a Marxist education campaign inside the CPC from 1942 to 1945. Its main aims were: to fight against objectivism in order to improve theoretical study; to fight against sectarianism in order to improve Party conduct; and to fight against "eight-legged Party essays" in order to improve writing. 

4  The "eight-legged essay" was a special writing skill tested in the imperial examinations during China's Ming and Qing dynasties. This type of essay was empty in content, focused exclusively on form and mainly involved word play. Each section of the essay had to follow a rigid pattern, and even the number of words used was predefined. Examinees just wrote essays by following the rules and according to the literal meaning of the topic. The phrase "eight-legged Party essay" refers to empty writing full of revolutionary stock phrases and jargon composed by Party members for speeches or other publicity work. 

5 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu)

6  Ouyang Xiu: New History of the Five Dynasties (Xin Wu Dai Shi). Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072) was a statesman and writer of the Northern Song Dynasty. 

7  Sima Qian: Records of the Historian (Shi Ji)

8  Fan Ye: The Book of the Eastern Han Dynasty (Hou Han Shu). Fan Ye (398-445) was a historian during the Northern and Southern Dynasties.

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