What Are Chinese Officials Actually Studying for the Party History Campaign?

On the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Beijing has launched a nationwide campaign to study Party history (along with it’s own dedicated campaign website).

Naturally, this is all taking place amid both the steady elevation of Xi Jinping in the Party’s ideological pantheon and the near-certainty that 2022-23 will see him confirmed as China’s top leader for a third five-year term, with China quite likely in the process of swinging back towards some form of one-man authoritarian lifetime rule.

Given that, it is worth taking a look at the textbooks that will be used in the Party history campaign that’s starting to engulf China’s bureaucracy.  After all, these are what Chinese officials will be called on to study and memorize over the coming months.  So the political signals sent by these materials are key.

These two Chinese-language articles (1, 2) indicate that there are four such books. [h/t to Patricia Thornton for putting me on to the second article].  They consist of:

1) Xi Jinping’s “On the History of the Chinese Communist Party.” 180,000 characters – consisting of 40 speeches by Xi himself.

2) “Excerpts from Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao on the History of the Chinese Communist Party” – 98,000 characters

3) Q&A on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era – answers to 100 questions about the thought of China’s top leader.  [Suspect this is Cliff Notes version for those less-than-diligent cadres to ensure they can appropriately respond to any multiple choice questions.]

4) A Short History of the Chinese Communist Party – this is the one that looks like an actual secondary source history of the CCP – naturally, almost certain to be appropriately edited to conform to whatever the core political line is.

Despite being labelled as a Party history campaign, this is about raising Xi’s own profile, and centering the Party on him personally.

First, #1 and #3 are about what Xi *says* the Party is.  His is the authoritative voice that is being raised up.

Second, note how the voices of other leaders appear to both being a) collapsed together and b) downgraded in comparison to Xi himself.  If you compare #1 and #2, and you see that a heavy component of what Party cadres will *really* be studying over the coming months is the history of the Chinese Communist Party, as narrated by Xi Jinping himself. With quotes from other former top leaders flattened into a volume half the length of Xi’s own speeches.

Looking at that organization, one can easily imagine how everything – and everyone – from 1949 to 2012 starts to fade into a preamble to Xi’s own reign.

And that’s almost exactly what you might expect in terms of the development of a official historical narrative to accompany the imminent full-scale rollout of something like Xi Jinping Thought (习近平思想).

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