New political-legal rectification campaign 2020-2021

A new nation-wide rectification campaign targeting political-legal institutions, incl. courts, procuratorates, police, prisons, administrative body for lawyers… It’ll begin in 2021 & last for one year. The planning starts now with a trial program in selected locales. The campaign targets four main tasks: removing the “herd-harming horses”, purging “two-faced” men who are disloyal and dishonest to the Party, thorough investigation on providing protection to “black and evil influences”, in-depth investigation on corruption in law enforcement and judicial agencies, and persistent corrupt conduct after the 18th Party Congress.

A few quick notes about this campaign:

First, last time a rectification campaign of similar duration was the three-phased 群众路线,两学一做,三严三实 in 2013-2017. The 2013-2017 rectification campaign was inseparable from the anticorruption campaign that took place concurrently. I wrote in details on this issue in my article Politics of Anticorruption in China: Paradigm Change of the Party’s Disciplinary Regime 2012–2017 (link to paywalled full text at publisher website; link to full text from author’s depository with free access). For convenience, I put the main findings below.

First, the power-consolidation process is two-pronged, driven by the ideological and disciplinary campaigns. The two campaigns are not only synchronized but also feed into one another: the ideological campaign defines the political outlook of the disciplinary campaign and the disciplinary campaign provides potency to the ideological campaign. Second, a shift of emphasis from anticorruption to policing political conduct was gradually introduced in both the ideological and disciplinary campaigns around the midterm and became intensified afterwards. The intensification of the enforcement of political discipline in both campaigns coincides with Xi Jinping’s advancement of power. Third, the most significant outcome of Xi Jinping’s campaign is not the numbers of fallen tigers and flies but the paradigm-change in the Party’s disciplinary regime that was introduced at the end of campaign. Such change has two aspects. The first is the reversal of the depoliticization process of the Party’s disciplinary regime that started in the 1990s. The second is the retention of the mobilized anticorruption resources, which would multiply the CCDI’s anticorruption investigative capacities in a sustainable manner and significantly increase President Xi Jinping’s leverage to impose political loyalty and compliance upon Party officials in the future.

For those who are not familiar with the legacy of rectification campaigns, please turn to the end of the post, where I attach some longer excerpts from the same said article of mine.

Second, as far as I know, last time a rectification campaign organized from the highest level & targeting specifically legal institutions (courts, procuratorates in particular) was the “judicial reform” campaign in 1952-1953 (lasted 7 months), launched to eradicate the poison of judicial practices under KMT. This is to say that a pan-zhengfa-apparatus rectification campaign is not a decision that the Party makes lightly.

Third, I cannot remember having ever heard of a rectification campaign that was preceded by a trial-program. Usually trial programs are used for organizational reshuffles, e.g. the setup of the Supervision Commissions or 员额制 reforms in courts and procuratorates. Rather noteworthy is that this important inaugurating conference was not chaired by Guo Shengkun, head of Central Political-Legal Committee but its 秘书长 Chen Yixin (known as Xi’s man from Zhejiang). Guo seemed not even present at the conference.

Fourth, the coming rectification campaign will follow a similar format that was developed in 2013-2017, i.e. a combination of ideological indoctrination, mandatory self-reporting and solicitation of reporting from others on wrong-deeds, which include actual crimes & political violations (again, for more, read the article). An effective investigative tool of the 2013-7 campaign was mandatory self-reporting, which deprives the targets of their privilege against self-incrimination and punishes inaccurate reporting when offenses are detected thru other leads. It will be deployed in this campaign too.

Fifth, this new campaign seems to have a heavier focus on police misconduct, pivoting on Xi’s other signature campaign 扫黑除恶. Note that the police are considered the most important coercive apparatus among all political-legal institutions. Ensured loyalty from the police is critical for any Party General-Secretary. There have been rumours about an investigation against former police chief Meng Jianzhu for a while, which we cannot ascertain at this point. Nevertheless, since the 19th Party Congress, a number of high-level leaders of the Ministry of Public Security have been replaced by “new blood” from Fujian and Shaanxi, who are identified as Xi loyalists. But merely top-level replacement is not enough. A more thorough shake-down in the entire public security system is expected to take place during this rectification campaign.

Lastly, at the time of writing, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) does appear most enthusiastic in its implementing efforts of the new rectification campaign. Its Minister held a mobilization conference joined by high & mid-level leaders of the Ministry & local police leaders via teleconferencing. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate held a party-group meeting, designated 8 procuratorates for the trial program. The Supreme People’s Court has not reported on its implementation efforts.


More background information on rectification campaign from the mentioned article:

Ideological campaign

The ideological campaign launched by Xi Jinping in 2012-2017 is wide in its reach and of long duration, spanning his entire first term of office. One should not take such feature for granted. Not all campaigns initiated by Party leaders can run its intended course. For example, the ambitious anti-spiritual-pollution campaign initiated by Deng Liqun and supported by Deng Xiaoping in 1983 was aborted after four weeks because of opposition from within the Party.[i] The endurance of Xi’s campaign is particularly noteworthy because it started with an austerity program that is very unpopular among Party officials despite its popularity among the masses. This is predictable because the anticorruption drive takes away valuable perks and even fringe benefits that these officials have long taken for granted. Their resentment increases with the rigidity of the campaign. Such resentment can, in some case, halt the development of the political career of a politician.[ii] This is perhaps why previous austerity campaigns seldom lasted long and most remained declarative and non-committal.[iii] The campaign consists of three “Party Education Programs” launched during 2012-2017, which resemble the party-style rectification campaigns in Yan’an during the 1940s.

Historical origin

The term “party-style” was first conceptualized by Mao Zedong, though one can also find its origin in the works of Marx and Lenin.[iv] This phrase gained currency after Mao delivered the speech “On the Party’s Working Styles” at the opening of the Party School of the Central Committee in 1942,[v] which marked the beginning of the Yan’an Party-Style Rectification Campaign (1942-1945). The campaign helped Mao to establish his authority as the leader of the Party through the promotion of sinification of Marxism. After 1949, the Party continued to use rectification campaigns as a mechanism to enforce its prioritized policies. Between the 1950s and 1970s, more than 50 rectification campaigns were launched, with constant shift of political orientation. During the early reform era in the 1980s, rectification campaigns receded in frequency and erraticism but remained an indispensable tool of the Party to command ideological conformity and disciplinary compliance. In the 1990s, the rectification campaigns were rebranded as the Party’s Education Programs on Selected Themes 党的专题教育活动 (hereinafter Party Education Program or PEP) as a part of the “Party-building” initiative. In comparison, Jiang Zemin organized one PEP during his last term in 1997-2002; Hi Jintao had two PEPs in two terms between 2002 and 2012; Xi launched three in one single term.

Xi Jinping’s Party Education Program (PEP)

Xi Jinping’s first PEP is called Educational Activities regarding the Party’s Mass-Line Policy (hereinafter the Mass-Line Program). The program targets Party cadres with supervisory functions or “leading cadres” 党的领导干部in order to rectify four types of harmful behaviours, the so-called “four party-styles 四风”: formalism (superficial conformity), bureaucratism (irresponsiveness, inactiveness, delays and other work-to-rule type of behaviours), hedonism and prodigality. The program activities consist of, as figuratively described, “looking in a mirror”, “putting one’s attires in places” and “taking a shower”. In practice, this program requires leading cadres to conduct self-examination and self-criticism in front of their subordinates as well as to solicit criticism from the latter.[vi]

To prevent the program from degenerating into empty talks, the Politburo issued a decree called Eight-Provisions on Strengthening [the Party’s] Relations with the Masses and Improving the [Party’s] Work Styles (hereinafter Eight-Provisions八项规定). The Eight-Provisions lays down concrete requirements on how to conduct official business, such as the duration and choice of venue of governmental conferences. It also places detailed budgetary constraints on eight categories of public expenses, for instance, business meals, use of office space and government cars and travel expenses.[vii] Hence, the Eight-Provisions provide the main talking points for criticisms and self-criticisms in the Mass-Line PEP activities.

After being in operation for two years, the Mass-line Program was replaced in 2015 by a new program focusing on self-discipline and honesty conduct referred to as “Three-Strict and Three-honest三严三实” (hereinafter Three-Strict). Targets of this education program remain limited to leading cadres. In 2016, the “Three-Strict” program was phased out and replaced by the “Two-Studies and One-Become两学一做” (hereinafter Two-Studies) Program. Unlike the previous programs, which targeted leading cadres, the Two-Studies program is mandatory for all Party-members, including those of rank and file with no supervisory function.


[i] 施滨海 史义军[Binhai Shi & Yijun Shi], “《关于经济体制改革的决定》起草过程[The drafting process of Decision on Economic System Reform],” 炎黄春秋[Yan Huang Chun Qiu] (7), (2017).  苏绍智[Shaozhi Su], “超越党文化的思想樊篱[Over the thought fence of Party Culture],” 当代中国研究[Modern China Studies] (2), (2007).

[ii] For this reason, austerity campaign may be risky for the campaign leader since resentment from Party elites sometimes can bring the political career of the campaign enforcer to a halt. For example, an attempt to revoke the practice of supplying special goods to Party leaders in the 1980s had caused a lot of resentment against Wang Zhaoguo, the one who brought this initiative. See Anonymous, “王兆国因何错失成为第四代领导核心?[How did Wang Zhaoguo miss the opportunity to become the core of the 4th generation of leadership],” 联合早报中文网 [UNIZW Newspaper], June 8 2016.

[iii] Zhonggong Zhongyang Wenjian, “关于党和国家机关必须保持廉洁的通知 [Notice on the Preservation of Practices of Clean Governance for Party and State Institutions],” (1988).

[iv] 袁翠 [Yuan Cui], “列宁关于执政党党风问题的探索 [Lenin’s Probe on the Work-Styles of the Ruling Party]” (2011).

[v] Zedong Mao, ed. Rectify the Party’s Style of Work, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung (Beijing: Renmin Publishing House, 1942).

[vi] Jinping Xi, “Xi Jinping’s Speech at the Work Conference on the Mass Line Educational Campaign习近平在党的群众路线教育实践活动工作会议上的讲话,” Party Construction Research党建研究 (7), (2013).

[vii] To be more specific, the eight areas concern: 1) logistic arrangements for field visits of Party leaders, 2) work conference productivity and related logistic arrangements, 3) productivity regarding the drafting and issuance of official documents, 4) logistic arrangements for overseas diplomatic visits of Party leaders, 5) impact of public disturbance of security protocols for official visits in particular the use of motorcade and traffic control, 6) practices on mandatory coverage of official activities of Party leaders in the mass media, 7) rules on the publication of Party leaders’ manuscripts, public speeches and the exhibition of their scripts and autographs, and 8) dispensation of perks, benefits and privileges drawn from public funds Politburo, “Decision of Eight Rules regarding Strengthening Relations with the Masses and Improving the Work Styles,” (2012).