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Be the Spine of Our Party

Source: Xi Jinping The Governance of China IV Updated: 2023-12-11

Be the Spine of Our Party*

September 1, 2021

This year marks the centenary of our Party, and at present all Party members are engaged in the education campaign on CPC history. It is necessary for you to systematically study Party theories to consolidate your political commitment here at the Central Party School. Every time since 2013, I have come and talked to the younger officials at the opening ceremony of this training program. Today, I would like to talk with you and set some expectations.

First, you must have firm ideals and convictions in Marxism, communism and Chinese socialism, and be loyal to the Party. Since our Party’s 18th National Congress in 2012, I have emphasized on many occasions that Party members and officials must strengthen their ideals and convictions. The reason for this is that during a period of time in the past, quite a number of Party members and officials lost their ideals and beliefs under the influence of erroneous and misguided thinking, and sought to obtain material gain and indulge in selfish desires.

Since its founding a hundred years ago, the CPC has always possessed lofty ideals and firm convictions. These are its belief in Marxism, in the long-term goal of communism, and in the common ideal of socialism with Chinese characteristics. As the source of strength and political soul of China’s Communists, these are the ideological basis for maintaining the Party’s solidarity and unity. I have always emphasized that we must be unequivocal and confident when talking about the ideals and convictions of our Party. Do not be ambiguous about this; do not be hesitant. Once a communist party loses its ideals, it is no different from other political parties. Without this motivating force and inner bond, it will become a disjointed group, doomed to failure. This is why I keep saying that ideals and convictions are as essential for a Communist as calcium is for bones. Without this compound they will be deficient in mind. The core of their being will suffer; they will inevitably become politically, financially and morally corrupt; they will pursue a degenerate lifestyle.

How Party members and officials think and act is determined by whether they hold firm ideals and convictions, or pursue personal gain and selfish desires. Only when they are strong in mind and belief, will they be able to stand fast in the face of any test, and achieve steady and continued progress; in contrast, if they are lacking or weak in ideals and convictions, they will not hold their ground when confronting challenges. They will be overwhelmed by desires and selfish interests or worse still, abandon their responsibility at critical moments.

In real life, some Party members and officials are enslaved by addiction to material enjoyment. Their inner world is barren and they lack drive. They worship money, renown and pleasure, and consider these to be the ultimate goal of life. A few of them use the power bestowed by the Party and the people as a passport to personal gain, falling disgracefully into the abyss of corruption. All this is caused by a loss of ideals and convictions.

I have said on many occasions that we Communists should temper our mind and character, integrating our learning, thinking and practice, and seeking unity between what we learn, what we believe in, and what we do. The main goal for Party members and officials is to consolidate their ideals and convictions and strengthen their commitment to the Party. We cannot forge firm convictions at a stroke, nor is this a one-time effort. Whether we are true to them does not depend on what we think, but is judged by what we do when facing the harshest or most protracted tests throughout our life.

Countless martyrs took the road of revolution because they found Marxism and communism when they went out in search of truth and the ultimate way to save the country and the people. The recent TV series The Age of Awakening, which you may have watched, vividly narrates the story of how our Party’s early leaders fixed on Marxism and communism in the face of extreme difficulties and many competing ideologies. Li Dazhao once said, “Our purpose in living is to make something of our life, but there is a moment when we must sacrifice our lives for that purpose.... A lofty life is often characterized by a heroic death.” Facing the executioner’s blade, he welcomed death as a true hero, fulfilling his commitment to his ideals with action.

Over the Party’s hundred-year history, a great many of its members carried through their ideals to the end, shedding blood in the fire of war and standing the test of life and death. Countless gave their precious lives to defend their faith. However, there were also many who wavered and betrayed the cause, tired of a hard life or fearful of the cruel struggle. Among the 13 delegates to the First CPC National Congress in 1921, five – Wang Jinmei, Li Hanjun, Deng Enming, He Shuheng and Chen Tanqiu – laid down their lives for the revolution; some left the Party; and Chen Gongbo, Zhou Fohai and Zhang Guotao betrayed the Party. History has proved that vacillating elements will be sifted out by the revolutionary tide, just as Lu Xun wrote, “Because of the difference in ultimate aims, during the struggle some may drop out, take flight, grow decadent, or turn renegade. But so long as the rest keep advancing, as time goes by their force will grow finer and better trained.”

Younger officials should bear in mind that ideals and beliefs are a lifelong commitment, and regular reinforcement is a requisite. Beliefs are to be upheld for life. Any change of heart, falling by the wayside, or betrayal will have major consequences.

A strong faith is closely connected to loyalty to the Party. Only with firm ideals and convictions can one stay loyal to the Party, and fidelity to the Party interprets these beliefs best.

Liu Guozhi (1921-1949), the real-life model for Liu Siyang in the novel Red Crag, was born into a wealthy family in Sichuan Province. He was arrested and thrown into jail because of the treachery of a renegade. The enemy promised to release him if he would provide information on the Party organization and announce in a newspaper his withdrawal from the Party. But he remained resolute and decisive, saying “I will never die as long as the Party lives; what would be the meaning of my life if I sell out the Party?”

Chen Yi had a life motto: “A strong faith is central to revolution.” Although he was not there when the first gunshots were fired in the Nanchang Uprising in 1927, he overcame all difficulties and caught up with the main force, which was reduced to only 800 men upon arriving at Tianxinxu in Jiangxi Province. He assisted Zhu De to rally the remaining troops, and said to them, “It is easy to be a hero in victory, but much harder to be one in adversity. Only one who has experienced failures can be a real hero. We should be heroes in a time of defeat.” This is true loyalty to the Party. No matter the circumstances, members must follow the Party to the end even it costs their lives.

In the revolutionary years, the criterion of loyalty was whether one would fight for and sacrifice oneself for the cause of the Party and the people. In times of peace there are also clear standards of assessment. These include:

• whether one can uphold Party leadership, safeguard the authority of the Central Committee and its centralized, unified leadership, and keep in line with the Party’s central leadership in thinking, action and political orientation;
• whether one can faithfully follow the Party’s theories, guidelines, principles and policies, and implement the decisions and plans of the Central Committee to the letter;
• whether one can strictly abide by the Party’s political discipline and rules, be honest with the Party, and take a clear political stance;
• whether one can put the cause of the Party and the people above anything else, execute the decisions of Party organizations, and accept any assignment given.

Our Party has a long and cherished tradition – whatever the Party tells us to do, we do; wherever the Party wants us to go, we go; wherever there is a task to fulfill, we settle there to do the job. No hesitation, no complaint. We must carry forward this tradition. Now, some officials prefer to work only in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and are reluctant to go to remote and less developed places like Xinjiang, Tibet and Lanzhou. With this kind of attitude, they cannot be said to be strong in faith or loyal to the Party. In a spirit of trust, Party organizations delegate younger officials to work in tough and outlying places, to temper them and prepare them for more senior roles. They should be proud and eager to take up such challenges, rather than seeking to avoid heavy tasks, worrying about personal gains and losses, or trying to wheel and deal. Those who are reluctant to accept their assignments and think too much about themselves will not be put in important positions, as they will no doubt fail the Party at critical moments. Adversity makes one stronger and helps one to succeed, just as the whetstone makes a knife sharper. Only through meeting challenges and experiencing frustrations can we become extraordinary.

Second, you should be pragmatic and realistic. Basing everything on reality is our fundamental approach when addressing issues, making decisions and taking action. Mao Zedong pointed out, “The most fundamental method of work which all Communists must firmly bear in mind is to determine our working policies according to actual conditions. When we study the causes of the mistakes we have made, we find that they all arose because we departed from the actual situation at a given time and place and were subjective in our working policies.”

His words strike to the heart of the matter. It is for this precise reason that I require all Party members to be strict with themselves in self-cultivation, in the exercise of power, and in self-discipline, and to act in good faith when performing official duties, undertaking initiatives, and interacting with others. And it is for this reason that the Party Central Committee launched a special education campaign on this theme throughout the Party after the 18th CPC National Congress. The Central Committee also issued many instructions, which you must follow faithfully.

In order to do everything in line with reality, we should first go to the grassroots to find out the real situation. This is the only way to truth. It is also true that only when we have the right attitude – seeking truth from facts – will we direct the necessary attention to going to the grassroots to find out the real situation. To do this well, we must develop our basic skills in fact-finding and in-depth study. Now we know these are important, we must do more and better. The key is to address the issue thoroughly; a cursory visit or going through the motions will not do. Go to villages; go to communities. Go there often. Visit those close by and those far afield; see the real situation, good or bad. We should listen to both praise and criticism from the public. That is how we get to grips with what is really going on. Modern technology has made communication easy. We can obtain much information by making phone calls, sending WeChat messages, and reading reports, but this will never compare to on-site visits, face-to-face talks, and free discussions where anyone can take part.

Many fact-finding methods that proved effective in the past still work today, like staying at the grassroots to gain firsthand experience and conducting case studies. Our practice of extending successful pilot projects nationwide is in fact a case-study method. Mere visits are not enough, you should devote all your attention to the work. Listen to what people say, find out the real situation, study problems thoroughly and identify genuine difficulties. We cannot make cursory visits just for show or restrict ourselves to observing only positive things. It is completely unacceptable to set out with “no intention of seeking truth from facts, but only a desire to curry favor by claptrap”. This kind of conduct is a typical example of favoring form over substance and bureaucratism.

We should invest hard efforts in in-depth analysis, discarding what is worthless and false and seeking out what is valuable and true, and proceeding from the one to the other and from the outside to the inside, so that we can discern the essence of things and the rules behind phenomena, and work out solutions to problems. In this process, we should exchange ideas, compare notes, double-check actual problems, respect different points of view including minority and opposition opinions, conduct analyses from different angles, and think carefully before we act. Do not present yourselves as infallible, nor be over-confident based on a smattering of knowledge. Listen to both sides and you will be enlightened; heed only one side and you will be ill-informed. It is not a bad thing to hear conflicting voices. Only through several rounds of negating the negation can our ideas and decisions reflect reality.

My proposal for targeted poverty alleviation was based on fact-finding and in-depth study. Shaking off poverty is the earnest desire of every sufferer, and a longstanding wish of revolutionaries of the older generation. If we cannot do this job properly, we will have let down the people living in impoverished areas and also failed those revolutionaries.

Soon after the closing of the 18th CPC National Congress, I went to Fuping County in Hebei Province to observe poverty elimination work. After that, I continued to visit all 14 contiguous poverty-stricken areas on a regular basis. Every year, I called on poor households to see their real lives for myself and to help those in real need. I sought opinions face-to-face from officials and individuals in impoverished areas and constantly sought to improve ideas and measures involving poverty alleviation. I pushed the relevant work forward, with a deep devotion to the people and a promise to serve them wholeheartedly. Through the joint efforts of all Party members and all people across the country, the battle against poverty has been won. Those living in previously impoverished areas are happy, and the departed revolutionaries can rest in peace.

Basing our work on reality and seeking truth from facts is not just a way of thinking, it is also a test of officials’ commitment to the Party. The first step in making our officials realistic and practical is to raise their commitment to the Party.

My father once said, “Our Party emphasizes commitment to the Party. In my opinion, seeking truth from facts is the most important component of this commitment.” In 1943, a strict campaign was launched to examine officials’ personal histories. This was necessary at that particular moment, as the Kuomintang were trying every means to infiltrate the revolutionary bases. However, the severity of threat was overestimated. Kang Sheng, who was put in charge of the work, applied an ultra-Left approach, extracting confessions through duress and using them as evidence. The consequence was that grave errors were made that resulted in a large number of unjust and false charges.

My father was secretary of the CPC Suide Prefectural Committee. Learning that many students at Suide Normal School had given false confessions under physical abuse and coercion, he was very troubled. After a careful investigation, he said that political awareness should be distinguished from political stance, and an erroneous extension of the campaign should be stopped. He reported the real situation to the CPC Central Committee and its Northwest Bureau, and suggested that the Central Committee should put an end to extorting confessions promptly and correct the “Leftist” mistakes. At that time, this involved a significant political risk. The reason my father was willing to take the risk was that he believed that loyalty to the Party means not lying to the Party.

Gu Wenchang, an exemplary county Party secretary, was another faithful follower of the principle of seeking truth from facts. Dongshan County in Fujian Province was not liberated from the Kuomintang until May 1950. Before retreating to Taiwan, the Kuomintang press-ganged a large number of young and middle-aged men, including 4,700 from Dongshan, a place with only around 10,000 households. After liberation in 1949, the family members of these press-ganged soldiers were classified as “families of the enemy and puppet troops”. Serving at the time as secretary of the Working Committee of the First District of Dongshan County, Gu Wenchang advised his superiors to change their descriptor to “families scourged by war” as they were victims of the Kuomintang’s atrocities. Accepting this suggestion, the higher authorities decided to accord these families fair and equitable political status and financial help, provide relief to those in need, and take care of elderly persons without family support. One day in July 1953, more than 10,000 Kuomintang troops carried out a raid on Dongshan, which was guarded by only 1,000 soldiers. In spite of such a huge disparity in numbers, the defending troops and civilians in the county united as one, forged an impregnable barrier, and finally secured victory. The families of the press-ganged men also joined in the defense. One said, “The Kuomintang took away our men by force, while the Communist Party treats us like family. We are ready to die to defend the island.” It was precisely because of its respect for facts that the Party won popular support.

Although there are a number of standards by which we judge whether an official seeks truth from facts, the most fundamental criterion is whether he or she speaks the truth and does honest work for concrete outcomes. Today, we have other types of officials: Some vacillate like a weathercock, some conceal problems and pretend everything is going well, some indulge in showy display and do nothing practical, and some are obsessed with status and crave instant success – none of these are true adherents of philosophical materialism, but are victims of self-centered thinking.

You younger officials must always keep commitment to the Party to the fore in your conduct and your duties, and reinforce it by being honest and truthful and doing solid work. Have the courage to uphold truth, be an independent thinker, and work in a pragmatic manner. This will benefit the Party and the people, and you will achieve personal growth. Honesty is not folly, and no one will lose out by doing practical and concrete work. Betrayal of the Party and dishonesty will make officials opportunistic and self-seeking, which will tempt them into building covert political connections, buying promotions, and trading power for money, and ultimately lead to their undoing.

Third, you should shoulder your responsibilities and act on your duties. Fulfilling tasks and taking responsibilities are the bound duty of officials; this is where your value lies. The Party assigns officials to different positions to take responsibilities and perform duties, not to see you acting like lords and indulging in luxury. There is much work to be done in promoting reform, development and stability. Any official who wants to do it well must act. Without a sense of responsibility and a will to act, without enforcement and effectiveness, you will fail in your duties.

Earnest and down-to-earth efforts are essential for performing one’s duties; empty rhetoric and inaction will not lead to success. I have shared many times how the longwinded scholars of the Western and Eastern Jin dynasties (265-420) cost their country its future. Wang Yan (256-311) was a typical example. He was so good at talking that no one could debate with him at the time. During the final years of the Western Jin, Shi Le (274-333) of the nomadic Jie tribe led an army to attack Luoyang, the Jin’s capital. As the top military adviser to the Jin emperor, Wang followed the imperial army to put down the rebellion, but was defeated and captured. When Shi asked him the reasons for Jin’s defeat, he tried every means to evade responsibility, saying he had not attended to state affairs since a young age. Shi retorted, “Your fame spreads throughout the empire. You have served in the court since your youth, and are still entrusted with great responsibilities even now when your head is grey. How can you say you have not attended to state affairs? You are entirely to blame for the havoc around the country.” Soon after this encounter Shi had him killed. Before his death, Wang Yan bewailed his misfortune and attributed it to his shallow, empty talk and lack of real effort.

We also have people like him today. Some are great talkers, not doers. They work by shouting slogans and making verbal commitments. Some seek form over substance. They indulge in wasteful and extravagant projects, but make only a perfunctory effort to carry out real tasks. Some remain inactive and muddle through if nobody presses them to do things. Some even disobey orders from their superiors and violate their prohibitions, conceal the true state of affairs from both superiors and subordinates, and engage in fraud. We have found some officials who did not make genuine and concrete efforts to fulfill their responsibilities. This is a significant problem, and it explains why there were shortcomings in so many fields this year, such as epidemic control, natural disaster response, eco-environmental protection, and workplace safety.

Shouldering responsibilities and performing duties cannot be separated. Failure to perform duties constitutes neglect of responsibilities, and a sense of responsibility is essential to the execution of duties. Anything we do carries a level of risk. Exactly what, in the world, is risk-free and completely goes as planned? This is why we need the courage to take on responsibility. If all work was easy and everyone could perform well, then why is courage so precious? It is always like this: The more you fear getting into trouble, the more likely that things will go wrong; the more you want to avoid problems, the more likely it is that they will stand in your way. Problems will only be solved when you have the courage and determination to invest in real effort and take risks, knowing the danger but still forging ahead.

When I worked in Fujian, a province rich in forest resources, I saw the farmers leading a hard life due to unclear ownership of the green mountains outside their doors. To help them, I launched a reform to address unclear forest tenure and other institutional and structural problems.

At that time it was a risky move, as the central authorities had suspended the contracting of hills to households due to destructive logging in some areas in the 1980s. We were uncertain whether we could resume this policy after more than 20 years. But after careful consideration, I concluded that since forest tenure concerned the people’s immediate interests, conflict would eventually erupt if the issue remained unresolved. We should address it as early as possible. Also, rapid economic growth and better quality of life for rural people had reduced the need for destructive logging. As long as we formulated a sensible policy and applied effective methods, we could keep risks under control. The decision reached, we carried out extensive research and full analyses on four key problems – how to distribute forestland, how to plan for logging, how to make the necessary funds available to farmers, and how to integrate scattered pieces of forestland operated by individual households. Then we introduced reform measures tailored to local conditions, and formulated our country’s first tenure reform policy for collectively owned forests at the provincial level. The central authorities included all of Fujian’s experience in its No.10 document of 2008.

We should be bold and resolute in work, and fulfill our duties when in office. Anything that benefits the Party and the people, no matter how hard it might be, must be done. And it is our responsibility to do it. Just be bold and act. As a famous line by Lin Zexu goes, “I am willing to sacrifice my life for my country. How then should I shrink from lesser possible harm?”

In advancing our cause and promoting reform, we will certainly touch upon many vested interests and provoke disagreement. Such disapproval or attack is inevitable if we want to do things, change things, and set things right. Throwing a stone into the water will create ripples; all the more so carrying out a great undertaking. Hesitation in performing bound duties in the face of disapproval is not the attitude that a Communist should have.

We should remain calm and carry out a rational analysis of opposition. If we are sure of the things we do and have been proved correct, we should move forward without any thought of turning back even if we are unjustly criticized, accused, or blamed. We should explain things well and build consensus to gain maximum understanding and support. We should accept fair criticism with an open mind and improve our plans and policies accordingly. It is important to have willpower, perseverance, and self-discipline, and essential to be bold and resourceful. If we persevere and ultimately achieve success, much opposition will vanish into thin air.

Fourth, you should uphold principles and be ready for challenges. Sticking to principles is an important characteristic of Communists, and a primary criterion to judge whether an official is well qualified.

There is now a misunderstanding about harmony among some officials. They abuse this cherished value and misinterpret broad-mindedness, adopt a “nice guy” approach in their work, and fail to take a clear-cut stance on political principles. They are “open-minded” on cardinal issues of right and wrong, and let misconduct go unchecked. Some are unctuous in social relations and tack along with every breeze. What they say and do depends on whom they are talking to or dealing with, and what their superiors and coworkers support. Some just follow others, caring naught for right or wrong. All this runs contrary to Party principles and must be corrected.

For Communists, the “nice guy” in the workplace is not a good person. Such people are self-centered and self-serving, devoid of ethics and without the public good in mind. They believe that upholding principles will provoke strife, that resolving thorny problems will cause conflict, that not taking risks brings a great many benefits, and that utilitarian socializing helps make friends.

Their kind has been treated with disdain since ancient times. Confucius said, “The ‘honest villager’ spoils true virtue.” The “honest villager” here is a person who, devoid of any sense of right and wrong, tries to please everyone in the village. Mencius denounced such people for “just following the herd and being in concord with the filthy world”. A sentence in A Dream of Red Mansions portrays them in a penetrating way as “doing things to serve their own ends while trying not to create any waves”.

Pandering without principle does not stem from good intentions, because it is done for one’s own benefit at the cost of healthy progress and greater undertakings. It has been repeatedly proved that this is one of the fundamental reasons why in some regions and departments the forces of right are waning while malign influences are spreading. This is why no breakthroughs are made in work, and conflicts and problems are piling up.

Our Party always values unity, which is attained through positive, healthy criticism and self-criticism, rather than keeping on good terms with everyone at the expense of principles. In order to uphold commitment to the Party and its principles, we Communists must engage in criticism and self-criticism. We must be resolute and make no concessions on matters of principle; otherwise we will fail the Party and the people or even commit serious mistakes tantamount to breaking the law.

In addition to cardinal issues of right and wrong, we must also adhere to principle on less important things. The Chinese people set great store by personal connections. We live in this society, and we all have relatives, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, superiors and subordinates. We often have to make a choice between principles and our family and friends when performing duties and addressing problems. It is of course ideal if the two are in concord; but we must never compromise a principle for any person when we are not able to serve both.

Huang Kecheng once served as the executive secretary of the Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. He said that to improve conduct, one should “dare to offend others”. When a previous subordinate of many years had a banquet paid out of public funds at Jingxi Hotel, he handled the issue in line with discipline and in disregard of past fellowship. The then minister of commerce entertained guests at Fengzeyuan Restaurant but asked for an unreasonable discount for the meal. After investigation, Huang circulated a notice of criticism across the Party and publicized the matter in the People’s Daily. Party officials must be strictly impartial, upright and selfless, focusing on principle and commitment to the Party rather than connections and personal favors.

We must be ready to fight malign influences and tendencies at any time and in any place. Today, as the world is experiencing an accelerating rate of change on a scale unseen in a century, and as our mission of national rejuvenation enters a critical stage, the risks and challenges we face are increasing. It is unrealistic to expect days free from troubles and struggles. More than ever, Communists should have backbone, integrity and the courage to overcome any fear and any evil.

Fifth, you must strictly observe the rules and never cross red lines. I have repeated this too many times, but today I still need to remind you again. It is not easy for our Party to train a well-qualified official. If he or she is tempted onto an erroneous path, and violates discipline and laws, all their training will be for nothing and they fail the Party’s trust. It pains me to see how some leading officials have decayed. I feel truly sorry for them. Not long ago, I read a report about how some young public servants went astray and became involved in corruption as soon as they gained some seniority in their departments or took up a leadership position. They failed to maintain integrity even at an early stage. You should draw lessons from them, and always bear discipline and rules in mind.

In order to observe the rules and keep ourselves within the lines, we should first hold them in total respect. Only with such awareness will we be able to set limits on what we say and do. Since the Party’s 18th National Congress, the Central Committee has maintained a tough stance on corruption, imposed tight constraints for long-term deterrence, and ensured that there is no such thing as a no-go area. No ground is left unturned, and no tolerance is shown for corruption.

In disregard of all this, some officials still violate discipline. This is not because they do not know what discipline and rules require, but because they do not hold them in total respect. Which offence have they committed that is not prohibited by explicit Party discipline and state laws? Which mistake have they made that does not have a prior example? As a Ming-dynasty thinker said, “With awe in mind, one will be prudent in word and deed, and therefore cultivate virtue; without awe in mind, one will act rashly, and therefore bring disaster to oneself.”

Those who do not respect discipline and rules will do evil and commit horrifying crimes. Our officials must always hold the Party, the people, the law, and Party discipline in total respect, and never cross the line. Do not deceive yourselves that no one will know of your misdeeds; do not allow yourselves to be overwhelmed by the sweet talk of those offering bribes; do not take chances because you believe “money and power come from taking risks”; do not act recklessly under the misapprehension that the law cannot cope when wrongdoers are too numerous.

Only with stringent moral standards can one be strict with oneself. Only when officials maintain a sound worldview, positive values, and a healthy outlook on life, and foster a noble mind and a strong moral character, can they rise above temptation. They might have been held back from taking bribes by fear before, but now they are free from such lowly desires. Xue Xuan, a neo-Confucian philosopher of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), divided officials of honesty and integrity into three levels: The best are those who do not accept gifts because they know they should not; in the center are those who do not lower themselves for money because they value honor; the lowest are those who dare not to take bribes because they want to hold on to their official post and fear punishment.

We Communists are committed to the public good, justice and the greater self. Therefore, we should always be upright and honorable. We should always place the people at the center and in the forefront of our hearts, devote ourselves to the public interest, and remain righteous and incorruptible.

Yang Shanzhou was an exemplary prefectural Party secretary, who dedicated his whole life to serving the people selflessly. In the 1970s and 1980s, when many people in rural areas had built wood-and-brick and tile-roofed houses, his family still lived in a thatched hut, which leaked on rainy days. He told his family, “I can’t afford to repair our house. You’ll have to make do with it for now. Buy some earthen jars to catch the rain from the roof.” In 1992, the Daliangshan Forest Farm he co-founded built its first brick-and-tile house. He allocated it to a newly-arrived technician, while he himself lived in a shack made of tarred sheets. Another time he visited a village and stayed in a farmer’s home. He paid for his food and accommodation in line with regulations. But the host family felt uncomfortable about the poor food, and secretly returned 20 cents into his bag. When he found it, he traveled more than 50 kilometers back to the village that night and gave those 20 cents back to the host. In some people’s eyes, he was a “fool” who paid no attention to what to eat and wear, where to live, or how to travel. He said, “Some say I go out of my way to seek hardship, but they don’t know how happy I am.... If Communists have an occupational disease, it must be a zeal for putting up with any difficulty for the benefit of the people.”

The mindset that cherishes hard work and arduous struggle will never be obsolete, and we must always encourage it. Being a Party official, you must not make too much of fame, social status, or individual interests. An official who “does everything he can to seek a government post just for good food and clothes” – as a saying goes – will not accomplish anything.

Sixth, you should continue to develop yourselves through diligent study and painstaking training. As an ancient Chinese philosopher observed, “A small bag cannot hold large things; a short rope cannot reach a deep well.” We are in an era of unprecedented change and we are trying to accomplish things that have never been done before. Unless we expand our knowledge, broaden our horizons, and increase our ability, success will never come our way. Younger officials are energetic and active in thinking, and you are fast learners. You are at an ideal stage to hone your skills and improve your abilities, so you must cherish every minute and never idle away your youth. You should study with great eagerness and improve yourselves ceaselessly.

Books can increase your knowledge and teach you skills. Mao Zedong once said, “Unlike eating and sleeping, reading is indispensable every day.” With a heavy schedule, he made use of every moment to read, even while having his hair cut. He said with humor to his barber, “You do your job and I’ll do mine, and we’ll leave each other be.”

We should follow his example and employ every second of time to study intensively, read more and read selectively, and draw wisdom and intellectual nourishment from books. We must not feel too pleased with ourselves to bother with study, or relax our studies on the pretext that we are too busy, or take a perfunctory attitude towards study as if putting on a show.

We must know what and how to study. There is a limit to one’s energy, and one cannot learn everything. What officials should learn is based on the demands of their work and the gaps in their knowledge. We should study Marxism, especially our Party’s innovative theories in the new era, and the history of the CPC, the PRC, reform and opening up, and the development of socialism. We should build a basic knowledge of economics, politics, law, culture, social sciences, management, the environment, international relations and other fields. We should add new knowledge and skills that we need in work, establishing a complete knowledge system that is necessary for fulfilling duties.

Practice brings us true knowledge and makes us more capable. The undertakings of the Party and the country cover a wide range of fields. Leading officials will not always work in one position, and they cannot possibly be ready and fully prepared in knowledge and skills every time they are transferred to a new position. To learn at work and then apply what we have learned is the only way for officials to cultivate talent and grow.

During the early days of the PRC, the central leadership appointed Xiao Jingguang as the commander-in-chief for the newly established navy. Xiao had never been involved with the navy before, and he could not even swim. He learned what he needed through his work, and accomplished the task assigned by the central leadership, building from scratch a navy that quickly grew stronger. This was also how many older revolutionaries developed the necessary expertise in economics, science and technology, diplomacy, and other fields. As our ancestors pointed out, “Through learning we improve ability, as through the whetstone knives are honed.”

Just as a seasoned coworker noted, the more you work at something, the better you become at it and the more you want to improve. Of course, the gains and progress you draw from study depend on how diligent you are and whether you are good at thinking and summing up experience. If you merely busy yourselves with mechanical effort, and allow yourselves to become bogged down in the quagmire of trivial and routine matters, you will hardly improve your knowledge and skills.

All of these points are critical for the healthy growth of younger officials. Living in a great age, you are a vital new force for the Party and the country. I hope you will add to your capabilities and become more confident and competitive. Do not go astray, fall behind, or drop out. I expect you to become the spine of our Party, to work in important positions and undertake great responsibilities for meeting the Second Centenary Goal. The Party and the people trust you, and look forward to the results of your hard work.


* Main part of the speech at the opening ceremony of a training program for younger officials at the Central Party School (National Academy of Governance) during its 2021 fall semester.

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