Civics: The Dawn of the Little Red Phone

David Bandurski:

Gone are the days when you can simply ignore that stack of Party newspapers in the corner of the office, or switch off the Party’s nightly newcast, “Xinwen Lianbo.”

The app’s name, “Xi Study Strong Nation,” or Xue Xi Qiang Guo (学习强国), is derived from a now widely used official pun on the surname of China’s top leader. The surname “Xi” is also the second character in the Chinese word xuexi (学习), meaning “to study.” The app, designed and built by the Propaganda and Public Opinion Research Center of the Central Propaganda Department of the CCP (中共中央宣传部宣传舆情研究中心), an office previously known as the “Research Center on Ideology and Political Work” (思想政治工作研究所), is organised into several sections. These include, to name just a few, “Important News” (要闻), “New Thought” (新思想) and “Summary of Current Politics” (时政综合), all aggregating the speeches and statements of Xi Jinping, as well as audio and video content.

The platform has been designed with a built-in “Xi Study Points” system (学习积分系统) that allows users to accumulate points on the basis of habitual use of the platform, from reading and viewing of content to the posting of comments and other forms of engagement. It has been widely promoted by local governments and ministries and departments across China, and there have also been reports that some work units have ordered employees to attain specified point levels, with disciplinary measures to be imposed for those who fail to comply.

Here is one post to the official WeChat account of the district of Songhan (松山), in the Inner Mongolian city of Chifeng (赤峰), that reports on a “work training” for 170 Party and government employees on the “Xi Study Strong Nation” app.