NPC and CPPCC sessions: The Phrasemongering Season has begun

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China’s ongoing two annual political sessions have once again hit major headlines, as the world is anticipating the country’s new measures to cope with its growth slowdown to a state of “new normal”,

according to a Xinhua report republished by Beijing Review, an English-language propaganda paper for exactly that waiting world. And also according to Beijing Review, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders on Wednesday vowed to fully implement the “Four Comprehensives” strategic layout in order to realize economic and social development targets.

The Four Comprehensives can make clearer what the road to the Chinese dream is about, believes Central Party School professor and doctoral supervisor Xin Ming.

And that’s badly needed stuff, if we go by what the BBC said in February:

Mr Xi denounced political jargon as “empty words” during a speech five years ago.
However, he launched his leadership in 2013 with the idea of the “Chinese dream”, a concept many say is still ill-defined.

So, just how does the “dream” concept become clearer, according to Xin?

The professor believes that the “Chinese dream” is “a strategic layout in the historical process of the realization of the greatest dream of the Chinese nation.”

He considers the “four comprehensives” – the goal of comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society, coprehensive deepening of reform, comprehensive promotion of government by law, and strictly governing the party – constitute three strategic measures (apparently, Xin combines the rule by law and the demand of strictly governing the party).

He believes that, iguratively speaking, one goal and three measures may also count as „three legs of a tripod“ on which the goal is set up. “One body, three feet” are structuring the blueprint of China’s happy future.

他认为,一个目标、三大战略举措,用个形象的说法,就好比是“三足鼎立”,上面架起了目标,“一体三足”构建起了中国未来美好的蓝图。

[…]

“To really comprehensively understand the ‚four comprehensives‘, I’m afraid we need to move one step further, i. e. to understand that besides the one-body-three-feet structure, we must understand which kind of consciousness it highlights.” Xin Ming believes that „behind the four comprehensives, there are contemporary communists,or three strong kinds of consciousness in current Chinese society.

“要想真正全面地理解‘四个全面’,恐怕还要再往前讲,就是仅仅明白了一体三足的战略建构之外,还要明白这一体三足的战略建构凸显了什么样的意识。”辛鸣认为,“四个全面”背后是当代中国共产党人,或者今日中国社会三种意识的强烈凸显。

Xin states “a sense of mission”, “problem awareness”, and a “sense of responsibility” as these “strong kinds of consciousness”. As for the latter,

Chinese Communists‘ have such a noble mission, but at the same time, we clearly encounter problems in the process of completing the mission. How can we deal with the problems? We shy away from them, turn a blind eye to them, or we confront them head-on, crack them, smooth them out, solve them. What does it take to do this job? It takes acceptance of responsibility. Without acceptance of responsibility, there won’t be this kind of strategic vision, there won’t be this sense of responsibility. Maybe we could still pick up what can be done well, what can be done easily, and with immediate effect, but we can’t make a big fanfare over „comprehensiveness“.

中国共产党人有这样一种崇高的使命,同时,我们也很清楚在完成这个使命的过程中会遇到什么样的问题。遇到这些问题怎么办?我们是绕着走、视而不见,还是迎 头而上,去破解问题、化解问题、解决问题。做这些工作要什么?需要一种担当。没有这种担当意识,我们做不出这样一种战略构想,没有这样一种担当意识,也许 我们就会捡好的做,捡容易的做,捡能马上见效的做,而不会在“全面”上大做文章。

All this, written in the run-up to the sessions of the NPC and the CPPCC, may come across as empty words, as observed by the BBC or by unnamed critics quoted by the BBC: Critics say the Communist elite’s obsession with jargon alienates them from plain-speaking Chinese citizens.

That may be so – among an unknown share of the Chinese population. But it would be particularly true for Chinese people who are in constant contact with foreigners, and who may actually feel somewhat embarrassed when their foreign colleagues or friends pick up some of the more colorful blossoms of CCP phrasemongering. But despite all the embarrassment (or fun) it may create, this custom – which isn’t merely “communist” – has been criticized for a century or longer, and it hasn’t gone away. To another unknown share of the Chinese population, the slogans are realities.

Or, as Jacques Ellul wrote in 1962, about a much more obvious and obtrusive kind of CCP propaganda than of our days:

When one reads this once, one smiles. If one reads it a thousand times, and no longer reads anything else, one must undergo a change. And we must reflect on the transformation of perspective already suffered by a whole society in which texts like this (published by the thousands) can be dsitributed and taken seriously not only by the authorities but by the intellectuals.*)

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Note

*) Jacques Ellul, “Propaganda”, New York 1965 (a more recent reprint of it), p. 14

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Related

» Reference Book, Beijing Review, Mar 6, 2015
» Unobtrusive and imperceptible, Jan 7, 2012

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7 Responses to “NPC and CPPCC sessions: The Phrasemongering Season has begun”

  1. “When one reads this once, one smiles. If one reads it a thousand times, and no longer reads anything else, one must undergo a change.”

    The striking things is the extent to which this still holds true about government propaganda in China, even though nowadays alternative sources of news are easily available to the huge numbers of Chinese who use the internet.

    Like

  2. It works because not only are you forced to read it and hear it thousands of times, you will have to say it too, and be seen to accept, and force the same on others.

    Like

  3. PS – For a striking modern example of this, see Shaun Walker’s latest article over on the Guardian about the people who work at Russia’s “Troll Factory”, posting dire pro-Putin propaganda on international forums. If anyone should be immune to this propaganda, it should be the people who are paid to post it whilst posing as other people accorsing to the government directive of the day, yet many of them are true believers, and others find themselves slowly being brainwashed by their own work. You can’t live a lie without corrupting your sense of what the truth is.

    Even more amazingly – the comments thread below Walker’s piece became flooded by thousands of comments from people who were obviously PutinBots. You would think it would be the one article that they would stay away from, but instead there they were, hammering away at their favoured line: “It’s all lies and anyway surely other countries do it”, clearly the way in which they justify what they do to themselves.

    Like

  4. Î think there are two kinds of people who spread propaganda: propagandists and propagandees. Not everyone in the industry needs to be a propagandist himself or herself. I suppose that Shaun Rein, for example, is not a propagandist, but an activated propagandee.

    Like

  5. @Foarp:

    The thing is though that nowadays most Chinese are not forced “to say it too, and be seen to accept it, and force the same on others.”

    This might only be true if you work in a government department or in the media. All the remaining Chinese are basically left alone to get on with their lives. And yet on certain topics most Chinese will just parrot government propaganda as if they really believe it.

    Like

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