The Mass Line and the Common Netizens: Where You go, We will go (to Listen to You and to Correct You)

An apparently centrally compiled news article on Tuesday, published or aired by Xinhua newsagency and CCTV‘s Xinwen Lianbo evening news among other media outlets, provided details from a Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatization conference in Beijing on Tuesday morning. The session was chaired by Xi Jinping (referred to in the article in his capacities as secretary-general, state chairman, central military commissions chairman, and central lading group for internet security and informatization group leader), and the list of attendants included both his informatization group deputy leaders Li Keqiang and Liu Yunshan, other leading party members, and/or experts or stakeholders like Wu Manqing (吴曼青, a Chinese Academy of Engineering fellow as well as a chief engineer at China Electronics Technology Group Corporation), and Jack Ma (马云), Alibaba Group CEO.

As China Media and Copyright notes, the full text of Xi Jinping’s speech wasn’t published, but the blog, apparently run by a Dutch Master of Chinese studies, provides a full translation of the a/m news article. The newsarticle had also caught the attention of The Independent and Reuters.

From the article, as translated by China Media and Copyright:

Xi Jinping pointed out that our country has 700 million netizens; this is an extraordinary number, and an extraordinary achievement. Our country’s economic development has entered a new normal, the new normal requires new drivers, and the Internet can have great potential in this area. We must strive to promote the converged development of the Internet and the real economy, let information flows drive technology flows, financial flows, talent flows and material flows, stimulate the optimization of resource allocation, stimulate the increase of productivity of all factors, and let it play a positive role in promoting innovation and development, transforming economic development methods, and adjusting economic structures.

习近平指出,我国有7亿网民,这是一个了不起的数字,也是一个了不起的成就。我国经济发展进入新常态,新常态要有新动力,互联网在这方面可以大 有作为。要着力推动互联网和实体经济深度融合发展,以信息流带动技术流、资金流、人才流、物资流,促进资源配置优化,促进全要素生产率提升,为推动创新发 展、转变经济发展方式、调整经济结构发挥积极作用。

[…]

Xi Jinping pointed out that we must build a good online ecology, and give rein to the network’s role in guiding public opinion and reflecting the popular will. To realize the “Two Centenaries” struggle objective, it is necessary that all of society acts with one heart in all aspects, and it is necessary that the people of all ethnicities in the entire nation think in the same direction, and devote their energies in the same direction. Netizens come from among the common people, once the common people went online, popular sentiment also went online. Wherever the masses are, there our leading cadres must go as well. All levels’ Party and government bodies, as well as leading cadres, must learn how to march the mass line through the network, regularly go online to look around, understand what the masses think and want, collect good ideas and good suggestions, and vigorously respond to netizens’ concerns, relieve their doubts and dispel their worries. With regard to the broad netizens, we must have more tolerance and patience, we must timely take up constructive opinions, we must timely help where there are difficulties, we must provide timely propaganda and explanation to those who don’t understand the situation, we must timely clear up matters for those with muddled understandings, we must timely resolve grievances and complaints, we must timely guide and correct mistaken viewpoints, to let the Internet become a channel to understand the masses, stay close to the masses, and get rid of worries and overcome difficulties of the masses, and let it become a new channel to carry forward the people’s democracy and accept the people’s supervision. To those online criticisms that stem from good intentions, to Internet supervision, regardless of whether they concern Party or government work, or whether they concern leading cadres individually, regardless of whether they are gentle and mild or whether they are hurtful truths, we must not only welcome them, we must also earnestly study and learn from them.

习近平指出,要建设网络良好生态,发挥网络引导舆论、反映民意的作用。实现“两个一百年”奋斗目标,需要全社会方方面面同心干,需要全国各族人 民心往一处想、劲往一处使。网民来自老百姓,老百姓上了网,民意也就上了网。群众在哪儿,我们的领导干部就要到哪儿去。各级党政机关和领导干部要学会通过 网络走群众路线,经常上网看看,了解群众所思所愿,收集好想法好建议,积极回应网民关切、解疑释惑。对广大网民,要多一些包容和耐心,对建设性意见要及时 吸纳,对困难要及时帮助,对不了解情况的要及时宣介,对模糊认识要及时廓清,对怨气怨言要及时化解,对错误看法要及时引导和纠正,让互联网成为了解群众、 贴近群众、为群众排忧解难的新途径,成为发扬人民民主、接受人民监督的新渠道。对网上那些出于善意的批评,对互联网监督,不论是对党和政府工作提的还是对 领导干部个人提的,不论是和风细雨的还是忠言逆耳的,我们不仅要欢迎,而且要认真研究和吸取。

Much of the news article reflects comments by Xi Jinping about global competition and China’s position there, and even expresses an interest in foreign talents, in that not only we welcome foreign Internet enterprises, as long as they abide by our country’s laws and regulations, but

We must establish flexible talent incentive mechanisms, let talent making contributions feel a sense of achievement and a sense of gain. We must build talent structures and systems with global competitiveness. Regardless of from which country or region they come, as long as they are excellent talents, they will be usable to us.

要建立灵活的人才激励机制,让作出贡献的人才有成就感、获得感。要 构建具有全球竞争力的人才制度体系。不管是哪个国家、哪个地区的,只要是优秀人才,都可以为我所用。

As usual, Xi is presented as a people person, and his academic and professional interlocutors play along pretty well in the CCP choreography:

Xiao Xinguang shaking hands with Xi Jinping

Click above picture for video

Xiao Xinguang in particular can hardly secede from part with his secretary-general.

And Tang Xujun (唐绪军), head of the news and propagation research institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, counted himself lucky to have been there, as he wrote in an article for People’s Daily:

I was fortunate to attend the Internet Security and Informatization conference chaired by secretary-general Xi Jinping, and, with my own ears, listen to secretary-general Xi Jinping’s important speech, from which I benefitted. As an internet and new media researcher, I was deeply impressed by secretary-general Xi Jinping’s elaboration detailed remarks concerning the construction of a good internet ecology and guidance of public opinion, and [the internet’s] reflection of the popular will.

有幸参加了4月19日习近平总书记主持的网络安全与信息化工作座谈会,亲耳聆听了习近平总书记的重要讲话,受益匪浅。作为互联网和新媒体的一个研究者,我对习近平总书记关于要建设网络良好生态,发挥网络引导舆论、反映民意作用的阐述印象深刻。

What is the popular will? Although academic views of the definition of popular will are varied, with different emphasis, there is this fundamental consensus: the popular will is the masses’ public expression, in particular places at particular times, of basically unanimous viewpoints and opinions concerning particular public affairs. [Popular will] is a form of democracy.

什么是民意?尽管在学界对民意的定义五花八门,各有其强调的重点,但基本一致的共识是:民意就是人民群众在特定的时空,对特定的公共事务公开表达的基本一致的观点和意见,它是一种民主的形式。

The Chinese Communist Party is the vanguard of the Chinese working class guided by Marxism. It’s objective is to wholeheartedly serve the people. Therefore, it pursues no personal interests. As early as in 1945, Mao Zedong, answering Huang Yanpei‘s question about how the CCP could escape the [defining treadmill of successive dynasties- my interpretation of 历代王朝兴亡周期率问题], pointed out that “we have already found a new road. It’s democracy. Only when you let the people supervise government, the government will not dare to become compacent. Only when people assume responsibilities, the problem of good governance dying with its founder will no longer emerge. From there onwards, all generations of CCP leaders have always emphasized the mass line of listening to the voice of the people, and to undertake great work to investigate and research its manners. [This last sentence is my very vague and hardly accurate translation of what it probably means – JR.]*)

Since the CCP’s 18th national congress, the CCP’s central committee with Xi Jinping as the secretary-general, mass line education and practice has become a more important starting point for the new era’s state affairs management, with the people at the center, listening to the popular will, and being in tune with the popular sentiment.

中国共产党是以马克思主义为指导的中国工人阶级的先锋队,其宗旨是全心全意为人民服务,因此她没有自己的私利。早在1945年,毛泽东在答黄炎培关于 中国共产党如何跳出中国历史上历代王朝兴亡周期率问题时就指出:“我们已经找到新路,我们能跳出这周期率。这条新路,就是民主。只有让人民来监督政府,政 府才不敢松懈。只有人人起来负责,才不会人亡政息。”从那以后,中国共产党的历代领导人都始终强调“倾听人民的呼声”“大兴调查研究之风”“走群众路 线”。党的十八大以来,以习近平为总书记的党中央更是以“群众路线教育实践活动”作为新时期治国理政的抓手,一切以人民为中心,听从民意、顺应民情。

Tang tries to reconcile the variety of opinions expressed on the internet with the party’s goals by basically re-stating Xi Jinping’s demand that it is necessary that the people of all ethnicities in the entire nation think in the same direction, and devote their energies in the same direction (see blockquotes further above), and that cadres listen to online opinions.

The internet being the biggest variable (最大变量) party cadres face, the internet must be “embraced” to achieve the “postitive energy” [do a browser search →there] mentioned by Xi Jinping, writes Tang.

All the same, Tang seems to like his secretary-general better than the internet and, in perfect internet-ecological terminology, expresses his misgivings about the latter:

This particular feature of the internet [that everyone can be a communicator] has greatly widened individuals’ and all kinds of societal organizations’ channels of expression. Any individuals’ or groups’ information and opinion can disseminate quickly and broadly, and even exceed the disseminational and expressonial powers of traditional media. A tiny event can become big through the internet, and an incident with great influence on the real world, and some grass swaying in the wind online may affect social stability online.

互联网的这种特性,极大地拓宽了个人及各种社会组织的表达渠道,某些个体和团体的信息传播与意见表达可以更迅捷地广泛扩散,甚至具有乃至超过传统媒体 的传播力和表达力。一个微小的事件通过互联网的放大,有可能成为现实中的一个影响巨大的事件,线上的风吹草动也可能影响到线下的社会稳定。

The answer? The main point in “guidance of public opinion” by the respective party and government levels, according to Tang, is to seize (issues? movements?) in a timely manner, while they are still small (因此,各级党和政府应对网上民意、引导网络舆论最重要的就是要做到“及时”, 抓早抓小).

Countless incidents in recent years have restated one lesson over and over again: delayed responses have lead to loss of control. Another point is categorized treatment [of online events]. The demands from the masses are various. There are reasons for all of them – the constructive and interest-led ones, the ridicule, and the angry ones. As service providers, all party and government levels must have a focused “fitting key” [for all situations], to respond in an appropriate way.

近几年无数网络事件反复验证了一个教训:贻误时机往往就意味着失控。其次是要分类对待。人民群众的诉求各种各样,有提出建议性意见的,有维护个 人权益的,有吐槽的,有骂娘的,各有其缘由。作为服务者,各级党和政府就必须有针对性地“一把钥匙开一把锁”,做到应对有方,举措得当。

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Notes

*) Two notes here.

  1. The last above sentence is a very vague and hardly accurate translation of mine – corrections and suggestions to improve it are welcome.
  2. What Tang Xujun refers to as Mao’s reply to Huang Yanpei is translated as the “Cycle” conversation in this Wikipedia article [accessed April 22]:

In 1945, Huang travelled to Yan’an to meet Mao Zedong and they had a conversation. In this dialogue, Huang noted that history is a testament to an observation that no form of government — an empire, a kingdom, a republic, and so on — had ever been able to break out of a cycle of rise and fall.

Huang said,

I’ve lived for more than 60 years. Let’s not talk about what I’ve heard. Whatever I saw with my own eyes, it fits the saying: “The rise of something may be fast, but its downfall is equally swift.” Has any person, family, community, place, or even a nation, ever managed to break free out of this cycle? Usually in the initial stage, everyone stays fully focused and puts in his/her best efforts. Maybe conditions were bad at the time, and everyone has to struggle to survive. Once the times change for the better, everyone loses focus and becomes lazy. In certain cases, as it has been a long time, complacency breeds, spreads and becomes a social norm. As such, even if the people are very capable, they can neither reverse the situation nor salvage it. There are also cases where a nation progresses and prospers — its rise could be either natural or due to rapid industrialisation spurred by the yearning for progression. When all human resources have been exhausted and problems crop up in management, the environment becomes more complicated and they lose control of the situation. Throughout history, there are various examples: a ruler ignores state affairs and eunuchs use the opportunity to seize power; a good system of governance ceases to function after the person who initiated it dies; people who lust for glory but end up in humiliation. None has managed to break out of this cycle.

Mao replied,

The people form the government; the government is the nation’s body. A new path lies ahead and it belongs to the people. The people build their own nation; everyone has a role to play. The government should pay attention to the people and the political party should perform its duty to its utmost and govern with virtue. We will not follow in the footsteps of those before us who have failed. The problem of a good system of governance ceasing to function after its initiator’s death can be avoided. We’ve already discovered a new path. We can break out of this cycle. This new path belongs to the people. The government will not become complacent only if it is under the supervision of the people. If everyone takes responsibility, a good system of governance will prevail.

Footnotes and the translated text can be found →there.

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Related

→ Successes to the Grassroots, January 29, 2014
→ Open the Skies for the Young, May 5, 2013
→ Become a Network Security Advisor, July 31, 2009

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