China's Top Party School

At Beijing's Central Party School, it's a lot more Communist platforms than keg stands.

BY DAN LEVIN | MARCH 6, 2012

BEIJING — Fresh off a successful charm offensive in the United States, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will likely be working feverishly -- and clandestinely -- to secure his political future among the various factions and political rivals strolling the halls of power in Beijing. But Xi boasts one credential no other Chinese official has on his resume.

Last autumn, Xi presided over a graduation ceremony at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee, the supreme ideological training ground for party cadres and a prerequisite for any official interested in joining the elite political ranks of China's ruling class. Indeed, in a country where party loyalty trumps even patriotism -- the embalmed corpse of Chairman Mao Zedong is wrapped in a Communist Party flag, not that of the People's Republic of China -- Xi could not hope to attain China's top post without having first proved his political purity, exemplified by his selection as president of the Central Party School in 2007. Xi followed in the footsteps of Hu Jintao, the man he will presumably succeed come October, who held the same position at the school before he became president of China a decade ago.

Housed in a heavily guarded, unmarked compound far from Tiananmen Square and most of Beijing's government buildings, the Central Party School is both think tank and indoctrination center, "a furnace to foster the spirit of party members," according to a state media report. It is a place where Chinese officials debate and form policies that address China's most pressing and sensitive issues while remaining safely within the confines of politically correct thought. "The ultimate work the Central Party School does is create a fit-for-purpose overarching value system and a body of ideas which serve to justify the Communist Party's monopoly on power," says Kerry Brown, head of the Asia Program at Chatham House, a London-based think tank that has hosted members of the Central Party School.

What happens within its walls has a direct impact on political decision-making and thus the daily lives of 1.3 billion Chinese, not to mention the world. Often, top leaders choose the school as a forum for introducing new policy concepts, which then trickle down through the state bureaucracy and media as part of the government's "opinion guidance" mechanism. The Central Party School sits at the top of a vast network of party schools around the country, which train lower-level officials. Although the school devotes considerable energy to manufacturing palatable concepts, it's not just a propaganda factory.

As China has moved away from traditional communist dogma toward a state-managed capitalist economy and its ensuing social complexities, the school has become a laboratory for testing new methods and foreign strategies and deciphering how they can be incorporated into official policy and instructed to the rising stars of the Communist Party. "The goal is to suck up an idea, defang it, and legitimize it for Chinese circumstances in a way that's not threatening to the party," says Brown. Within the party's internal discourse on political reform, topics like rule of law, religious tolerance, and civil society, particularly the role of nongovernmental organizations, are discussed at length at the school, which has published texts in support of these concepts, though strictly in accordance with Chinese characteristics.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

 SUBJECTS: CHINA, EDUCATION, EAST ASIA
 

Dan Levin is a Beijing-based journalist.

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KEYBASHER

12:51 PM ET

March 6, 2012

Change is coming to China, the C. C. P. not withstanding

No one-party state survives the ten years after hosting an Olympics, as the residents of Berlin, Moscow and Sarajevo will attest. Let’s hope the powers-that-be in Beijing manage a smooth regime change – for once in their history!

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FRUAT

7:40 AM ET

March 7, 2012

Oh, come on. Stop worrying about China.

Such year counting is really moronic. It is brainless stat at its worst. It is Sports Center stuff rather than history, and it is better used for mass TV than predicting regime change.

China has had smooth transitions before. The most recent one, Deng took power with no blood shed.

Talking about history, what about the powers-that-be in Washington for once in their history stop being the bully invading and threatening countries less than one-tenth their size? What about for once in their history stop being the stooge and henchman of Israel and find the dignity and the courage to stand up to its Jewish masters, and the chastity and the self-restraint to cut themselves off from their sugar-daddies in Wall Street?

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FRUAT

7:43 AM ET

March 7, 2012

Oh, come on. Stop worrying about China.

Such year counting is really moronic. It is brainless stat at its worst. It is Sports Center stuff rather than history, and it is better used for mass TV than predicting regime change.

China has had smooth transitions before. The most recent one, Deng took power with no blood shed.

Talking about history, what about the powers-that-be in Washington for once in their history stop being the bully invading and threatening countries less than one-tenth their country's size? What about for once in their history stop being the stooge and henchman of Israel and find the dignity and the courage to stand up to its Jewish masters, and the chastity and the self-restraint to cut themselves off from their sugar-daddies in Wall Street?

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DHET

6:08 PM ET

March 6, 2012

It's a Chinese thing

Examinations for service in the administration of the rulers and schools to teach to those examinations have been a mainstay in China since the Song and Ming dynasties, maybe longer.

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FRUAT

6:44 AM ET

March 7, 2012

Who is the one cranking out propapanda really?

It is obvious that both the reporter and the magazine have decided that demonizing China, while at the same time making fun of it, is the best way of supplying their readers with truthful, useful, vital, and illuminating information about that country. Talk about propaganda.

And the reporter decries and ridicules the practice of propaganda while writing propaganda himself. Talk about hypocrisy and shamelessness, which are of course, the two things some people in the world are best at.

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GODFREE

9:21 AM ET

March 7, 2012

Can we have a school like that, Daddy?

It is natural that such a concentration of leaders would be guarded. Imagine if America had such a school: the security would include helicopters and snipers.

And if America did have such a school then perhaps it would have a government capable of producing the outstanding results that China's has.

Instead we have liars, buffoons, and ideologues who are leading our nation deeper into the swamp of insolvency and despair.

Let's focus on results. Not innuendo.

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BETALOVER

1:38 PM ET

March 7, 2012

50 years of ideological tempest

The ideological fervor China experienced from the 1920's to the 1970's, a 50 year period, was extraordinary deviation from the Chinese calm and secular logical character.

The ideological tempest in that period was induced by opium, with its deadly enervating effect on the Chinese that lasted nearly two centuries, imposed on it by barbaric imperial powers including England, France and to a lesser degree the USA and Russia. An enervated China became much more vulnerable to Japanese brutality.

China is heading back to its tradition of secular calm gradually; that such past experience is etched onto the Chinese mind is of course a given.

The West should better appreciate history.

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