CPC seeks to recover millions in owed membership fees to reinforce identity

By Xu Ming Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/22 19:33:39

Party seeks to recover millions in owed membership fees to reinforce identity

The Communist Party of China has started to ensure that its nearly 90 million members are paying their full membership fees consistently and on time. Many CPC members are finding that they have to pay thousands of yuan at once for fees that have gone unpaid since as early as 2008 when revised Party regulations ordered members to pay a greater ratio of their income as Party dues.

Party members working in the electric power company in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, line up to pay their Party membership dues. Photo: CFP

Daisy, an employee of a Beijing State-owned company and CPC member, just forked over several thousand yuan to cover a few years of unpaid Party membership dues.

While Party rules say she should pay less than 100 yuan a month, making up years of missing dues has been a major expense for her this month.

"Some colleagues complained, though they all paid the full amount eventually," she said.

Many of China's about 90 million Party members - many of whom have little or no regular contact with the Party apparatus as members - have been suddenly asked to pay a much higher due from now on and to pay up what they owe from previous years, particularly those working in government organs, State-owned enterprises and public institutions.

This step follows on from a 2008 regulation regarding membership dues, which raised the dues according to the country's rising income level.

But, until recently, the new regulation was not implemented strictly, with a large number of Party members not paying their dues for years yet still remaining members.

It was reported that in May, after an official Party inspection of Tianjin and Shanxi Province to enforce the 2008 rule, Party members in 20 State-owned Shanxi enterprises paid more than 89 million yuan ($13.3 million) in overdue membership fees and those at 60 such enterprises in Tianjin paid some 200 million yuan.

"Paying the full amount on time is every member's basic obligation. Most have no problem with that. It is just that many don't know about the 2008 regulation before, so it seems sudden for them to have to pay a large amount at one time," said Zhang Xixian, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, adding that this surprise reveals problems with the management of the Party.

Top: CPC membership fees certificate Photo: IC

Looking back

As written in the Party Constitution, paying membership dues on time is a precondition for being admitted into the Party. It also says that members who have not paid dues for six consecutive months without a proper reason will have their Party membership revoked.

The relevant regulations define membership dues as the funds the CPC members pay to support the activity of the Party.

The membership dues are calculated based on a member's salary, but the standard has been changing over time.

Ten years ago a member who earned 800 yuan after tax would pay 20 yuan a month, 2 percent of the unified 1,000 yuan standard. The latest standard, as made public in 2008, says that Party members in work need to pay 0.5 percent of their salary if they earn less than 3,000 yuan every month, 1 percent if they earn between 3,000 and 5,000 yuan, and so on.

The membership dues account for a small proportion of one's salary. Some doubt whether it is still necessary to collect the dues as they no longer play a significant role in the operation of the Party. But experts have argued that they still have a role in reminding Party members of their links to the CPC.

"Paying membership dues serves as an important and concrete way to help CPC members reaffirm their identity by fulfilling their fundamental obligation," Zhang Dongming, a research fellow at the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee, told the Global Times.

Zhang sees the recent CPC efforts to collection of membership dues since 2008 as a move to reinforce the consciousness of this identity and sense of obligation among CPC members. "It is a matter of obligation, regardless of the amount of the money," Zhang Xixian told the Global Times.

Cash controversy

This June, Chen Xuede, an 89-year-old retiree from Yunnan Province, handed in 30,000 yuan in "special (or extra) Party membership dues" in gratitude to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the Party, the Kunming Daily reported.

This attitude is not uncommon among people who lived through the early days of the People's Republic of China, with some first-generation Party members even handing all their savings over to the Party in the days before their death.

Given that heritage, some jaws dropped when reports came out about the hundreds of millions of yuan owed by CPC members in Tianjin and Shanxi. Most of the money was owed by officials with high salaries.

Despite the eight years that have passed since the 2008 regulations, a patrol team from the Shanxi Provincial Party Committee discovered that the dues-paying system was in chaos and people with the same salary were paying different levels of dues.

"Did they [cadres with high salaries] really begrudge paying the dues? The Party organization may no longer exist in their mind. They may even have forgot they are Party members and forgot the obligation as a Party member," says an article published on the website of CPC Central Committee for Discipline Inspection.

The situation was much the same in Tianjin. Part of the reason for this disorder and the requests for lump sums to cover owed dues, according to an official with Shanxi's State-owned assets Supervision and Administration Commission, is that the method by which dues are collected has not kept pace with changes to how people are paid.

The salaries of the cadres and Party members in State-owned enterprises who enjoy annual pay are divided into basic salary and performance pay.

Even though the 2008-regulation says that those who enjoy annual pay should hand in dues based on the amount of money they actually earn, in reality, in the past several years they only paid a sum based on their basic salary, and their performance pay was not counted, as the official explained to the media.

Following the inspection rounds, public sector organs are reexamining how dues are collected, taking into account performance pay when calculating owed dues.

This move has aroused some controversy. On the one hand, people who are not Party members see it as shameful that so many members failed to pay their dues. They regard it a sign that many Party members don't really care about the CPC and that they just want to "profit from the identity" but don't want to pay for it.

But most Party members who are ordinary employees and did not know about the new collection standards before being asked to pay a lump sum feel wronged. Some who have been paying membership dues consistently feel shocked that while they have been paying the dues on time every month, now they are suddenly asked to pay a lump sum at once.

"I've been paying dues on time since I joined the Party. … Now they suddenly told me that the previous calculation was wrong. Now I need to pay almost a month's salary. It is not that we were not willing to pay before, just why didn't tell us the right due number before?" a netizen named Hailangpaihaian complained on Sina Weibo.

Remaining problems

To professor Zhang Xixian, the complaints among some Party members are natural reactions to the process.

"Many Party members didn't know about this regulation before. It is not their problem. It is a problem with the department in charge of collecting dues," Zhang told the Global Times. "The policy was not made clear to members in the past."

"It is just so big a difference between several hundred yuan a month and paying thousands or even tens of thousands of yuan at one time," said Zhang.

"In the future, the department in charge of collecting the dues should make the standard clear so as to collect on time," Zhang said.

He admitted that there are indeed Party members who have grown indifferent to their identity, which affects not only the members themselves but also the Party management. "There is much room for improvement in terms of Party building in the market economy."

This recovering of Party membership dues has also led many to ask: Where have the dues gone? The Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee has made it generally clear that the fees are mainly used to support Party activities, subscribe or purchase materials to educate its members, to award outstanding members and subside poor members, some netizens complained, they have no idea about the specific use of the dues they pay every year.

These worries are compounded when news stories emerge about corrupt officials embezzling Party membership dues.

"It is Party members' right to know where the fees have gone. Party affairs should be more transparent and public to keep up with the times," noted Zhang.

Newspaper headline: Pay what’s due

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