Scholars, entrepreneurs, media pros asked to share experience with cadres

By Southern Weekly - Global Times Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/25 19:22:47

Each year governments at all levels train officials and speakers are invited to share their views, following the lecture system of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee

Since December 2002, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee has held 116 lectures, one every 45 days

Officials enjoy speeches with insights. Empty talks will be met with disfavor

A speaker gives a lecture on Sinology to government officials in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, on April 17, 2011. Photo: CFP

 Before lecturing provincial-level officials, Qing Qianhong explained his stance.

"It would be an insult to your intelligence if I only said empty words. I am a member of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and an intellectual within the political system as well," he told them.

Qing, a professor at the Law School of Wuhan University is regularly invited to lead classes for officials, but he said he was warned before classes recently, which he said is unusual. Qing was told to be cautious about what he says so he didn't annoy or embarrass leaders.

"Usually, people assume speakers are 'professionals' and that professionals won't say inappropriate things," Qing told the Southern Weekly. But speakers are often told to first hand in the outline of what they will say before talking to officials.

Each year governments at all levels have to train officials and speakers are invited to share their views.

This caution is born of experience. Some speakers have been punished after making "incorrect" remarks and some officials had their careers affected after inviting inappropriate speakers.

The identities of these lecturers and what they say can offer a way to understand China.

Training for officials is arranged cautiously. An anonymous employee of a training organization told the Southern Weekly that people with "extreme views" won't be chosen.

An official from a municipal Party committee revealed that the publications and previous lectures of the speakers are carefully reviewed, as is their planned lecture content.

According to the anonymous official, speakers are normally warned in advance: Be respectful to the officials, do not discuss politics and be positive.

Qing told the Southern Weekly that they retain a sense of "propriety" even if they are free in making remarks. "We are free to criticize things done by other governments, but make no judgments on the local government or its affairs. We are free to mention negative examples of past leaders who had political or legal faults, but nothing relating to present officials. We are free to evaluate old cases but not ongoing ones."

"Officials enjoy speeches with insights. Empty talks will be met with disfavor," Qing said.



Path to promotion

A scholar who has been invited to speak to officials several times said that this practice has been going on for a long time and follows the lecture system of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

Since December 2002, the bureaus of the 16th, 17th and 18th CPC Central Committees have held 116 lectures, one every 45 days, the Southern Weekly reported.

More than 170 scholars and professionals have addressed top officials in Zhongnanhai, the Beijing compound for the nation's top leaders, covering fields including economics, politics, law, the military and Party construction.

After giving classes for central officials, those scholars were also invited to speak to local Party officials from all parts of China, the anonymous scholar revealed. Some were even eventually offered important posts in political or legal departments.

Cao Jianming, Procurator-General of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, was a visiting lecturer in Zhongnanhai as early as 1994. He was a 39-year-old professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law when he first spoke to top officials. Wang Gang, who was principal of Tongji University when he started lecturing national officials, has since become head of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

According to a circular issued by the Central Committee of the CPC in October 2015, leading cadres at the county level and above are required to attend training for up to three months out of every five years. Other officials need to attend training sessions for sno less than 90 hours each year.

These lectures are only open to speakers that are well-known and hold impressive titles, an anonymous employee who organized these training sessions, told the Southern Weekly.

They could be specialists, entrepreneurs, media professionals or model workers. The lecture content varies from ideological education, new academic studies, stories of ancient Chinese civilization and the latest psychology theories.

Wang Xuming, the head of the Languages and Culture Press, who was once a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, is regularly invited to speak to local governments, hosting training sessions for spokespersons at all levels. He spoke in Southwest China's Yunnan Province in 2013 and Central China's Hunan Province in 2014.

Most of the speakers are scholars. Li Kejun, a retired secretary of a CPC county committee who worked in this position for more than eight years, said lectures by scholars enable officials to open their minds.

Chen Yongbo, a local official, former media professional and frequent lecturer to officials, said that officials have knowledge and experience but lack wisdom when it comes to difficulties and emergencies.

"There are divisions as well as sensitivities when officials or a department deals with other sectors of society. Officials cannot violate the law but have to deal with difficulties in a smart way. They need to learn from people who are good at it. It doesn't help if lecturers only talk about what's in books," Chen said.

The biggest confusion for some officials is "how to act and avoid risks at the same time," an insider who organized training said.

Teaching methods

"Working practice will not be improved if only spokespersons are trained. Because it is a quick-change career in which newcomers are seen every two or three years. So, leading cadres also need to attend lectures," said Zhang, the vice president of the School of Communication and Design at Sun Yat-sen University, who has been invited to be a lecturer many times.

Cheng Ping, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, once gave a lecture titled "The protection and rational use of industrial ruins." She said ruins in many cities have been developed into valuable real estate.

Her students, including the head of a culture bureau and a deputy mayor, told Cheng, "Your lecture was good. But it is more suitable for our leading cadre, the municipal Party secretary, who is in charge of city planning."

Chen then told her students that "you might be promoted one day, if you are then what I said will matter to you."

In another lecture on the topic of social organizations, Cheng showed many cases that she collected and opened the floor for discussion.

"The discussion was intense. It turned out to be a kind of debate, students from different departments taking different positions. They did not even stop discussing when lunchtime approached," Cheng said.

Some did not understand why it is necessary to develop social organizations; some said social organizations are an important way to delegate government functions.

Students who attended the lecture were departmental-level cadres. When those officials disagree with each other, the teacher is responsible for guiding them to understand policy in line with the Party.

Cheng told the Southern Weekly that she teaches officials from provincial and municipal departments in an open way, with more interactions and case studies. Cheng said she teaches low level officials in the traditional "cramming" way.

Training tourism

Training is organized in Party universities, administration schools, academic institutes, and other training organizations.

However, the quality varies and the system can be abused. An insider revealed that "governments cannot organize group trips for fun after the 'eight-point regulation,' a document adopted in 2012 that requires officials improve their work style in eight aspects. But some go on tours under the guise of training."

Many are organized by third-party institutes. "The institutes are in charge of booking hotels, restaurants and inviting teachers," the insider told the Southern Weekly.

The supervision of this kind of training has also intensified over the years. Officials who approve fraudulent training tips can be punished.

For example, 16 officials from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region were investigated in 2016 because they claimed money back for their expenses during training in the cities of Dalian, Changzhou and Nanning 10 times since 2013. Their trips were allegedly just tourism.

According to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, more than 7,000 officials were punished from 2012 to 2013 for violating the eight-point regulations, more than 20,000 in 2014 and more than 30,000 in 2015. The number reached 40,000 in 2016.

Nearly 7,000 cases relating to tourism at public expense were revealed as of the end of April 2016, the data shows.

Southern Weekly - Global Times

Newspaper headline: Lecturing leaders

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