Chinese SOEs cautiously carry out Party building activities overseas

By Southern Weekly Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/16 18:37:52

Party branches of Chinese enterprises keep in tune with domestic political trends

○ As more State-owned Chinese enterprises open abroad, how to maintain Party activities in sensitive countries has become an important issue

○ Chinese employees sent abroad must learn and respect the local culture, customs, religious beliefs and laws

A Chinese oil worker with PetroChina Company Limited at al-Halfaya refinery in Amara, Iraq. Photo: IC

Following the CPC's 19th National Congress, studying the spirit of the congress has been a key task among all grass-roots Party branches across the country, and beyond. In a trailer in Rumaila, Iraq, 10 CPC members from China carried out a Party activity on a November morning to learn the spirit of the Party's 19th National Congress.

They are employees with CNPC Great Wall Drilling Company (GWDC), a State-owned enterprise (SOE) sent to the Rumaila bases in Iraq. They hold Party activities every month and when there are important themes, such as studying the CPC's 19th National Congress, they usually spend several hours together.

Zhang Quanwei, manager of the security department for the company's program in Iraq, told the Southern Weekly that in Iraq the construction is in the wilderness, so the employees must work and live in trailers.

Party activities are held in trailers too. A trailer room is 12-meter long, 3-meter-high and 3.5 meters in width, equipped with TV sets, desks and chairs. TV sets are used for video conferences, but since the network in Iraq is limited, they mostly use audio in carrying out Party activities.

Zhang has been secretary for the Party branch for over a year. He senses that it is quite different to carry out Party building abroad than back in China. There are many obstacles in terms of local laws and regulations, cultural environment and also geographic limitations.

As more and more Chinese enterprises are branching out as reform and opening up deepens, how to ensure that Party building goes smoothly overseas is drawing increasing attention from relevant departments of the CPC.

Party branches abroad first must abide by local laws and customs. And in places that do not encourage political parties, members have to figure out flexible solutions so that their Party building activities will go on smoothly without causing troubles.

Do as the Romans do

When the national congress opened in Beijing on October 18, it was four in the morning in Ethiopia. A Party member and employee with ZTC Corporation's branch in Ethiopia, Diana (pseudonym) arrived at her office, as the head office demands, and watched the live broadcast of the opening ceremony.

At the same time, Party members with the Beijing Construction Engineering Group's Party branch in Iraq (5 am local time) and in Saudi Arabia (4 am local time) were also watching the live broadcast of the national congress.

Compared to "watching the live show," the Party branch at GWDC's Cuba project did something special. Two days ahead of the opening, the Party branch in Cuba organized an activity to encourage its members to "go over the Party oath" at the same well drilling that Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, personally visited in 2011.

As Cuba is a socialist country where the CPC is well-recognized, it is not so hard to carry out relevant work there. But that does not mean Party building in Cuba enjoys unfettered liberty.

For example, Cubans believe in Christianity and see the number "13" as a taboo. So when holding Party building activities, they should avoid choosing the 13th day of every month.

As Southern Weekly learned from those in charge of overseas Party building at SOEs, they first should educate Party members abroad in terms of foreign affairs discipline and international etiquette.

Trainings are also carried out among employees who go abroad about the situation of the country they will stay in, its culture and customs, religious beliefs and other relevant knowledge. They require the employees to pay attention to their clothing and appearance, and to respect local laws.

In spite of all these preparations, in some European and African countries where political parties are banned, Party branches of Chinese enterprises need to figure out a solution that is not contrary to the local laws and customs yet still allows Party building activities to proceed as scheduled.

For example, Iraq as an Islamic State is quite sensitive about political parties. "It is impossible to carry out Party building work outside [there], like carrying a flag or putting up slogans," said Ling Qing, who is in charge of publicity for the Party working committee of GWDC's project in Iraq.

To play it safe, when holding study activities related to Party building, they mostly use electronic documents and strictly control the quantity of printed matter.

Due to transportation limits, the Party branch of GWDC's Cuba project does not use printed books either, but instead printed versions of electronic files.

"Only the Party Constitution must be printed, which are brought by [our] colleagues from China," said Wang Yumin, a member of the Party branch.
In Cuba, they hold Party classes every month, which usually begins with reciting Party oaths in front of the Party flag.

Avoiding conflicts

In order to reduce potential conflicts with local laws and policies, Chinese enterprises have formulated corresponding low-key measures to carry out Party building works.

The Citic Construction, a subsidiary of the CITIC Group, has established a mechanism of Party building overseas following the principle of "keeping internal organization insistent but closed to the outside." The China Railway International Group has provisioned an intensive training and discussion session carried out only after the local foreign staff get off.

"Our overseas Party affairs follow the 'five non-publicities' principle," said Cao Haixia, Party office director of GWDC, told the Southern Weekly.

The so-called "five non-publicities" principle means that they don't publicize the "Party organization, Party members, member duties, Party activities and Party documents."

The Southern Weekly learned that a number of SOEs have clearly stipulated in the regulations of their Party building documents that  overseas Party building generally adheres to the principle of "five non-publicities."

With the deepening of SOE internationalization, how to design a scientific provision for Party building overseas has become a key point for relevant departments at all levels.

In April and May 2017, Beijing's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission sent experts overseas to carry out research about the development of grass-roots level Party building work at SOEs, emphasizing the Party's fundamentally leading role in development of overseas enterprises.

How to choose the leader of Party affairs becomes the first question for Party building job in a special overseas environment. At present, for most overseas Party branches of SOEs, the head of the project or the chief executive of the administration hold the concurrent position of branch secretary, with the "one job, two responsibilities" system implemented.

However, it is not always the case for all overseas SOEs. In recent years, BCEG has gradually recruited a full-time secretary of the Party committee in its overseas department. Li Zheng is one of these secretaries.

China First Metallurgical Group, a subsidiary of China Metallurgical Group Corporation, has also explicitly pledged that the secretary should be full-time.

Considering the importance and confidentiality of its overseas Party construction work, the company determined to set up a special "security department" in its overseas structure to undertake the work of Party building, enterprise culture and other logistics affairs.

Flexible means

Compared to domestic ones, the overseas organizations of SOEs enjoy a higher degree of freedom in operating their business activities. For some enterprises, staff are scattered and highly mobile, which makes Party building more difficult to carry on, especially when people are working in shifts.

How to conduct an effective supervision of overseas Party construction is a problem that the Party committee of SOEs has to consider. In recent years, the interconnection of SOE Party committees and overseas branches has become more dependent on the concept of "internet-plus."

Using the company's OA system, as well as social media platforms like WeChat, to run the Party construction has almost become a typical pattern of "internet-plus Party building" popularized among many SOEs.

The China Railway International Group sets up the online "message board" for overseas workers to keep their learning updated, and to provide a tunnel for staff to exchange ideas between various departments.

Since the opening of 19th National Congress, the China National Petroleum Corporation opened up a "knowledge competition forum" on its official app designed especially for Party building. All overseas Party members were required to download the app and to complete the online test before deadline.

On June 27, Ling Qing led Party candidate Zhang Xin to take an oath in joining the Party in Dubai. The scene remains fresh in his memory.

"I did not have enough time to prepare the real Party flag, and there was no stress on the need to use the physical object abroad, so I put a picture of it on a PPT slide," he recalled.

"We need to be cautious when using the Party flag on the spot, because we worry that local staff or other local officials may think we are doing an open political party activity."

Southern Weekly

Newspaper headline: Branching out

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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