‘Party spirit’ training institutes for cadres flourishing

By Southern Weekly – Global Times Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-2 20:33:01

Back to school

A group of officials attending a executive leadership academy in Yan'an, Shaanxi Province, visit a local revolutionary site as part of a Party spirit training course. Photo: CFP

At the Paulownia Tree Square, located about two kilometers northeast of Lankao county, Henan Province, a paulownia tree - a variety of tree popular for roadside planting in China - has stood since 1963 in the spot it was planted by model cadre Jiao Yulu.

Then-Vice President Xi Jinping also planted a paulownia tree in a corn field across the square when visiting Lankao in 2009. It was at this spot that the Jiao Yulu Executive Leadership Academy was founded in August 2013.

Jiao (1922-64), a late Lankao Party chief, is widely revered for his work in the county combating natural disasters during the 1960s.

"The academy has become a platform for promoting nationwide the heritage left to us by Jiao Yulu," a Lankao official told the Southern Weekly newspaper on November 20.

The academy has attracted around 34,000 cadres from across the country to receive training on administration. The classes urge them to work hard and serve the people wholeheartedly, in the mold of Jiao Yulu.

The curriculum aims to instill the spirit of Jiao rather than political theories. It is far from the only such institute in the province.

Since the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in 2002, the Party has sharpened its focus on educating younger cadres in proper Party spirit, as more and more of them prepare to move into positions of greater responsibility.

As a result, education institutes like Jiao Yulu Executive Leadership Academy have since sprung up across the country.

Red phenomenon

Such institutes are always named after the "red resources" particular to a county or city. "Red resources" refers to sites, objects, or events of importance to the history of the CPC, as red is the main color of the Party flag, the Xinhua News Agency reported in 2009.

At Jinggangshan, a so-called "revolutionary cradle" for its importance to the Chinese revolution, Jiangxi Province established the Jiangxi Executive Leadership Academy. Similar academies in another two other revolutionary cradles, Xibaipo in Hebei Province and Ruijin in Jiangxi Province, are also under construction.

Other sites that failed to earn the "revolutionary cradle" title, but still boast a certain degree of "red resources," have also rushed to establish such institutes.

Unlike Party governance schools, where officials spend months or even a full year on political theories, the training period at executive leadership academies is much shorter, with less emphasis on theory, according to Southern Weekly. Cadres often get about three to seven days of "hands-on experience."

"What impressed me most was Jiao's cane chair in his memorial hall," Zhang Liuqun, head of a discipline inspection commission in a Tianjin district parks bureau, was quoted by Southern Weekly as saying.

Jiao poked at his belly with a cup lid or a rod when suffering liver pains, while his other hand pushed against the right armrest of his chair, where he gradually wore a hand-sized hole.

So called "on-the-spot learning" visits comprise the majority of the curriculum at those academies. "Those visits provide officials first-hand experience," Zhang Weiyu, a reporter and editor preparing to compile a biography of Jiao, told the Global Times.

"Some officials told me that they sincerely felt respectful of Jiao," Zhang said, "only after they had witnessed the wind gaps, dunes and the last bend of the Yellow River, and began to realize how hard Jiao worked to deal with the [area's] sandstorms and floods."

Lankao county had long been plagued by sandstorms, floods and unproductive saline soil. As Party chief of Lankao, Jiao mobilized the county's people to combat the poor natural conditions by planting paulownia trees, news portal china.com.cn reported.

Root causes

China's Communist Party Central Committee began promoting large-scale training for younger cadres 2002 as the makeup of Party ranks began to change considerably. More young had begun taking the place of retired officials, and were said to lack Party spirit and ties with the people, according to Southern Weekly.

"Almost all those academies … focus on educating [cadres] in the Party spirit," Xie Chuntao, director of Party history department at the Party School of CPC Central Committee, told Southern Weekly.

The rise of these academies is closely tied with the Party's stress on educating officials on Party spirit, Xie said.

In 2003, the CPC Central Committee decided to establish three executive leadership academies in Jinggangshan, Yan'an in Shaanxi Province and Shanghai. All three are directly administered by the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee.

One official from Sichuan Province, who had attended courses at Jiao Yulu Executive Leadership Academy was deeply impressed by Jiao's deeds, and began to reflect on his lack of ties with the people, Zhang said.

The 18th CPC National Congress, held in 2012, imposed further requirements for Party spirit education, and a proposal to strengthen cadre training was put forward in the 2013-17 national cadre training plan, Xinhua reported in October.

"We should intensify Party spirit education, which is at the core of Party building, study Party history, and gain a full understanding of the experiences and lessons reviewed in the Party's two resolutions on certain questions in its history," said a conference report issued by the 18th CPC National Congress.

Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping suggested a sharper, more stern approach in the country's ongoing anti-graft campaign, one which seeks to push Party officials and cadres to improve their work style, when he addressed a group of officials in Lankao, Xinhua reported in March.

Xi, who used to be a local Party chief in Hebei, has visited Lankao three times in the five years.

Party backing at all levels has resulted in a sharp increase in both class offerings and students at the Jiangxi Executive Leadership Academy. In 2008 the academy offered 103 classes to 4,300 officials. In 2013, both numbers had increased about six fold.

In addition to political rationales, the academies have also become increasingly popular for economic reasons.

As each official spends at least 1,500 yuan ($244) during a visit to Lankao, the training can also generate a strong revenue flow for the local economy, Zhang estimated.

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