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On Saturday morning, I visited Xiangshan, a western Beijing suburb known for vibrant fall foliage. My destination was Shuangqing Villa, where Communist China’s founding father Mao Zedong spent half a year until the People’s Republic was founded in October 1949.
When I passed through the villa’s gate, I encountered about 20 women loudly chanting a slogan, “The hearts of women are with the party. Let’s struggle toward a new long way.”
The flag of the Chinese Communist Party, with its yellow hammer and sickle against a red background, was being raised. The women were all wearing party member badges on their chests.
They said that a large-scale campaign dubbed “girls celebrating the 100th anniversary of the party’s foundation” will be launched in Beijing. They seem to have been mobilized to promote the anniversary, which is coming up in July.
They also chanted another slogan: “We propose: Let’s study the party’s history and repay the party’s favor.”
At around the same time, President Xi Jinping was attending a meeting of party cadres in Beijing. The meeting was held to launch a campaign promoting knowledge of party history among all members.
Delivering a speech at the meeting, Xi called for efforts to “study the party’s history, understand its theories, do practical work and make new advances.” He declared the start of a new mass movement to cement the “correct view of the party’s history.”
Encouraging education about party history is nothing new. Xi has often referred to the importance of it since the last quinquennial national congress in October 2017. After that, he visited the venue for the party’s first such conference in Shanghai and stressed that the Communists’ “original aspirations” must never be forgotten.
Only by keeping those aspirations in mind, Xi argued, could current cadres reassure their predecessors, win public support and leap forward. “Don’t forget original aspirations” has become a mantra for Xi.
Still, this appears to be the first campaign focused on party history that mobilizes the public. The People’s Daily, a party mouthpiece, has been publishing feature articles delving into the history on a near-daily basis lately.
On Feb. 1, ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, Xi held a meeting with businesspeople who are not Communist Party members. He detailed the history education campaign, nudging even those who do not belong to the party to learn about its past.
When Xi speaks about Communist Party history, he is acutely aware of the path Mao followed. When he visited Guizhou Province early this month, he described the Zunyi Conference as “a great turning point” for the party.