Saturday, April 20, 2019

Study the Great Leader

"You cannot divert attention away from it."
"It's a kind of digital surveillance. It brings the digital dictatorship to a new level."
Haiqing Yu, professor of Chinese Media,RMIT University, Australia

"He is using new media to fortify loyalty toward him."
Wu Qiang, political analyst, Beijing

"Loyalty to the party, means loyalty to Xi Jinping."
David Bandurski, co-director, China Media Project

"President Xi has a dream of great renaissance."
"When young people are strong, the nation is strong."
Jiang Shuiqiu, 35, army veteran
Communist Party members using the Study the Great Nation app during a weekly meeting in Beijing in February. Tens of millions of Chinese are now using the app, often under pressure from the government. CreditJason Lee/Reuters

The Chinese public has a new preoccupation to keep them busy, informed and properly in awe of their leader, President Xi Jinping, leader of the Communist Party. An app has been developed that everyone is meant to download on their smartphones. The app is called Study the Great Nation, and questions are asked as they would be in test situations, the 'players' responding in a manner to demonstrate that they know their history and facts and figures about their great nation.

Primarily, it's an adjunct to the cult of leadership for everything revolves around Xi Jinping and proper obeisance to his rule is the goal to be achieved, ensuring that all Chinese exhibit the required respect and adulation of the man who they all look up to, to ensure that China maintains and builds upon its global reputation as a giant in all fields of endeavour, a powerhouse of a nation.

Chinese workers in their tens of millions, along with students and civil servants know they must use the app and strive for the rewards. Thus far it has over 100 million users who are expected to know all the news about their president. They will view a video on his activities and his official duties including state visits to other countries. Those who know the answers win points, the perfect score, the goal.

If someone responds positively on a quiz on President Xi's economic policies, there's a score of 10 earned right there. The app is considered a form of patriotism, but not all Chinese recognize it as that, considering it instead as yet another imposition by an overbearing government and its zealous officials. Experts consider Study the Great Nation a kind of political cudgel.

Those who resist its use will be punished, along with those who cheat or who allow themselves to fall behind in its use. Students with low app scores are being shamed at schoo . Study sessions are held in government offices, with workers forced to write reports in criticism of themselves, while private companies have taken to ranking employees based on app use. Those who rate poorly can have their pay docked.

A television series called "Xi Time" is featured on the app, where Mr. Xi's quotations on such topics as building a strong military and moving toward a "Chinese dream" of prosperity and strength are front and centre. There are notifications impressing the onlooker with "golden sentences" attributed to Mr. Xi's speeches.

A cheat industry involving a dozen products has begun to flourish, with people viewing the app as a burden becoming enthusiastic customers. But prosecution is in the wings for cheating and criticism of the app. A man selling cheating software for about $13 in the southeast province of Jiangxe was detained by police who charged him with operating an illegal business.

Glowing reviews of the app appear on state-operated news media. Stories about diligent hospital workers and kindergarten teachers who open Study the Great Nation as soon as they arise in the morning abound. "If you see a guy on the subway using the app, you should marry him", is a typical suggestion of some party members, for its potential use as a dating tool.

Jiang Shuiqiu, who runs a fishing store in the city of Changsha in Hunan Province, has been lauded in the local news media for his high score on the app.   Credit Javier Hernandez/The New York Times

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