Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, January 27, 2012

Party school (No, not that kind of party school)

A perceptive 2-minute video report from al Jazeera on the Beijing Communist Party school for up and coming cadres. Not a lot of depth, but it does make that point that "defying stereotypes, it appears that one of the freest places in China is at the heart of the Communist Party…" How does that match your students' images of what a Communist Party school is like?

And a follow-up to the video, reporter Melissa Chan blogs about her experience at the Party school.

Inside a Chinese Communist Party school
China's ruling Communist Party's 80 million members attend special schools to learn party ideology at facilities that serve as a training ground for the next generation of Chinese leaders…

The schools offer a safe space for officials to throw out ideas, talk about sensitive issues, and try to come up with solutions to some of the country's problems.

Chinese lessons in leadership
There are 80 million members of the Communist Party and more than half of them work in the government in some way - whether directly in a ministry or in a state-owned corporation. Training them in management and administration requires what is probably the biggest human resources department in the world: the Communist Party School system, with some 2,000 satellite campuses.

The mission of these schools is not only to teach cadres the tools of governance, but also to reinforce ideology and the party line. Our visit was at one of the most important campuses: the Beijing Party School where 300 faculty members teach courses in nine different departments, ferrying through thousands of officials a year - some who turn up for short week-long modules, and others who move into the dormitories for three-month terms…

The Party School is an open forum, Professor Liu Changlong went on to explain, because it has to be. Officials can't afford to avoid problems that could directly threaten their governance. The Propaganda Department may present news to the public, selecting facts and fabrication for inclusion. But on the closed campus of the Party School, officials must consider the real issues of income inequality, protests, and what direction the country should be headed, both politically and economically.

In a separate class, cadres separated into small groups for discussions, this time about Marx's Communist Manifesto. Their task was to discuss some of the challenges facing the party today through Marx's writings…

It is a great opportunity for cadres from different ministries and departments to network, and the development of friendships from time spent on campus probably equal the utility of studying Marx. For some party officials, attendance is a prelude to promotion, depending on the ministry or department.

As we left campus, we had a surprise: we passed by an old stone grave, gated off and surrounded by old trees.  It was the grave of Matteo Ricci, the 16th-century Jesuit missionary and one of the first Western scholars of Chinese language and customs. He would not have been surprised at the disciplined management style employed by China's Communist Party today...

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