Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Little red app

During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party of China published a book of quotations by Mao Tse-tung. It became known as The Little Red Book. Under President Xi, there is now "the little red app."

Little Red App: Xi’s Thoughts Are (Surprise!) a Hit in China
Call it the Little Red App.

Part social platform, part indoctrination tool, a new smartphone app called Study the Great Nation is the latest effort by the Chinese Communist Party to bring its propaganda initiatives into the mobile age.

So far, it seems to be working. Study the Great Nation recently became the most downloaded app on Apple’s app store in China, and on several app stores that cater to phones running Android as well.

Not all of the enthusiasm appears to have arisen organically, however. Since the app’s release at the beginning of the year, Communist Party branches at universities and local governments have arranged for administrators to guide and monitor party members as they use the app for political education…

Study the Great Nation, which was produced by the central government’s Publicity Department, has polish and sheen enough to match any of China’s popular news and entertainment apps. Most of those apps are not focused so narrowly, however, on all things Xi Jinping, the country’s leader.

In Study the Great Nation, you can catch up on the latest state media reports on Mr. Xi’s decisions, savor a quote of the day from Mr. Xi or brush up on “Xi Jinping Thought.” You can quiz yourself on Mr. Xi’s policies and pronouncements, or take in a television show called “Xi Time,” which is … well, you get the picture.

Doing each of these activities can reward users with “study points,” which can be redeemed for gifts in future versions of the app…

Is there a social element? Of course there is. Study the Great Nation is integrated with DingTalk, a messaging app made by the e-commerce giant Alibaba. As a result, you can call or text your friends in the app, host video hangouts and even send messages that disappear, Snapchat-style, after they are read…

Ratings and reviews for Study the Great Nation are currently disabled in Apple’s app store. But App Annie, an analytics firm, has preserved 497 reviews that had been submitted to Apple’s store as of Tuesday.

They are not kind, by and large. Many are laced with dry sarcasm. The average rating is 2.7 stars out of five…

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