Date
18 December 2017
Xi Jinping has been assiduous in crafting his public image, with the youth among the key targets. Photos: Xinhua.com, 163.com
Xi Jinping has been assiduous in crafting his public image, with the youth among the key targets. Photos: Xinhua.com, 163.com

Is Xi Jinping trying to build a personality cult?

The Chinese Communist Party’s publicity department has released a book of important speeches by President Xi Jinping.

The tome covers 12 topics which expound the “significance, scientific connotation, spiritual essence and requirements” of Xi’s speeches, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Not surprisingly, the foreign media was immediately abuzz with questions.

Is Xi seeking to carefully craft an image for himself to get into the history books? Is he trying to build a Mao Zedong-like personality cult and be seen as a “god”?

To be sure, it has been a common practice in China for authorities to include speeches of top leaders in the study materials in schools. And college students are asked to delve deeper into the theories and speeches of people like Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, not to mention Mao.

But the question now is: Would the current generation of students really take the speeches seriously?

The answer is “no”. It is because the subject will have no real bearing on their academic score.

Although it is a compulsory subject in colleges, teachers do not spend too much time on the leadership tomes. They also have very loose standard for examinations on the topic as they want to ensure that everyone gets a pass.  

According a recent Xinhua report, party schools and higher education institutions are required to include the the latest book on Xi speeches as study materials of the party’s theories. Party members and organizations should study the speeches earnestly and propagate the spirit of “China Dream”, Socialism with Chinese characteristics, it was decreed.

Major state media organs and government websites have launched special pages to discuss the book.

It marks the second time in a month that Beijing has come out with book on Xi. In late May, the Party Literature Research Office published a book of quotations from Xi on the need for comprehensive deepening of reforms. Some material in that book was said to have been published for the first time.

Meanwhile, the party mouthpiece People.com has also released a series of articles titled “Learning the art of leadership from Xi Jinping”, praising him as being open-minded and responsible.

Now, do all these moves merely represent an effort by Xi to reach out and be closer to the people or do they signal some deeper strategy?

The jury is still out.  

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MY/JP/RC

EJ Insight reporter

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