The latest model of Chinese car manufacturer SAIC’s Roewe RX5 PLUS SUV will come equipped with an application that indoctrinates passengers in “Xi Jinping Thought,” Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Thursday.
The Alibaba-produced application, Xuexi Qiangguo, debuted for mobile phones in 2019. Its name translates to “Study to Make China Strong,” and it works by offering select quotes by dictator Xi Jinping, excerpts of his writings, and other communist materials. The application has a quiz element in which it helps users memorize Xi’s teachings through question and answer sessions, as well as a social element so that users can share their favorite quotes with friends.
“Xi Jinping Thought” – officially, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” – is Xi Jinping’s signature interpretation of communism. Xi formally made it part of both the constitutions of China and of the Chinese Communist Party and has mandated that college students take courses on his writings in school.
Xuexi Qiangguo is one of dozens of mobile applications used to indoctrinate and monitor Communist Party members. Not logging in enough times to the apps or otherwise insufficiently engaging with them could result in a drop in a person’s “social credit score,” a numerical value the Communist Party places on every human life based on their loyalty to the Party. Chinese police can ban those with insufficient “social credit” from traveling and using basic social services, while those with high “social credit” can receive promotions and other perks. Xuexi Qiangguo often offers awards for those who score highly on its Xi Jinping Thought quizzes.
The application is not de jure mandatory yet, but it tallied 43 million downloads upon its debut and multiple reports suggested local Communist Party leaders had forced members to download it and use it regularly or face retribution in their careers or other aspects of their lives.
According to RFA, the SUV model in question is made by China’s largest car manufacturer and will feature the communist indoctrination app as an amenity to help communists study while driving safely.
“The app, which is being aggressively promoted by the CCP as a tool for ideological education across China, will offer RX5 PLUS drivers ‘one-click access’ to Xi Jinping Thought,” RFA noted. The car company responsible explained to RFA that the application is voice-commanded, meaning a driver can simply say, “I want to listen to Xuexi Qiangguo” while driving without having to stop to receive curated Xi Jinping quotes.
The feature, a China expert told RFA, is part of a growing trend of “‘patriotic’ gimmicks linked to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] centenary” being featured by all sorts of Chinese businesses to boost sales. The Communist Party turns 100 years old in October.
“In the past few years, we have seen Xi Jinping’s footprints, the floor tiles he stood on, the electric car he rode in and even the public toilets he visited turn into tourist attractions,” an anonymous Chinese Twitter comedian highlighted by RFA quipped. “There is going to be more and more dumb stuff like this, the closer we get to the 20th Party Congress [in 2022].”
RFA noted, again citing experts on the matter, that Xuexi Qiangguo serves not only as an indoctrination tool but as a way to monitor Chinese citizens.
“This app, Xuexi Qiangguo, was discovered a while back to be collecting citizens’ data,” Wang Longmen, identified as a commentator based in France, told the outlet. “This means that if you install the app in your car, the authorities will be able to track your whereabouts.”
Much of the enforcement of the “social credit system” revolves around travel. Among the first rights lost to those with low scores are the ability to purchase airplane and train tickets. As of 2019, the last time China revealed statistics on the system’s use, 13 million people had lost the ability to fly or ride trains on charges of being “untrustworthy.” Chinese state media, relaying the statistic, did not define “untrustworthy” but anything from public littering to dissent with the Communist Party is believed to hurt a person’s social credit score.
In Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province and home to its extensive Muslim concentration camp system, the Chinese Communist Party has begun expanding this influence to tracking every single car through GPS, to ensure it knows where every citizen of the territory travels to at all times. As of 2017, before local reporting and satellite evidence revealed the existence of the Muslim camps, the Party made it mandatory for all cars to carry GPS devices that allow the government to track drivers in at least one major subregion of Xinjiang.
“Cars are the major means of transportation for terrorists, and also a frequently chosen tool to conduct terrorist attacks,” the government of Bayingol prefecture announced at the time, “So it’s necessary to use the Beidou system and electronic vehicle identification to enhance the management of vehicles.”
Beijing insists that Xinjiang is a hotbed of radical jihadist terrorism. The United States government dropped the main terrorist group allegedly active there, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), from its list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2020 on the grounds that no evidence suggests that it exists.