The Communist Party of Guangxi, China, launched a campaign this month to pressure citizens to carry around a “little red book” of dictator Xi Jinping’s cult ideology, “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” greatly escalating with the publication of a video on social media this week showing citizens reading communist propaganda to toddlers.
Mao Zedong, the founder of Chinese communism and architect of multiple campaigns resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of people, popularized the concept of the “little red book.”
Formally titled Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, the book was meant to be a Chinese analogy to the Communist Manifesto, making the murderous ideology accessible to all Chinese citizens and facilitating the indoctrination of the country.
Aggressive displays of reading and memorizing Mao’s book became mandatory during the Cultural Revolution to show communist fealty.
The book promoted extremist, violent communist ideology, famously including Mao’s aphorism “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” and advising, “a revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery … A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”
Since taking over the country in 2013, Xi has worked to slowly usurp Mao’s place in Chinese history, cementing his own name in the Chinese constitution and that of the Chinese Communist Party and coining his own ideology, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” Xi added his name alongside Mao’s and Deng Xiaoping’s to the Chinese constitution in 2017.
Xi’s regime had already used its “social credit system” – which ascribes every citizen numerical scores based on their loyalty to communism – to forced citizens to memorize “Xi Jinping Thought.” The government has forced Communist Party officials to regularly used a mobile app known as “Xuexi Qiangguo” (“Study to Make China Strong”) to memorize Xi’s quotes since 2019, a form of virtual “little red book.”
At least one province appears to have added a “retro” form of indoctrination to its policies in addition to the mobile app. This month, the government of Nanning, Guanxi’s capital, announced the return of the Xi version of a “little red book” to prepare for this year’s Communist Party Congress.
“In the past few days, a series of ‘pocket-sized books’ of ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ [known as] ‘Everyone Learns,’ carefully compiled by the Propaganda Department of the [Nanning] Party Committee has become an authoritative teaching material,” a government notice posted on April 18 read, calling it “a treasure in the palm of your hand.”
“In the fields of Wanfu Village, Tanghong Township, the villagers sit around the ridge after work, and the first secretary [of the Party] in the village, as the leader, leads everyone to read the contents of the “pocket-sized book’ in local dialect, so that the villagers can better understand and understand the Party,” the government relayed.
Guangxi communist officials have reportedly forced all bookstores to install a display case with Xi Jinping’s “pocket book” and “regularly organize the masses to carry out learning and exchanges.”
— The Great Translation Movement 大翻译运动官方推号 (@TGTM_Official) April 25, 2022
Reports out of Guangxi indicate that bookstores are not the only ones being forced to distribute the propaganda item: schools, rural areas, businesses,” local hotels, and even hospitals are reportedly handing out the “pocket book.”
On Wednesday, a government propaganda video surfaced on Weibo, a government-controlled social media site, promoting the “pocket book.” The video showed citizens of all ages interrupting their day to sit and read the book. One elder man can be seen reading to a child of about two years of age.
“Learn the pocket book well and build a powerful new country!” the Weibo caption on the video read.
China really is going back to the bad old days… Little red book of Xi Jinping thought being promoted in Guangxi province… ugh, disgusting pic.twitter.com/AzIIXTUu90
— Winston Sterzel (@serpentza) April 27, 2022
Similarly, Weibo has been flooded in the past week with photos of laborers, farmers, and families sitting together and reading Xi Jinping’s cult ideology.
While the return to carrying a physical red book is a novel turn for Xi’s regime, forcing citizens – particularly children – to memorize Xi’s “Thoughts” is a policy at least five years old. In 2017, China’s Education Minister Chen Baosheng ordered his officials to rewrite all school textbooks to include “Xi Jinping Thought.”
“Chen said the ministry would start amending textbooks and training teachers after the Congress as part of the education sector’s ‘historic task,’” the South China Morning Post reported at the time.
“The topic [Xi Jinping Thought] will become part of political ideology courses that all pupils and students in the education system are required to take.”
“There is no limit in doing research,” Chen said, “But you are not allowed to voice dissidence in the classroom.”
Last year, the Chinese automaker SAIC debuted a car that comes pre-equipped with the “Xuexi Qiangguo” app so that drivers can listen to audio renditions of “Xi Jinping Thought” while they drive and take “quizzes” on Xi Jinping quotes. Extra time on the app can correlate to a high “social credit” score; low “social credit” scores can result in bans from public transportation and necessary government social services.
With reporting by Kurt Zindulka.