Politics and International Relations
Since his selection as the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2012, Xi Jinping openly praises traditional Chinese culture, and in particular, the traditional Confucian morality. Interestingly, Xi explicitly advocates drawing on traditional culture and morality to improve the theory and internal mechanisms of the CCP as a political organisation and the governing party. Such prescriptions, although highly normative for party members and officials, are expressed using ambiguous language which awkwardly marries party jargon with traditional philosophical notions.
To investigate the actual political significance of Xi's discourse on tradition, this paper looks at how it is being operationalised and implemented in the party’s internal work. Based on fieldwork in Shandong province, it presents its three realisations by the local party-state structures. Firstly, it shows an attempt to introduce Confucian values as a standard for assessing the performance of cadre-officials. Secondly, it presents an example of how a moral propriety campaign is used to boost the work of local party cadres. Thirdly, it introduces a cadre training programme which promotes the idea that the moral and political performance of party cadres are inherently related.
This paper argues that the currently popularised idea that traditional Chinese culture should inform the work style and theory of the Chinese Communist Party is understood by the local party officials as serving largely political ends. In particular, it is seen as addressing three contentious areas: the quality of communist cadres; the work style of local party structures; and the ideological concepts of the CCP.