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CPC advances discipline education campaign: Members urged to remain loyal, clean, responsible and help build resilient nation

The ongoing Party-wide discipline education campaign, a longtime tradition of the Communist Party of China, will help the CPC build a united core to face new goals and challenges and keep the country on the right track, according to experts from around the globe.

From April to July, CPC members will study the newly revised Party regulations on disciplinary action, to strengthen their discipline awareness and remain loyal, clean and responsible, according to a circular issued in early April.

Stressing that education should focus on integrating such awareness into everyday work, the circular urges discussions among Party members, as well as using typical violation cases as cautionary lessons, so that Party members will have a better understanding of lines not to be crossed and deeper respect for the rules.

Jon Taylor, a professor of political science at the University of Texas in San Antonio, noted the CPC's previous education campaigns have focused on cultivating closer ties with the people, improving officials' work styles and ensuring that its members stay true to the Party's founding mission.

The new Party discipline campaign builds on these efforts to strengthen the CPC's internal governance and management under President Xi Jinping's thoughts on the Party's self-reform.

Wang Feng, deputy director of the Institute of CPC History and Party Building at Beijing Normal University, said the Party has placed greater emphasis on building discipline to improve self-governance, a signal that self-reform is always happening.

Discipline is a glorious tradition and one of the CPC's unique advantages, which has ensured victories throughout its history, he said.

Steeped in history

The admission oath of the CPC has been revised several times, but the word "discipline" has remained unchanged.

A poem written by the late Chairman Mao Zedong — "Heighten the sense of discipline, and the revolution is sure to be successful" — revealed the relationship between discipline and the victorious revolution.

In 1928, when the CPC was still a small party, Mao issued a military doctrine, "The Three Rules of Discipline and Six Points for Attention", for the Red Army, who were then fighting against the Kuomintang.

A distinctive feature of the doctrine was its respect for the people. The content included: "Obey orders in all your actions; do not take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses; turn in everything captured."

This discipline made the Red Army popular with the people, and was in contrast to the Chiang Kai-shek-led KMT soldiers, who tended to be rude to villagers. The villagers voluntarily gave supplies and shelter to the Red Army and even joined them, greatly helping the CPC's war efforts.

"The people's support is our top political priority," Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has stressed on many occasions. He has made explicit requirements many times for the Party to carry forward the glorious tradition of building discipline.

"We must not allow our discipline to become a dusty document resting on the top shelf," Xi has said.

Addressing the third plenary session of the 20th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in January, he said the key task of advancing the Party's self-reform is to improve Party conduct, enforce Party discipline, and fight corruption.

Underscoring the need to improve the legal system used to fight corruption, he called for an education campaign on discipline within the Party.

Maintaining unity

Yang Weidong, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the ability to integrate a large-scale party with more than 5 million grassroots organizations and 98 million members, and unify their goals and actions, relies on a strict set of rules.

"This is a unique aspect that distinguishes the CPC from other political parties," he said. "Otherwise, such a large party might be like a pile of loose sand," he said, adding that discipline is also needed to lead the people to achieve great goals.

Compared with the two-party system in many Western countries, where the government might change every few years after one party loses an election, the CPC must win support from the people by placing strict constraints on its members, which is a higher requirement to consolidate the foundations for governance.

Chheang Vannarith, former president of the Asian Vision Institute, a think tank based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, said the mission of a political party is to build a vision for everyone so that the country can be united and work together.

China is unique as the CPC is the largest and most complex political party in the world. Discipline is very important as without discipline unity cannot be maintained, he said.

Considering the complex external environment as well as foreign interference, it's necessary to build a unified core through discipline education, which will prepare China for the decades ahead, Chheang Vannarith said.

Democracy and respect for the rule of law are declining in different parts of the world because of weak political systems, he said.

A strong political party can contribute to nation building, especially in a country pursuing development, he said.

"But, unfortunately, not many political parties in the world have strong unity and a strong vision, so perhaps the CPC is the strongest of them all," Chheang Vannarith said.

Wang, the Party history expert, said the CPC is uniting and leading the people toward the goal of fully building a modern socialist country. This places higher demands on its governance capability and leadership.

At the same time, some Party members and cadres are not attentive, or have not grasped Party regulations and discipline. In many cases of Party members violating the law, a large number of them began by violating Party regulations and discipline first, he said.

In December last year, the Party's Central Committee released revised regulations on disciplinary action. It was the third time that the CPC made revisions to its regulations since its 18th National Congress in 2012. Adding 16 new items and modifying 76 items, it refines the supervision and disciplinary procedures, and punishment rules.

Yang, the law expert, said few political parties in the world are as rigorously organized as the CPC, with a strict set of rules and strict enforcement.

Punishment includes severe warnings and expulsion from the Party, which could mean the end of member's political life and affect their career.

In July, Hu Jiyong, who previously served as Party secretary at one of the subsidiary companies of China National Petroleum Corporation, was expelled from the Party and removed from his positions for disciplinary violations.

On June 7, a video clip showing him strolling along a street in Chengdu, Sichuan province, holding hands with a young woman wearing a long, pink off-the-shoulder dress went viral.

Hu was soon placed under investigation by the disciplinary department of his company, which found he had an improper relationship with the woman during his marriage, and changed the schedule of his business trip to take the opportunity for recreation.

"Party discipline is more stringent than national laws," Yang said. If a member indulges in extravagant and wasteful spending, which causes a negative impact, they can face disciplinary punishment.

This strictness aims to make Party members and cadres hold themselves to higher standards than the public, he said.

Fighting corruption

Sergey Suverov, an associate professor at the Financial University under the Government of Russian Federation, said like any other country, corruption is a big drag on China's economic growth. It is very important, therefore, that Chinese authorities have consistently and decisively fought this evil, he said.

"We have observed that the CPC is conducting a ruthless fight against corruption, which is deeply respected. It will increase the pace and quality of economic growth and increase confidence in officials," he said.

James Gomez, regional director at the Asia Centre think tank, said anti-corruption measures are important, and any efforts to eradicate corruption by and within the CPC will be welcomed both locally and internationally.

Oleg Timofeev, an associate professor at Russian RUDN University, said over the past decade the CPC has made great achievements in its crackdown on corruption. The fight against graft has become one of the core elements of China's political system.

He said the activities and results achieved by the National Commission of Supervision, China's highest-level anticorruption body, are being researched all over the world.

In March, Timofeev was invited to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to participate in the Second Plenary Session of the 14th National People's Congress of China when the president of the Supreme People's Court, Zhang Jun, delivered a plenary report. "I witnessed the real enthusiasm of usually restrained Chinese legislators and a burst of applause every time the chief justice's report tackled the fight against corruption," he said.

He added he was sure the newly launched CPC discipline education campaign would double the government's efforts in the war against corruption, and accelerate the development of law-based governance structures needed for the nation's social and economic prosperity.

Tough challenge

Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for China-American Studies, said corruption is a "tax "on law-abiding citizen.In developing countries, where incomes are modest, corruption is a key factor in deepening inequalities.

Reining in corruption is an arduous challenge, which is why disciplinary inspection and supervision need high-level support, as is the case currently in China, he added.

Ky Sereyvath, director-general of the Institute of China Studies at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said since Xi took over as president, China has tackled corruption and also reduced unnecessary government expenditure.

The government has used funds more efficiently, especially in the construction of highways, roads, and other infrastructure, and also provides some funds for projects in countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.

In recent years, China has helped strengthen global anti-corruption governance. In October, China announced that it would hold anti-corruption workshops for BRI partner countries, and train more than 300 graft fighters in Asia, Africa and Latin America within five years.

Chheang Vannarith said it's critical for countries to keep fighting corruption and building a strong government as geopolitical competition is also a competition between different governance models.

The question of which government remains strong and resilient is what will be important in the future, he added.

Chheang Vannarith said China is at the next phase of fighting corruption through disciplinary measures. This will be strongly emphasized by the CPC in the next 4 to 5 years, as it is the right time to strengthen the Party and good governance.

China will see intensive domestic reforms with anti-corruption at the top of the agenda, he said. If the reforms can be achieved, China will be a much more resilient nation.

"When you have a resilient nation, even when there's a storm outside China can stand firmly on its own feet," he said.

Yifan Xu in Washington, May Zhou in Houston, Yang Wanli in Bangkok contributed to this story.