A top Party outlet has created a Xi Jinping Thought-themed combined Bluetooth speaker and power bank for distribution to cadres across the country. The contraption, clunkily titled the “‘Xi Jinping’s “The Governance of China” Volumes 1-4’ Ideology Power Bank,” was unveiled by Guangming Online, a subsidiary of the influential Guangming Daily, in March 2023, but has gained broader attention online this month. The “ideology power bank” is designed to allow on-the-go cadres to charge their phone while listening to any of 72 essays expounding on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.
The product is not available for purchase online. However, CDT Chinese editors have found that many local Party Congress representatives and government employees have received the “ideology power banks.” A press release touting their release quoted a “zoomer” member of China’s rubber stamp national consultative body, who claimed to carry it with her everywhere: “The ‘ideology power bank’ provides us youth with ever-available, ever-informative scenarios. It will be a big hit among youth.” She added that the essays provide a much-needed “north star” and “compass” for the study of ideology.
The “ideology power bank” is just one of many manifestations of the Party’s determination to spread the study of Xi Jinping Thought. The most famous example was the 2019 introduction of the “Xuexi Qiangguo” app, a gamified ideology study tool. In 2022, the city government of Nanning, Guangxi infamously issued “pocket books” for the study of Xi Jinping Thought that looked remarkably similar to the “little red book” that has become synonymous with Mao Zedong’s personality cult during the Cultural Revolution.
Despite the Party’s relentless propaganda, Xi’s true popularity remains an open question. A new study by the University of Southern California and Stanford University’s Hoover Institute used an innovative survey method to probe his true approval rating, with results significantly lower than the 90% found in a 2016 Harvard study. From The Economist:
The results suggest that when the survey was conducted in June and November 2020 between 50% and 70% of Chinese people supported the party. (This is an upper bound, say the researchers, because concerns about online surveillance may still have spooked some respondents into giving positive responses.) Around half of respondents did not agree that China’s system of government is best. Nearly 40% said they were “afraid of the consequences” of protesting against the state. Support for Mr Xi was between 65% and 70%.
[…] Even if it has fallen, Mr Xi’s rating could still be the envy of Western politicians. A paltry 33% of Americans approve of the job President Joe Biden is doing, according to a recent poll. Still, the results of the study might concern China’s leaders. The Communist Party relies on the (circular) presumption that the public thinks that it is overwhelmingly popular. If disgruntled citizens believe they are in a small minority they are less likely to discuss political issues, let alone resist the party. But if they believe there are many others like them, dissent could snowball, says Erin Baggott Carter, an author of the study. [Source]