Building the Party’s Governing Capability:
Walking the Internet Mass Line in the New Era
August 23, 2017. 11:31:27 – Source: Hongqi Wengao – Author: Nie Mingsheng
Following the development and application of network media technology, information transmission chains and action communication models based on mobile phones, SMS, blogs, Weibo, Weixin and app clients are deeply changing the traditional political ecology and the operational logic of real society. “Digital survival” in the Internet era has opened up entirely new avenues of participation in governance for the people (minqun). It has started a new model of public governance where questions are asked to government, politics is discussed and reasoned about through the Internet. At the same time, the “largest variable” of the Internet brings entirely new challenges to the ruling environment and to the methods of rule. During the Network Security and Informatization Work Symposium, General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that: “Party institutions and leading cadres at all levels must learn to follow the mass line through the Internet, often use the Internet to understand what the masses think, collect good ideas and good suggestions, actively respond to netizens’ concerns, solve their doubts and clear-up confusion. Therefore, in the new era walking the mass line through the Internet, constantly innovating ruling ideas, ruling modes and methods, earnestly strengthening the construction of the Internet governing capability have become a strategic choice to push forward the construction of the Party’s governing capability.
First, the real value of walking well the mass line on the Internet is that the sole constant of the Internet is change.
Currently, the new media, the “Internet+” and big data have become the cradle of ideology, culture, information, and an amplifier of social public opinion. The will of the online masses, their demands and expressions can, for the first time, quickly and effectively become ‘audible’ and emerge with the help of network media platforms. In the face of the turbulent surging of the Internet public opinion, and of the rapid rise of individualized expressions of rights and interests by the online masses, traditional ideas, methods and measures of mass work are facing a severe challenge. If we do not face up to the Internet media, if we do not use well such an important carrier and media tool platform to listen to the popular will, to aggregate the popular will, and to communicate with the masses, all of our work, today, may be thrown into passivity at any time.
So, to continue to use and carry forward the fundamental work line of our Party, the value connotation of the mass line “All for the masses, all rely on the masses” and the work method “from the masses, to the masses”, should conform to the needs of change and the logical demands in era of network media. [This value connotation] can also express its meaning of “taking the mass line to the Internet, rely on the masses through the Internet, from the masses through the Internet, to the masses through the Internet”. At present, a maximum use of the Internet to ask the People about government, to ask the People about their needs, to ask the People about plans, to practice and walk the mass line in the new era, and to constantly improve the pertinence and effectiveness of online mass work, have become necessary choices for leading cadres at all levels who actively use the internet, dare to use the internet, and use the internet well to maintain close links between the Party and the masses.
The reach of our work should extend as far as where he masses are. At present, we should focus on exploring and opening up new fields of online mass work, and use well these new interactive platforms between Party and masses and cadres and masses. We should bring into play the mass line and the advantages of technology, and constantly inspire the enthusiasm of the Internet masses to participate to politics through a ‘Zero Distance’ interaction, promote the widest and most timely listening and absorption of the popular will by the entire Party, and gather the wisdom of the masses while constantly improving the capacity for democratic government.Through an effective supervision by the Internet masses and a “bankruptcy mechanism”, exerting the masses’ public power of supervision and augmenting the real effects of “network anti-corruption”, to continuously establish and improve mechanisms to prevent and correct errors, will be really beneficial to improving our scientific governing capability. We should promote and accelerate network public service processes through the “Internet + Party Service”, “Internet + Government Service”, streamline network service processes, create new platforms for the people through “One Stop” services, and constantly seek the minimum common denominator of all interest groups in society. In response to ideological infiltrations and the intentional spread of Internet rumors, we should walk the Internet mass line, strengthen the transmission rate of mainstream voices, improve the response efficiency rate to opinions voiced by the masses on the Internet, effectively improve the relationship between the Party and the masses, the cadres and the masses, plant deep roots among the masses, and effectively improve the guidance of online public opinion and the comprehensive level of governance.
Second, walking the online mass line is an important way to improve the Party’s governing capability
General Secretary Xi Jinping, during the 36th Politburo Collective Study Session on Implementing the Strategy of Building China Into a Cyberpower, pointed out that: “With the development of the Internet, especially the mobile Internet, the social governance model is shifting from a one-way management towards a two-way interaction, from offline to a convergence between offline and online, from a pure government supervision to a governance paying more attention to social coordination. At present, the Internet mass line opened up and produced by the Internet has already become an important new channel for our Party to obtain governance resources, a new carrier to become closely connected with and to keep a close relation to the masses. Inevitably, it will vigorously promote the construction of our Party’s governing capability, and innovate the ways and methods of government.
1. Innovate the concept of governance, speed up the “transformation and upgrading” of thought and action, make the transition from passivity to initiative in studying the Internet, understanding the Internet, and using the Internet
At present, leading cadres at all levels should be highly aware of the important role played by the “largest variable” of the Internet, and actively embrace the Internet, learn to use Weibo, Weixin, video channels and clients to promptly understand the sentiment of the popular will, and grasp the latest information and trends in the public opinion. We must scientifically understand and rationally grasp the internal law of the evolution of Internet and new media information dissemination. We must be good at discerning the trend of new media public opinion, clarifying the truth in time, avoiding network rumors, immediately let out the voice of the mainstream turning the “largest variable” of network media into “maximum positive energy”. We must take the initiative to absorb online insights, popular intelligence, and the popular will, maintain equal and sincere exchanges with the Internet masses, provide a timely response to the real concerns of netizens through media spokespeople and Internet propaganda teams, and actively create Internet press conferences, and a national array of the ruling Party’s Weibo, cloud platforms for Party building etc., construct a mutual understanding in information sharing and in experiencing interaction, and aggregate the consensus of netizens to the broadest possible extent.
2. Transform and optimize the governing strategy, so that the path of ruling marches towards inclusiveness, openness and a pragmatic flexibility within an “all-embracing” and coordinated governance.
With the rapid transformation of society and the differentiation and integration of classes, demands about rights and interests of diverse interest subjects and the problems of social contradictions have emerged because of Internet media platforms. In the face of complex interest relations and the ecology of the public opinion, our Party needs to constantly transform and optimize its ruling methods. Based on value investigations of the public sphere of the Internet and on platform expansion, we should construct a sound and new mechanism to coordinate, communicate, and balance interests, to effectively control and solve all kinds of social contradictions and conflicts that occur in the transition period. This will require us to strengthen our analyses and determinations on the public opinion, establish and improve mechanisms to guide the public opinion and control interests, uphold “one key opens one lock”, seize the opportunity to guide during an equal dialog, integrate interests, solve contradictions, and take the opportunity to bring into play and to use well the egalitarianism, interactivity, fastness of the Internet, to really promote scientific decision-making, the precision of governance, and the high effectiveness of service.
3. Innovate the methods of reasoning by those in power, use well new interactive media platforms for exchanges between the Party and the masses and the cadres and the masses, and realize a linkage between offline and online in the “key to key” and “face to face”.
The masses have gone online, and the popular will follows the Internet. However, the popular will on the Internet is not completely equal to the popular will, especially in the fictitious domain of the Internet. There, false information, the spread of false news leading to rumours, the increasing daily deterioration of morality, and the promotion of vulgarity; ‘human flesh searches’; as well as the ‘false public will’ manufactured by armies of internet posters paid by commercial interest groups can invisibly influence trends in public opinion, to the point of interfering with and influencing the independent exercise of the power of adjudication according to the law. At present, a “tribalization” and “echo chambers” based on interests and likes, and values and emotional preferences have emerged among Internet users scattered in cyberspace. To effectively integrate the values, needs, and demands of diverse Internet users, avoid Internet rumours, maintain the public order of the Internet, standardize and guide group public events on the Internet, face an increasingly complex network environment and public opinion ecology, we must keep up with the new situation of network media, continuously improve our capability to grasp the laws of the Internet, our capability to guide the Internet public opinion, to control the development of information, and to maintain network security.
Therefore, innovation and the use of network media platforms, raising the level of Internet media literacy of leading cadres at all levels, establishing a sound mechanism to absorb online popular will, an online public opinion emergency management mechanism, a feedback mechanism of the demands of online popular will, a mechanism to crystallize the demands of online interest groups, and a mechanism to hold online hearings on major decisions, as well as mechanism to evaluate questions asked to the government and discussions about politics, a mechanism to supervise questions asked to the government online, a mechanism to link what takes place online to what takes place offline, etc. have become knowledge necessary to leading cadres at all levels to walk the Internet mass line, and do a good job of ‘asking questions to the government and discussing about politics’ online.
Third, to become a cyberpower we must raise the Party’s governing capability.
In today’s world, network media information technology continues to introduce global information technological revolutions based on digitalization, interconnection, and intelligence, which are taking the governance of the country to a completely different developmental stage. History and practice have shown that the key to the modernization of our country’s governance system and governance capability lies in the construction of our Party’s own governing capability. In the face of the global informatization wave and our country’s implementation of the strategy of becoming a cyberpower, the level of our Party’s governing capability will more and more depend on the general level of its capability to master, use and control the development of modern technology and of productive forces. Therefore, to become a cyberpower, to continuously raise the Party’s Internet governing capability and its governing capability, it is urgently necessary to innovate such aspects as its resource integration capability, its capability to build up human resources, to adapt institutional mechanisms, and its capability to innovate discourse.
1. Strengthen the integrated resources-governing capability
The resources of governing are the general presentation of the comprehensive essential factors and resources of the governing Party in fulfilling its mission to rule, improving ruling efficiency, and promoting the sustainable development of the economy and society. For the Communist Party of China, the most precious resources of governing are mainly embodied by historical resources, political resources, organizational resources, economic resources, ideological resources, public trust resources etc., which are accepted and inherited by the entire people’s masses. With the depth of social transformation, the Party’s governing resources are facing entirely new challenges brought about by a “complex society” based on the deepening of reform and development, the market economy, the external environment, the variable of the Internet. Building a system of governing resources based on network media requires: promoting the organic integration and synergy of all factors of governing, constantly activating and inheriting the resources of governing capability accumulated during the periods of revolution, construction, and reform, the resources of the ability to hold power in the sense of the present times, and the resources to guarantee power, and continuously developing and expanding the new resources of networks governing capability, strengthening the effective supply of the resources of governing capability, advancing the governing capability and the level of innovation, constructing a modern system of resources of governing, and effectively improving the Party’s network governing capability.
2. Raise the capacity of human resources in power.
The Communist Party of China is the vanguard of the working class, the vanguard of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, and the advanced nature of its governing Party organization and members have become its distinctive feature. Therefore, ensuring the continuous improvement in the construction of the Party’s ranks of talents, and always maintaining the absorption and integration of talents have become the keys to maintaining the advanced nature and the vitality of the Communist Party of China. Given the ideological contests and competition in the Internet era, and especially mixed and contradictory trends in the public opinion, a better initiative and leadership role in grasping ideology, more solid studies and conclusions on the public sentiment, and a more effective guidance of the public opinion, the improvement of a mechanism to train network personnel, are important factors in whether we will be able to walk the Internet mass line.
At the same time, strengthening public policy decision-making network to absorb, using the “policy windows” opened up by Internet media to effectively integrate and absorb popular wisdom and popular will, opening up and developing multi-level, multiform, inter-field circulation channels of the social elite, and actively creating a good ecology for the flow of human resources, have become necessary choices of the human resources troops, and of aggregating human feelings.
3. Improve institutional mechanisms for adaptability.
The effectiveness of a system lies in the construction of the system and in its adaptability. The construction of the Party and the improvement of it ruling capability in the era of the Internet are mainly embodied by the Party’s ability to effectively steer the Internet new media, the capability to push forward and lead the socialist market economy and to respond to complex external situations. This requires the party itself to strengthen the system of “top-level design”, to adopt the overall thinking of “one chessboard” in the promotion of ideological and political construction, in Party organization, in ruling the Party through systems, in managing the Party through discipline, and in reviving the Party through talents. At the same time, we must conform to the environment of the market economy, to the external environment, to the “largest variable” of the Internet, and improve systems and mechanisms in real time, strengthen the cohesive force of organizational systems, its force of appeal and response, and match them with the creation of mechanisms to express interests on the Internet, as well as coordination mechanisms, mechanisms to solve contradictions, and to allow communication and response, in order to realize an equal consultation of interests and a reciprocal equilibrium in systems innovation.
4. Improve the ability to transform and innovate discourse
Judging from the process of political socialization, transformation and innovation of the discourse of Party ideology, and the innovation of the Party’s ruling ideas to a degree affect and limit the cohesion and consensus of the values of the whole of society. At the same time it constructs the creation of netizens’ requests on the expression of their rights and interests, the Internet also expands and strengthens the masses discussions about power, and even produces a language typical of the network, diversified in form, with new and original topics. In the face of the growing divide between the traditional mainstream public opinion and the public opinion of the Internet media, we need to innovate and transform the form and expressions of discourse, and to organically and interactively link the propaganda discourse, the policy discourse and the information services discourse, in order to construct a “light reading” in the era of Internet new media, and an “Internet language” rich of warm emotions, and to join “the two fields of public opinion” by building a sympathetic response to values during a candid communication.
At the same time, we must follow the law of network media dissemination, to produce a system of discourse with Chinese style and characteristics, to use new concepts which are open, become assimilated, and are scientific, and to tell new Chinese stories, to echo the voice of China, to realistically improve China’s right to international conversations, and to promote the innovation and expression of an ideological discourse with “China’s standpoint, and international expression”.
(This article was produced as a provisional research deliverable of the National Social Science Fund Youth Project “Research on the Evolution and Governance Mechanisms of Internet Public Incidents” [13CZZ060])
(Author: postdoctoral researcher in Political Science at the Central Party School, Associate Professor of at the Tianjin Party School, Tianjin Institute of Public Administration, specially appointed researcher at the Tianjin Research Institute on the Theoretical System of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics).