Earlier this month, we wrote about the re-ascendence of the pre-reform language of “struggle,” or douzheng (斗争), within the Chinese Communist Party since the start of the Xi Jinping era. Yes, Xi Jinping’s September 3 address to a training session for young leaders at the Central Party School was extraordinary for the density of its use of the phrase “struggle” to talk about the internal and external challenges facing China, and particularly the Party. But it was not an outlier.

The language of struggle has surged throughout the Xi Jinping era, a likely sign of internal tensions within the Party as well as a broader ideological tightening under a leader who sees himself as cast in the revolutionary mold of Mao Zedong, and has even imitated Mao Zedong’s signature.

Xi’s recent invocations of “struggle” likely have a great deal to do with the clear and present difficulties facing the Chinese Communist Party, including economic weakness and an ongoing trade war with the United States, internal strife over Xi’s drive to consolidate and centralize power around himself, the international backlash against China’s ambitions, and so on.

But struggle is in the Party’s blood, coded in what it likes to call its “red genes” (红色基因), the heritage of revolution and revival it continues to claim as the spiritual base of its legitimacy. In this context, it’s not a surprise that the whole notion of “struggle” has been ritualized as part of the CCP’s commemorations ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

Back in June this year, as protests in Hong Kong shifted into high gear, a notice jointly released by nine ministries and agencies, including the Central Propaganda Department and the CCP’s Organization Department, announced a new “study and propaganda campaign” (学习宣传活动) to spread the spirit of sacrifice for the goals and good of the Party. The competition, for which the leadership wished to have nominations from the public, was for China’s “Most Beautiful Strugglers” (最美奋斗者).

An online announcement for China’s “Most Beautiful Struggler” campaign to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the PRC.

The push to finalize the nominations continues this month with the approach of the October 1 anniversary. On October 15, the official Xinhua News Agency reported that the campaign continues, “leading people to forever remember the important contributions to the Party and the people of strugglers in various professions and work, to forever remember the hardships of the New China, and the process of arduous struggle.” The goal is to inspire “the whole of society to energetically sing the main melody of praise for the new China and the struggle for a new era.”

This, the “struggle for a new era” (奋斗新时代), has become one of the core buzzwords of Xi Jinping triumphalism ahead of the anniversary.

The nominations for “Most Beautiful Struggler” are now in. According to Xinhua, a process of suggestion by Party and government organs and online yielded a list of 300 nominees, including 278 individuals and 22 groups. Now is the time to make your views known on the selection of candidates. This, after all, is one of those rare moments when “the people” are asked for their (apparently) real input, to help paint the Party’s glorious picture:

In order to fully democracy, and broadly solicit opinions, accepting the supervision of society, we now make public notice of the candidate suggestions, the period of notice being from September 15 to September 20. During this notice period, we welcome people from all corners of society to familiarize themselves with the suggested candidates and to conduct a factual, fair and objective appraisal and inspection of them. If there is any objection to the suggested candidates, please respond by phone, e-mail or letter to the “Most Beautiful Struggler” Study and Propaganda Campaign Committee Office. Phone: (010) 63095197.  E-mail: [email protected]

The candidates, listed here, are probably beyond red repute. But perhaps you are welcome to try. Just remember, China now has a law protecting the reputation of heroes and martyrs. Proceed cautiously.