The mobile news app of the Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper recently released a colorful chart that mapped the complex system of President Xi Jinping’s central governing concept, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想). The chart had 30 main branches shooting off from the primary trunk of this supreme buzzword, and each branch, dealing with various aspects of policy and ideology, proliferated into numerous sub-branches.
The fifth sin of stereotyped Party writing is the exhaustive use of the medicine cabinet. This is like going to see the [traditional Chinese] pharmacist, where the many compartments of the medicine cabinet list out the names of medicinal herbs - angelica sinensis, rehmannia glutinosa, rhubarb, mirabilite – anything you could possibly need, and you take a bit of everything. This method has been followed by our comrades. In writing essays, in making speeches, in writing books, in composing reports, first you have ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR; then you have one, two, three, four; after that you have I, II, III, IV; next you bring up the earthly branches; then you move on to A, B, C, D; and from there to a, b, c, d; and finally on to Arabic numerals. There’s not end to it!
Our poor translation aside, the idea here is essentially that Party officials compile their speeches and writing by tossing in every established phrase they can, as though taking a bit of medicinal herb from every compartment of the medicine cabinet.
There’s no need for us to beat around the bush. The complicated mind map of Xi Jinping Thought released by the news app of the People’s Daily is Mao Zedong’s fifth sin for stereotyped Party writing brought into the age of the infographic. It is a medicine cabinet of Xi Jinping Thought.
This map is divided into 30 main items, each obsessively color-coded, and then within each of these there are one to three larger branches, and then one to three smaller ones, piled up and densely packed like veins. For all of the chart’s exhausting order, the dry and unrelatable concepts remain utterly incomprehensible.
This is precisely the sort of thing Mao Zedong loathed.
Not surprisingly, Mao’s “Opposing Stereotyped Party Writing” did come up as Chinese discussed the chart on social media. One user commented by updating a relevant passage from Mao’s 1942 essay to suit modern technology, inserted the portion in bold below:
“It is no big thing if someone engages in stereotyped Party writing for their own perusal. If they give it to a second person, that a 100 percent increase, and this causes a lot of trouble. And if they paste it to a wall, or make a mimeograph copy, or run it in the newspaper, or print it as a book, or post it on the internet through a mobile news app, well then this is a big problem, and it can influence many people.”