Remember Xi Jinping’s little red app? “Study Xi, Strong Nation” (学习强国) was introduced back in February this year, along with demands that a wide range of Chinese, from government employees to school teachers, devote sufficient time to the study of the theories and policies of the Chinese Communist Party. The app, which scores users on a point system and tracks their progress, represents the gamification of propaganda and political control.
The People’s Daily referred to it simply as “an authoritative and content-rich platform especially for theoretical study.” But the app is intrusive in ways that propaganda has rarely if ever been, essentially bringing the Party and its discipline into the pockets, handbags and homes of tens of millions of people. As we wrote in “The Dawn of the Little Red Phone,” the app can place extraordinary demands on personal time, putting users under significant pressure to maintain point-earning, or fall behind at their own peril — and spawning sideline chatter, of course, about how to beat the system.
Now Xi Jinping’s little red app is putting the control and licensing of news reporters at central Party media right in the palm of, well, the reporters’ own hands.
The Media Oversight Office (传媒监管局) of the Central Propaganda Department announced through a notice on August 23 that online training and testing of news personnel nationwide would now be handled through the “Study Xi, Strong Nation” mobile app, and that testing would take place during the first half of October for the issue of press cards (新闻记者证). The notice has ordered “news units” — meaning in this case central Party media outlets, including top Party-run newspapers, television and radio, as well as 14 central-level news websites authorized to issue press cards — to create and authorize study groups through the app before September 15 in order to prepare staff for study and eventual testing.