October 24, 2017 5:17 pm JST

Xi has party working to build nationwide fan base

Idolization of Chinese leaders has been banned since Mao Zedong

TAKASHI KAWAKAMI, Nikkei staff writer

Visitors pose for photos on Sunday at a Beijing exhibition praising Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

BEIJING -- The practice of publicly praising Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also doubles as head of the Communist Party, is spreading across China, with the leader increasingly consolidating power as he launches his second term.

People are flocking to an exhibition in Beijing showcasing Xi's achievements in his first five-year term, while reports of a book and a song rhapsodizing over the leader are surfacing in the press.

These developments are driven by the party seeking to propagate Xi's political thought using all means available. The party is also tightening internet censorship as it attempts to stifle all criticism of Xi.

A local newspaper reported that the exhibition has drawn over 700,000 visitors since it opened in late September, referring to it as a new Beijing tourist attraction.

Visitors were recently observed at the venue taking photos in front of a party flag as well as a signboard bearing a slogan that mentions Xi. Roughly translated, the slogan reads: "Let's join forces with the party central committee, with comrade Xi Jinping at its core, and advance the great socialist cause that characterizes China."

The book, a biography describing Xi's youth, is flying off of shelves. Shanghai bookstores have been out of stock for some time. The song praising Xi is being sung by a group of citizens at a Beijing park, as if to celebrate the opening of the national congress of the Communist Party.

Though seemingly spontaneous, some of these acts appear staged. For example, the majority of visitors to the Beijing exhibition suspiciously attend in groups, while the people singing in the park are believed to be acting at the behest of government agents.

In his speech that kicked off the national congress, Xi vowed to instill revolutionary values throughout China, including in households and children. The party aims to involve citizens in advancing this agenda, part of which is expected to include praise for Xi.

As the party tightens online censorship, instances of deleted information have spiked.

The party is also expanding its reach into corporations. There has been a rapid rise of companies revising their articles of incorporation to allow for party meddling in management -- a practice that was previously limited to unlisted, government-owned companies.

The Communist Party has long banned idolizing individuals after the country fell into turmoil from 1960 to 1970 due to its worship of then-supreme leader Mao Zedong. 

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