Visitors make a vow at a school dedicated to Party building in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in April 2018. (Photo: IC)
As the Communist Party of China (CPC) has ramped up its Party building efforts at the workplace in recent years, CPC-themed merchandise and products, including office decorations, stationary and books, are becoming more and more popular online as public and privately owned companies purchase them in large quantities to carry out Party-building activities.
On Taobao, the best-selling Party-related products include Party-themed PowerPoint templates, red file-storage boxes with CPC logos, and design templates for CPC-themed office banners such as Party slogans and the Party admission oath.
Other products include customizable hammer-and-sickle-shaped ceiling lights, CPC-themed outdoor bulletin boards and calligraphy copybooks using the CPC constitution as the source text. Copybooks are used by children and hobbyists to learn Chinese characters and calligraphy.
Chen Wei (pseudonym), owner of a Taobao shop based in Zhongshan, South China's Guangdong Province that sells red-star and hammer-and-sickle-shaped ceiling lights, said he started to customize these lights for clients in 2015, and they are now the best-selling products in his shop.
"We sell over 200 lights to clients nationwide each month. The smaller ones can be used in meeting rooms, and the bigger ones can be used in conference halls. Our clients include schools, government institutions and individuals," he told the Global Times.
One review of his shop reads, "It makes our conference room look like the Great Hall of the People, and looks even better when the light is on. Our boss really likes it."
Lisa Yin (pseudonym), formerly a Party secretary of a State-owned company in Beijing, said her company began to purchase books on topics such as Party history before the 19th CPC National Congress. She set up a reading corner at that time.
"We felt an urgent need to study these books together to improve our spiritual status," she told the Global Times. In addition to purchasing books related to the Party, she also bought books on international relations, which she said can help people to understand the role of China in the world and to better serve the needs of the country's development on the international stage.
Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the Chongqing Party Committee, said that the blooming market of CPC-themed products is a positive sign which helps expand the Party's influence and follows the policy of staying close to the people that the CPC advocates.
But on the other hand, it's necessary to be vigilant about the excessive commercialization and vulgarization of Party building products. "We need to reach a certain degree of balance in the market related to Party building. People should bear in mind that profits aren't their ultimate goal, but the social benefits are," said Su. He warned that too much attachment to economic gains could lead to bad consequences for the Party.
Virtual Party building
Apart from brick-and-mortar products, many companies and developers are tapping into the Party-building market by launching Party-building apps and e-platforms.
ZTEsoft, a Nanjing-based cloud computing company, launched a product called "AI Party Building Cloud 1.0" this May. According to Beijing-based Consumption Daily, the cloud-based platform can move 90 percent of Party building activities online, and allow Party building activities to be carried out "anytime anywhere." The platform will be free of charge for Party organizations.
Comtop, a Shenzhen-based software company, has also developed a Party-building app with seven major functions including reporting violations of Party rules, publicizing knowledge and calculating and collecting Party fees.
A job notice posted on people.com.cn says that a platform called People's Party Building Cloud is hiring a product developer with an expected annual salary of 2 million yuan ($290,000). According to the notice, the platform has attracted over 2,600 Party organizations to sign up, and aims to be the most authoritative and influential Party-building platform.
According to Su, entrepreneurs involved in Party-building businesses should know that they have twin missions. "Politics should play the leading role while marketing is complementary," he said.
Buyers of these products should actively accept meaningful education in Party building, instead of treating the experience merely as online shopping, said Su.
As the market keeps growing, Su said that it's necessary for the government to set guidelines and rules for related businesses to follow and now is the time to draft a more detailed policy.
Appeal to millennials
Experts say the reason why products for Party building are popular is due to the prevalence of Party building activities, which are now a common scene in both State-owned and private companies.
In recent years, apart from State-owned companies, more and more private companies and foreign enterprises have set up Party committees and carry out regular Party activities.
Notably, many Internet companies and start-ups have set up Party committees recently. Live streaming website douyu.com, for example, set up a Party branch last year and opened a 30-square-meter Party member activities room in its office in Wuhan's Optics Valley Software Park, according to Changjiang Daily. Chinese tech firm Xiaomi and bike-sharing company ofo also set up CPC committees in recent years.
Su said that more companies are paying attention to Party building because they have realized that Party members are the driving forces in the workplace as most of them always stay at the cutting edge. "Therefore, the bosses are willing to support Party building and its development," he said.
He added that in some exceptional cases, it's undeniable that some businessmen are utilizing it as a show to improve their "political status."
Before the 18th CPC National Congress, Party building activities were not standard and many were more entertaining than educational. After the 18th national congress, those activities are stricter, said Su.
According to Su, in order to appeal to millennials, Party building nowadays adopts more lively methods including using multimedia tools, which is a "good phenomenon."
Yunji, a local internet company in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, for example, set up a virtual reality (VR) exploration area as a Party building venue for its Party members, according to the Science and Technology Daily.
Wearing VR headsets, members can "march" through snowy mountains the way the Red Army, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army, did 84 years ago during the Long March, and visit revolutionary memorial museums and "ride" on the boat in Nanhu Lake where the CPC's 1st national congress was held.
Some companies are using live streaming to give Party building courses. Xue Rong, Party secretary of Zhengzhou's Yuan Fang Group, opened a channel on live streaming app huajiao.com in February 2017 to share knowledge on Party history, theories and her take on current events, and has gained over 8 million likes, Xinhua reported last December.
In some places, Party building has targeted the younger generation. At a cafe in the Hansenzhai residential community in Xincheng district, Xi'an of Shaanxi Province, the local CPC committee launched a "coffee party" last month for Party members to discuss Party-related issues. "The Party building coffee party makes Party building fashionable," the China Business News reported.