School's Out        What Chinese are talking about … (2)

The cult of Xi – from the Little Red Book on Mao Zedong thought to the nightly quiz show on Xi Jinping thought


extolling Mao with the little red book; and

extolling Xi with the tv quiz show

Source:   A nightly tv show features students vying to be the one who knows most about the life, speeches, and travels of the current dear leader and Marxism.  This is a game show,  but there are no prizes for winners.  That must be why tv ratings are so low. 


As you know, I have some acquaintances from the Chinese government, in several different provinces and in some state owned businesses and universities.  All have pretty good jobs, at mid-level or higher.  A few are moving beyond a middle mid-level, perhaps chu bu ji, to higher reaches ting bu ji, as party leaders in districts or counties or university departments. 

Over the last five years, many expressed concerns about the direction of current Chinese governance, in much the same way that Americans look askance at the machinations of the Republican party and the orange-haired baboon (hat tip to Brad DeLong for the descriptor).  A common theme in China is the return to the fears and terrors of the Cultural Revolution.  Most of my acquaintances were born in that era, and have stories from their parents and families and colleagues.  The disappearances, the arrests now for corruption on actions that until recently were standard operating procedure, the personality cult of Mr. Xi, the demands for ideological purity, the lack of procedural rules that makes accessories to crimes out of officials just doing what they are told to do, the double binds that crop up all too frequently – if I do this thing, it will be illegal;  if I don’t do this thing, my career will be over – all are chilling reminders.  I will detail some of these fears in a future post.

The new era affects CCP members in their most cherished place – their families and kids. 

Among the recent developments in the last couple of years is passport retention by the Discipline Inspection Bureau for all mid-levels.  Prior to about 2013, Chinese officials going abroad could use either of two passports – a government official passport, which was always held by the Human Resources Department of their workplace, or their own private passport, which individuals retained, as we would do in the US.  Now, even the private passports are being held by the Discipline Inspection Bureau jiwei for some midlevels and above in at least some places.  I am told this policy is active in Hubei Province; not sure where else as of October.  It was not in effect in Zhejiang in June.  And some of my acquaintances – more than a couple – are worried that they might be unable to get out of China in the future.  Travel to the US is much more restricted on the Chinese side, and this was the case before the US 2016 election.  Chinese with kids in college in the US no longer get automatic approval to go out to see their kid graduate, notwithstanding the further restrictions on students and their families from the American State Department.

So what to do?  This is not a matter of trying to get illegal gains out of China.  These concerns are being expressed by good public servants who wish to retain options for retirement or school choices for their kids. The government has made it more difficult to move money out of China.  For the past twenty years, that was the safety valve for wealthy families- buy the house in London or Sydney or New York or San Francisco or Vancouver or Seattle, let the wife and kids live there, and at some point, retirement or the need to get out, join them (the US has no extradition treaty with China).  In 2012, Lin Zhe, a professor from the CCP’s Central Party School and a member of the National People’s Congress, said that 1.18 million senior officials’ spouses and children had emigrated between 1995 and 2005.

There are still ways to get money out.  Now, getting the people out is becoming more risky on both ends.  It is reported that senior government officials (perhaps at the provincial vice minister level or higher) will no longer be able to send their children outside China for education. Secret order to bar students from going out  China Said to Issue Secret Order Barring Senior Officials’ Children From Studying in US   This article notes that -

At a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on July 24, Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), recommended that the U.S. government impose visa limitations on the children of the CCP elite as a means of economic pressure.

AEI is a fairly right wing organization, and in normal times there would be no reason to think that its recommendations about visa restrictions would be considered.  However, we are not in normal times.  Good thing that Xi Mingze was able to get out of Harvard by 2014.  Today, she might not have been able to go out, or to get in.

One of the few known pictures of Xi Mingze from her time at Harvard.   Source:


Among many other worries, ability to go out for education is a worry for some smart and thoughtful Chinese officials and business people and academics.   Good thing Canada is still available.