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China: Putting cadres to work

A Chinese scholar is asking why the Chinese socialist tradition of “cadre labor participation” is no longer practiced among current leadership and suggests its discontinuation may be linked with deteriorating work conditions in China.

Wu Li, a foreign language and foreign affairs specialist, wrote in the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekend that the participation of leadership in manual labor among the people may be effective in reducing dangerous working conditions in China.

我国曾经有个干部参加劳动的规定,每星期在生产第一线劳动一天。有鉴于造成严重人员伤亡的矿难接连发生,至今难以遏止,本人建议:在国有工矿企业恢复这一制度,并且将执行好坏作为提拔干部的重要依据。

My country once had a regulation requiring cadres to participate in manual labor once a week at the front of the production line.  In consideration of the continuous mining accidents and serious loss of life among workers, which at present has been difficult to prevent, I suggest mining corporations reinstate the [cadre labor participation] system, and furthermore take their performance as a foundation for promotion.

Wu’s call for reviving the “cadre labor participation system” may be prompted by the growing number of mining disasters in China.  On Nov. 21 an explosion in China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang killed at least 92 miners.  The BBC reported that over 3000 people were killed in mining related accidents in 2008, down from 6000 in 2004.

Getting the manager of a mining company down a shaft might be unrealistic, Wu writes.  Yet requiring the chairmen of mining unions to take a few trips underground might have a positive effect on the direction of the union, he writes.

就算有了“干部参加劳动”的规定,也不能指望煤矿集团经理真的会下井。官做到这一级,他不愿下井,随手找找,理由一百条…但工会主席没那么忙,他或许是集团级干部里真的要下井的。下过几次后,或许他真的会从工人角度考虑一些问题。

Supposing there was a cadre labor participation regulation, you couldn’t expect the manager of a coal mining group to go down in the mine.  An official at this level would not be willing to go in and would find a hundred reasons not to…But union chairmen aren’t so busy and perhaps this level of leadership would actually go into the mine.  After a few trips its possible he would really be able to think about problems [with the mining industry] from a miner’s perspective.

At the end of Wu’s article he calls upon the People’s Representitives to reinstate “cadre labor participation” at the next meeting of the People's Congress in March of 2010.

The origins of “cadre labor participation” date back to the early 1960s.  The Maoist policy may have been a result of the Great Leap Forward, in which lower-level leadership drastically overstated production, causing rural grain shortages and wide-spread starvation.

In February, in an entry titled “Say Good-bye to Cadre labor Participation”, blogger Wuyingdu-Hantang quoted Mao Zedong on his reasoning for requiring leaders to labor among the people.

必须坚持干部参加集体生产劳动的制度。我们党和国家的干部是普通劳动者,而不是骑在人民头上的老爷。干部通过参加集体生产劳动,同劳动人民保持最广泛的、经常的、密切的联系。

The system of cadre participation in communal labor must be carried through.  The leaders of our party and country are common laborers, not masters who ride atop the heads of the people.  Through participation in communal labor cadres will maintain the broadest, most frequent and intimate connection.

The entry goes on to describe the demise of the system:

毛主席去世后,这个制度就逐渐地不提了。不但不提,在有些人的文章和回忆录中,竟对这项重要制度进行了全盘的否定…从2006年1月1日开始实施的《公务员法》,是一部用法律来规范党和国家干部制度的文书。从这部法律的条文中,人们已经找不到关于干部参加生活劳动的任何文字了。

After the passing of Mao Zedong, the system gradually went unmentioned. And not only unmentioned.  Some went so far as to refute the system in essays or memoirs…On Jan. 1 2006 the “public servant law” was carried out.  It is an official document standardizing the regulation of party and country leaders.  In this legal document one will find no mention of cadre labor participation.

In October, former village and township level cadre Wen Zichong recalled his feelings toward “cadre labor participation” on a Xinhua news forum.

干部参加劳动,使干部保持劳动人民本色;使干部密切联系群众;使干部密切联系实际;使干部世界观得以改造;使干部决策更加准确;使干部工作得以畅顺。

The participation of cadres in manual labor worked to maintain the color of the laborer in the cadre; it kept the cadre in intimate contact with the masses and with reality; it changed the cadre’s perspective of the world; it added accuracy to the cadre’s decision making; it made the cadre’s work go smoothly.

Perhaps those calling for the reinstatement of the system find the current echelons of Chinese leadership to be lacking some of these qualities.

2 comments

  • Lily

    It’s a good idea. However I doube it will be carried out. China is flooded with corruption.

  • kailing

    It will be awesome that they took the bus and metro sometimes (i mean not in a publicity stunt way with a “pre-arrenged” bus

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