Party School teachers learning lessons in life

By Hou Liqiang | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-13 07:15

A mixture of academic success and hands-on experience provide lecturers with a stimulating environment, as Hou Liqiang reports.

In 2015, shortly before delivering his first lecture at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, Zheng Huan began to panic. He felt he wasn't ready for the challenge of delivering the class lecture, even though he had spent three years employed as a teaching assistant and was familiar with the school's methods and ethos.

"Despite learning a lot of theory during my 10-year study of political science, I failed to answer many of the students' questions when I worked as an assistant. My knowledge and the training I had received weren't enough to meet the demands of the job," the 32-year-old lecturer said.

"Many of the students have doctorates, and many have an international perspective because they have traveled overseas frequently. They know what I know, but I don't necessarily know what they know."

The school, which is the nation's top training establishment for Party officials, offers a wide range of courses. Each lecture lasts two hours, and irrespective of the topic, a few students are always experts in the field. For example, a recent lecture about the new normal of China's economic development was actually introduced by one of the students.

Party School teachers learning lessons in life

In addition to learning about theory, the officials also need to understand how to apply that knowledge, which presents many challenges, according to Zheng.

"Freed temporarily from the burdens of work, the students make full use of their time at the Party School to find answers to the questions they have been asking themselves and discovering solutions to problems that have been troubling them," he said.

Changing times

When Yue Liang began working as a full-time teacher in 2012, he had already taught part time at another school for 10 years, while studying history at Beijing Normal University. The 35-year-old still finds his work challenging.

"As a Party School teacher, you can never stop learning. The Party always keeps pace with the times. The world is changing and the Party is also changing to respond to new problems," he said.

"Many people say it's a tiring job because our students are officials with deep experience and different backgrounds, so the teachers have to know about different subjects. It's not enough to just read books about your own major."

He added that last year he read about 40 books on history, economics, political science and sociology.

Reading is one of the main activities on campus, and in addition to regular discussions at a bookstore on the school grounds, the different departments and teachers organize regular dialogues. Moreover, to gain even more experience, many teachers conduct extensive research in the field.

Yue spends more than 40 days a year on field research. "When I return, I contact my colleagues and students to discuss the problems I have discovered, and consult documents to identify the causes and solutions," he said.

Chen Qiqing, a professor of economics who joined the school in 2006, said that when problems are identified, it is easy to carry out in-depth studies because one can always find students with relevant experience.

One of the topics under current scrutiny is the hukou, or household registration, system. In many areas, people cannot benefit from social services if they live in places where they are not registered. During his research, Chen discovered that many people from the countryside are unable to obtain hukou in urban areas and are therefore excluded from the benefits system, even though they have moved to towns to meet the demand for workers.

In his search for a solution, Chen has consulted some of his students who are officials at the Ministry of Public Security and therefore well-qualified to explain reform of the hukou system and the challenges that will produce.

"Party School students are all officials at different levels in different regions and industries. If they share their insights based on their practical experience, it helps us teachers to understand the country better," he said.

Practical experience

Many of the teachers also take temporary posts in grassroots governments to gain hands-on experience.

Wang Xuebin, who joined the school in 2010, spent last year working as deputy head of Xiuwen county, Guizhou province, because he felt his "lack of practical experience hindered communication with the students".

Initially, he was assigned to take charge of the county's financial affairs office and the tobacco and weather bureaus, in addition to assisting another official in overseeing cultural affairs and tourism.

Soon after he took his post, the county organized an international festival dedicated to a renowned philosopher known as Bo'an (1472-1529), but the head of local publicity department, who was in charge of the event, was hospitalized unexpectedly. As he has a background in history, Wang was asked to take the job, which involved organizing a forum and an art show.

"Although I was involved in organizing meetings or forums at university, I never oversaw any of them. This job was so stressful that it felt as though the weight of the world was on my shoulders," he recalled.

Most of the local officials regarded Wang as a stranger, and doubted his ability to organize the event. "It was difficult to get any cooperation at the start," he said, adding that he regularly worked until midnight.

"It was common to receive more than 100 phone calls a day. After I got up at 6 am, my phone kept ringing."

His dedication soon won him the trust of his colleagues: "They no longer considered me a bookworm. I won their respect because I was always in the frontline."

To identify qualified keynote speakers, he read more than 300 papers submitted by academics who had applied to join the forum. He was too busy rehearsing the event to go to bed the night before it took place.

The festival was a success, so Wang was entrusted with more tasks, including acting as interim head of the publicity department and overseeing the local justice department.

He also toured isolated areas, mobilizing social funds to help poverty-stricken students. One, a second-grader at senior high school, had packed his bags and was ready to head out to work when Wang visited to give him 3,000 yuan ($450), which enabled him to stay at school.


Wang also went to villages to inspect flood preparations before the rainy season. He said he not only learned invaluable lessons in Xiuwen, but was also inspired by the cadres.

The head of the local publicity department had been diagnosed with cancer two years before, but she insisted on continuing to work.

"Once, I saw her in a cold sweat - she couldn't even stand upright while she spoke on the phone. She died in January. She was in her 50s, and her child was still in university, but that wasn't why she continued to work. It was more a sense of dedication, and she wanted to do her work to the best of her ability," he recalled.

"Before, I thought I failed to give good lectures because my knowledge was incomplete, but after a year in Xiuwen I realized that it was because I didn't know much about the officials' real world."

His experience in the county has helped him to understand the needs of the Party School students and how they think. In addition to practical examples, he now includes more ideology and methodology related to the policies of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee in his regular lectures.

Zheng Huan, the political science major, opted to work at the Party School because he believes it offers an unrivaled environment in which to study China and its political realities.

Last year, as deputy head of Zunyi, a former county which is now a district in Zunyi city, Guizhou, he participated in many meetings, including one related to the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20). He regularly visited rural areas to learn about the operations of grassroots committees, which gave him a clear picture of the structure and operations of local government.

"The Party attaches the greatest importance to the grassroots. Many local cadres work very hard, day and night, and even at weekends. It would be hard to find officials as dedicated in other countries," he said.

Zheng was moved by many of the cadres he met during his time in the countryside, especially Huang Dafa, Party secretary of Tuanjie, a village in Zunyi.

The 82-year-old spent more than a decade leading his fellow villagers in efforts to construct an irrigation canal, with more than 7 kilometers running across a cliff face.

In Zheng's opinion, China boasts many examples of good governance, such as the partner-assistance system, in which developed cities provide assistance to less-developed areas.

"I think it's my duty to do more research into the county's cadre groups and grassroots political practices. Why was the reform and opening-up policy successful? What is the key to the success of China's system of governance? I want to find the answers to these questions, and show them to the world. Many of China's experiences, for example in poverty alleviation, could be instructive to other developing countries."

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 Party School teachers learning lessons in life

From left: Yue Liang, Chen Qiqing, Wang Xuebin and Li Shaowen at the campus of the Party School in Beijing on Friday.Zou Hong / China Daily

Party School teachers learning lessons in life

(China Daily 11/13/2017 page6)

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