I’ve written a short piece for UnHerd on China’s new “Civilization Practice Centers,” at which the Chinese Communist Party’s friendly Central Guidance Commission on Building Spiritual Civilization can help you too find meaning in your pointless materialistic existence. Or at least if you’re willing to open your heart to Xi Jinping and “the warmth of the Party and the government.”
I firmly encourage you to click through here to read the whole thing and check out all UnHerd’s other consistently good stuff. But if you are very lazy and lacking in the collectivist virtues of a civilized, hard-working cadre, the piece is also reproduced below, quaint British spellings included.
China’s new plan to fill the God-shaped hole
The CCP is building 'civilisation centers' to create a 'collective soul'
New structures have been seen sprouting up in towns and cities across China. But these aren’t the usual overproduced apartment blocks. They are “New Era Civilization Practice Centers,” hubs from which a vast army of volunteers will host movie nights and vocational education classes, sort trash, visit the elderly, and generally inculcate more “civilized behavior” in Chinese citizens. Their stated mission: to “solve problems for the masses, so that every family can feel the warmth of the Party and the government.”
As detailed in a new report by the website ChinaFile, thousands of these centres have appeared and started providing social services since they first began being trialled in 2018.
Conceived by the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Guidance Commission on Building Spiritual Civilization — devoted to fostering “ideological, moral, and cultural” progress in the population — the centres represent an attempt to develop an alternative approach to social control. If they can only help nudge the masses toward a new era of self-monitoring and self-regulation, the thinking goes, traditional heavy-handed “stability maintenance” measures may someday no longer be required at all.
So the Party is not slacking on implementation. At least $110 million is estimated to have already been spent on pilot projects by the centres since August 2018. And government directives propose each county centre enlist 10-13% of the local population as “volunteers” to carry out their mission — a figure suggesting at least 140 million such conscripts if the programme were to be expanded to encompass the whole of China.
The Civilization Practice Centers therefore reflect a growing determination by the Party to expand into every corner of everyday life in China. But why does the Party believe this is required? Because, as the report notes, “The Party remains obsessed with the state of the country’s collective soul.”
The great fear of the regime’s chief ideologist, Wang Huning, is that “there are no core values in China’s most recent structure” because economic liberalisation and the eradication of traditional beliefs has left only individualistic nihilism at the heart Chinese society. Or as the Guidance Commission quoted Xi Jinping in explaining the need for the centers: “a nation without spiritual strength will struggle to stand on its own feet; a cause without its foundation in culture will struggle to sustain itself over the long term.”
For the CCP, apathy is ultimately almost as terrifying as resistance.
The hope that these centres will come to “occupy a central position in people’s spiritual lives” may prove elusive — no matter how much they are encouraged to “practice civilization,” it remains to be seen whether people can be commanded by the state to find meaning.
Dear N. S. Lyons, I urge you to take a look at the results rather than nitpick at things that grate against so-called American values. The results are that many millions of Chinese have been raised out of poverty by their system, in spite of its many flaws. They, the Chinese, may not like everything the government does, but they know damn well that their lives have improved dramatically in a relatively short period of time (a few decades). Meanwhile, back home in America, the quality of life for most Americans is getting dramatically worse, and our rights are being erased on an almost daily basis. The Chinese government takes into consideration the quality of life of all the people. It makes sure that they benefit as well. Ours does not. We are in the business of preserving the professional class at everyone else's expense. I started going back and forth to China in the very early 90s, and lived there off and on for years at a time, and I witnessed this incredible transformation at the same time that I was witnessing the disintegration of our quality of life (our democracy) here at home. It wasn't something Americans were willing to talk about or even consider. It's pretty hard to ignore now, and yet we would rather find something to complain about in China than honestly look at what we're doing to ourselves at home. I'm not a subscriber so I don't expect you to post these sentiments, which is fine with me. But I do hope you read this. I'm writing to you. If you want to know what's going on in any country, including your own, ask the people who live there. Don't ask the pundits, and don't ask the government. Our pundits and politicians have no idea what's going on in this country; they don't even know their own people. Why trust them on China, or Russia, or Missouri? You need only look at how China handled the pandemic compared to us. We utterly failed on every level, and continue to do so. China protected its people. America protected the institutions, the corporations, and the professional class. And yet we look to blame everyone except our own incompetent and craven leadership. Why? Cheers, R. P. Harris
"Or at least if you’re willing to open your heart to Xi Jinping and “the warmth of the Party and the government.”
It's not like the West doesn't do the same - they just have it privitized, and call it "the mainstream Press" and the modern "universities". But concerning agreeing to a party line and feedback loops with power centers, it's closer than ever.