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One of the most frequently asked questions Qu Qingshan hears from foreign audiences is: With 89 million members, how does the Communist Party of China stay united?
Qu"s response: "We keep learning."
As head of the CPC"s Party history research arm, one of Qu"s duties is to share CPC philosophy and experiences in governance with overseas political parties. Qu says it"s his belief that through learning and study, Party members reach consensus, increase cohesion and become more effective.
To that end, the CPC leadership, the entire Party and the Chinese public have settled in for some studying.
Study and implementation of the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress is now the "primary political task" for the Party and country, according to Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. Xi gave this directive while presiding over the first group study of the Political Bureau of the 19th CPC Central Committee in October, just three days after the conclusion of the congress.
Such group study sessions are a regular feature in the lives of senior CPC officials. Forty-five such study sessions have been held since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. Topics covered included issues from Marxist ideology and state governance to green development and information technology.
"They keep very quiet while listening, taking notes or underlining key points," said Bu Xianqun, director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences history research institute, recalling his two lectures at the sessions.
"A lecture lasts more than an hour, and they stay very focused throughout," he said. "It is really impressive."
In addition to the top leaders, the CPC Central Committee Party School is launching training programs for provincial and ministerial officials to help them internalize and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and the philosophy at the heart of the 19th congress.
For other CPC members and the public, study is a must.
Teams have been sent to communities, rural areas, universities and enterprises equipped with the spirit of the congress and tasked with spreading the word.
In Shanghai, birthplace of the CPC, Party members can attend lectures or access information through social networking.
Entrepreneurs also recognize the need for study. "I have read the congress report many times," said Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group. "It charts out clear goals and direction for the country"s future. Understanding policy, not waiting for favorable policy, helps an enterprise develop."
Tradition of learning
For Qu, study is part of the tradition of the CPC. "Lifelong learning is a key factor in the Party"s transition from small to large and from weak to strong."
In the Party"s early years, the focus of study was to improve members" literacy. Study did not come to a halt even during the hardships of the Long March.
Over 70 years ago, Mao Zedong warned Party members that they should always be wary of their own incompetence. Xi"s opinion today is little different.
"We will foster a strong atmosphere of learning and practicing in the Party, and build our Party into a Marxist learning party. We will nurture a love of learning in our people," read the report Xi delivered to the 19th congress.
Over the past five years, the CPC has carried out a series of study and education campaigns including the Three Stricts and Three Earnests and one that has ensured Party members have a good command of the Party Constitution, Party regulations, major policy initiatives and Party discipline standards.
Xi"s report requires Party members to be good at learning, at exercising political leadership, at promoting sound development, at exercising law-based governance, at engaging with the people, at implementing policy and at managing risks, as well as being good reformers and pioneers.
"The standard for CPC officials and members in the new era has been set very high," said Mei Liming, vice-president of the China Executive Leadership Academy of Jinggangshan, Jiangxi province.
Jinggangshan, the cradle of the revolution, is now home to one of three executive leadership academies in China.
The other two are in another stronghold of the revolution, Yan"an, Shaanxi province, and in Pudong, Shanghai"s ultramodern business center.
These three academies, together with the CPC Central Committee Party School and the Chinese Academy of Governance, form a comprehensive education and training system for Party and governmental officials.
According to the vice-president of the Pudong leadership academy Zheng Jinzhou, courses on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era will soon be in the curriculum.
Lessons for a new era
"Through study, we have determined those issues closest to the hearts of both businesses and the people," said Weng Zuliang, Party chief of Pudong district. Pudong is expecting to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China"s reform and opening-up to continue to spearhead the country"s reform and development.
"We must always stay hungry for knowledge," said Liu Hong, local Party chief in Jinggangshan. "That requires officials closest to the ground to understand the real demands and needs of the people."
Zhai Lixin, director of the management committee of Zhongguancun, a center of scientific and technological research in Beijing, said it is clear that the major theme of their study is reform. "Reform is the spark that ignites innovation, and we, the managing officials, have a duty to keep pace with the times and never stop learning."
"The 96-year history of the CPC reveals study to be an intrinsic faculty of the Party," said Xie Chuntao, head of academic affairs at the CPC Central Committee Party School. "It is one of the sources of the Party"s victories and long-term governance."
The ultimate goal of study is to remind CPC members of their roots and mission－to seek happiness for the people and the rejuvenation of the nation－and to ensure they succeed.
In his New Year speech for 2018, Xi noted that "the wellbeing of our people is the Party and government"s greatest political achievement".
To lead a country of more than 1.3 billion people, the Party must be both politically strong and highly competent.
This year, the first full year under the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress, will see the start of implementation of the blueprint for the next three decades.
Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. The evolution of the principal contradiction facing society is a historic shift that affects the whole landscape, creating many new demands for Party and people.
A four-day workshop on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress for newly elected members and alternate members of the CPC Central Committee, as well as provincial and ministerial-level officials, concluded Monday.
"Study has taken Chinese Communists to where they are today," Xi once said. "And study will lead us into the future."