China’s Communist Party to reinforce ‘crucial’ grass-roots controls

·3-min read

The Communist Party will learn from its response to the Covid-19 pandemic to strengthen control and governance at the community level, according to a directive made public on Sunday.

“[We] must conscientiously review and summarise our experience in the prevention and containment of the coronavirus pandemic, fix the shortcomings in our community controls, and effectively consolidate our positions in our community prevention and control work,” read the directive, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The directive was jointly issued by the Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council, and is guidance on how to improve grass-roots governance.

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The grass roots is the lowest level of China’s governance system, and refers to residential communities in cities, and villages in rural areas.

The communities played a crucial role in China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the early stages.

State employees and street-level cadres were mobilised and assigned a wide range of day-to-day tasks, including enforcing lockdown and quarantines, delivery of daily necessities to residents, tracking intercity travel and identifying close contacts of confirmed patients.

Before the pandemic, grass-roots state workers were also responsible for implementing state policies such as the one-child policy and provision and management of basic social welfare.

The directive is part of a broader push by Beijing in recent years to consolidate the party’s control of all facets of public life through legislation and regulations.

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This year already saw a range of new directives, including over the conduct of party members, operation of party cells, and ideological control.

The latest directive provides guidance on how to tighten the party’s control of community workers, improve efficiency of data collection and usage, and distribute public goods for residents.

The party aims to strengthen grass-roots governance under the “unified leadership of the party”, and implement a grid management system backed by the extensive use of modern information technology within five years, according to the directive.

The system divides cities into hundreds of grids, with specific tasks for grass-roots officials and members in those areas.

Despite criticism that some disease control measures were too intrusive, President Xi Jinping has credited the community governance model with helping control the pandemic.

He has also made it clear that it was key to the country’s political stability.

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“A country’s governance capacity can be gauged by examining what’s happening at the grass roots,” he said, during a trip to northeast China a year ago. “The ground will move and mountain tremble if the base is not stable.”

The new directive also referred to another phrase Xi mentioned last year in an explanation of China’s pandemic response.

“Full circle management”, which Xi said during his visit to Wuhan last year should encompass everything from urban planning to building and management, should be established, according to the latest directive.

The new document also calls for the broad sharing of personal data within government.

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