In 1963 Mao Zedong A campaign called the “Four Cleanups” was launched in an attempt to purge China of reactionary elements in politics, economy, organization, and ideology. Ordinary people are encouraged to name and shame anyone they deem ideologically dubious. Mao seemed to be particularly satisfied with the small town of Fengqiao in the east. About 900 of its 65,000 residents have been called by neighbors in public “denouncement rallies.” Mao said the “Fengqiao Model” showed how the party mobilized the masses to solve grassroots problems. The larger movement resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and was a harbinger of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution.
China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, seems to share Mao’s penchant for mobilizing the masses to police each other (if it weren’t for the chaos and mass killings caused by earlier efforts). Xi Jinping praised the Fengqiao model, which he redefined as a way to empower the people.he talked about Quite the wisdom of the crowd, or “group prevention and group governance”. In effect, he is using people to supplement other means of control by the Communist Party. It’s the low-tech arm of a high-tech police state. A similar situation exists in Rwanda, a small African dictatorship.
One example of Xi Jinping’s approach is the proliferation of volunteer patrols made up of ordinary citizens who watch out for suspicious activity in their neighbors. The other is a grid-style governance system that divides the community into smaller sections for closer monitoring. Recently, a new “ten-household system” has emerged in some provinces, making these grid sections more detailed.
Under the new system, each household has a group of ten people, and is managed by leaders such as veteran cadres or village cadres. An official report from Neijiang city in Sichuan province said leaders must be “politically reliable”. They go door to door, delivering party orders and gathering information to feed back onto the chain. In parts of Qinghai province, for example, leaders were tasked with understanding the “mentality and behavior” of Tibetan nomads in the area. They ensure that the party’s work is “covered in every aspect, with no blind spots,” said a local party official.
Chinese rulers have a long history of organizing families into groups of ten to enforce control.the law Historians Dating back to the Qin Dynasty in AD 221B.C. to around 207B.C.. It calls for the punishment of violations by any member of the group in units of ten families.this Baojia A system established during the Song Dynasty in the 11th century, in which Chinese families monitored and defended each other in groups of ten.
But the system’s modern incarnation may have drawn more from the experience in Xinjiang, where the government has persecuted Uighurs and other minorities for years. In 2017, officials introduced a ten-household “joint defense” system, forcing members of each unit to conduct counterterrorism drills with local police. Residents and shopkeepers had to buy batons, riot shields and alarm systems that could be activated by authorities. When the siren goes off, people run outside with their gear to surround an imaginary “terrorist.” One former resident recalled having to yell, “Surround the bad guys, raise your stick!”
Those who fail to comply risk being fined or having their shops closed. Worse, they risk being thrown into “re-education” camps, where hundreds of thousands of Xinjiang nationals are being held. Residents said there were designated informants among the households, but no one knew who they were. “It destroys trust between people,” he said.
Elsewhere in China, the ten-household system may appear more modest. In some areas, it was reportedly set up early in the pandemic as a way to monitor public health and then maintained due to its effectiveness in implementing party policies. But state media reports suggest that, in many places, safety drills are now part of the system. Xi Jinping may paint this as giving more power to the people. His real purpose is control. ■
Subscribers can sign up to our new weekly newsletter, The Drum Tower, to learn how the world shapes China — and how China shapes the world.