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Gamifying Propaganda: Everything You Need to Know about China's 'Study Xi' App

First revealed February 18 2019, 15:20 CST

A brand new app that encourages China’s on-line inhabitants to review Xi Jinping Thought has made headlines, each in and out of doors of China. Right here’s every thing it is advisable to find out about this new interactive propaganda software. An summary by What’s on Weibo.

On January 1st, the Xué Xí Qiáng Guó app was launched on numerous Chinese language app shops. The app is an initiative by the Propaganda Division of the Central Committee of the Communist Social gathering, and is linked to the platform, which was first arrange in 2018.

The app has been making headlines in Chinese language and English-language media this week. The BBC referred to the app as a “little purple e-book,” and reported that members of the ruling Communist Social gathering, in addition to state-owned firm staff who aren’t Celebration members, have allegedly been required to obtain and use it each day (Feb 15).

The Guardian reported that authorities officers in Fujian province and Qingdao metropolis held workshops final month stressing the political significance of the app, and directing native leaders to advertise the app throughout authorities departments (Feb 15).

Though some stories declare that the app is making its option to prime lists of most downloaded apps in China, it solely scored a place 72 within the prime 100 record of in style Chinese language app retailer 360app at time of writing. The app retailer does state that the app has been downloaded 340000 occasions, with app customers score it with 2,5 stars out of 5. Within the Tencent retailer, the app was downloaded 2,1 million occasions.

Nevertheless, these numbers don’t essentially point out a lot concerning the complete variety of downloads, because the app may be instantly downloaded as an APK file from numerous places. Within the Chinese language Apple retailer, the app is now the primary scoring app within the instructional class. The app is just out there in Chinese language, and isn’t out there from the Google Play retailer or Apple shops outdoors of China.

The app’s identify (学习强国) is translated because the ‘Research Xi Robust Nation’ app in numerous English-language media reviews, however a extra appropriate translation would maybe be ‘Research Xi, Strengthen China.’ There’s a wordplay within the identify, because the Mandarin phrase for ‘learning’ is ‘xuéxí’ which additionally incorporates the identify of Xi, and on this context means each ‘Learning’ in addition to ‘Research Xi.’

The primary slogan of the ‘Research Xi’ app is certainly one of Xi’s personal sayings: “Goals begin with learning, careers begin from doing” (“梦想从学习开始,事业从实践起步”, unfastened translation). Each the thought of ‘Goals’ and of ‘Learning’ are ideas which might be persistently promoted within the Xi period, with the concept the widespread dream of the individuals is the ‘Chinese language Dream’ of bringing concerning the “nice rejuvenation of the Chinese language nation.” Inside this Chinese language dream, learning is usually promoted as a “secret weapon” that may strengthen the Social gathering and the nation (Xiao 2016).


A Multi-Practical Propaganda Software


So what’s the ‘Research Xi, Strengthen China’ app? It principally is a multi-functional instructional platform that gives customers numerous methods to review Xi Jinping Thought, Get together historical past, Chinese language tradition, historical past, and far more. As soon as individuals are registered on the app, they will additionally entry the platform by way of PC.

An necessary a part of the app is its information feed: its house web page options “beneficial” reads that each one concentrate on Xi Jinping and the Social gathering. One other main function is its ‘quiz’ web page: each week, there are totally different quizzes that customers can do, referring to all types of issues, from Celebration ideology to well-known Chinese language poems.

We’ve listed a number of the app’s features under. It’s far more than a media app alone; it additionally has a social perform, that permits customers to attach with buddies, message them, name them, and even ship them ‘purple envelopes’ (cash presents).

The ‘pink envelope’ perform is made attainable by means of Alipay, the web cost platform that’s owned by Ant Monetary Providers Group, an affiliate firm of the Chinese language Alibaba Group.

A method for customers to confirm their id on the app can also be by linking it to their Alipay account. Numerous media reviews additionally declare that the app is linked to Alibaba’s Ding Ding platform, an enterprise chat app that has a mess of features, lots of that are additionally incorparated within the ‘Research Xi’ app (for extra about Ding Ding, see our article right here).

Given the cooperation with Alibaba, it’s maybe not shocking that upon registering for the app with simply my telephone quantity, it already knew my nickname with out me placing it in. The app additionally listed an previous smartphone I used some two years in the past as a “steadily used” system, though I had simply downloaded the app the day earlier than and had by no means registered for it earlier than.

So I simply registered for the primary time for the brand new “Research Xi Robust Nation” app, which requires a telephone quantity. It then informed me “hello manyapan,” and that this phonenumber was already registered for the app. I’ve by no means registered earlier than and by no means put in my manyapan nickname. 🤔

— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) 16 februari 2019

“Research Xi” app day two. Not solely did the app know my nickname upon registering for 1st time, it additionally lists a HTC telephone I used some two years in the past beneath “regularly used units.” Almost certainly imports knowledge from Alipay app.

— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) 17 februari 2019

Twitter consumer @yanshitou12 additionally famous that, upon utilizing a good friend’s quantity to register for the app, her Ding Ding conversations have been routinely loaded into the chat historical past, suggesting that Alibaba’s Ding Ding is certainly absolutely built-in with the app.

My telephone cn quantity expired, so I used pal’s quantity. The app routinely loaded her dialog historical past from the app 针针, on my telephone, with out even asking

— 盐石头 (@yanshitou12) 16 februari 2019

Like Ding Ding, the ‘Research Xi’ app additionally permits customers to arrange convention calls, ship ‘self-deleting’ chats (like Snapchat), and use the app’s calendar perform. Its many sensible features make this an app that’s particularly handy for China’s 89,5 million Social gathering members to remain near the Get together and its actions.


Tips on how to Rating with Xi


The app’s most noteworthy and maybe additionally most interesting function is its scoring system, because it turns learning Social gathering ideology and Xi Jinping Thought right into a recreation.

Those that accumulate sufficient factors can get an merchandise from the app’s ‘prize store.’ There are additionally contests which customers can be a part of to compete over a Huawei pill or different gadgets.

One Weibo consumer shared that she had simply acquired her Trendy Chinese language Dictionary by mail by means of the app’s ‘present store,’ one other individual expressed her shock that a supply man got here to ship her prize at her door. “Thanks, Propaganda Division!”, she wrote.

The rating system works as follows:

  • Upon registering for the app, you obtain 1 level.
  • For each article or essay one reads, you get 1 level (one per article, doesn’t work with articles which have already been seen earlier than).
  • For each video you watch you get 1 level (the identical video gained’t be credited with an additional level for those who see it twice).
  • The time you spend on the app can also be rewarded with factors: for each four minutes of studying, you get 1 level (max Eight factors per day).
  • For each 5 minutes of watching a video, you get 1 level (max Eight factors per day).
  • You get 1 level for “subscribing” to a media account, which can then present up in your information feed.
  • For those who share two articles with pals, you get 1 level.
  • You get 1 level for each two articles or essays you ‘save’ inside the app.
  • For those who rating 100% on a quiz, you get 10 factors.

What is sort of exceptional concerning the app, is that it encourages customers to ‘Research Xi’ at specific occasions of the day. The morning 6:00-Eight:30 timeframe, together with the 12:00-14:00 slot and night 20:00-22:30 occasions, are designated as so-called “lively time slots” throughout which customers can rating double factors for his or her actions. Inside these time slots, studying an article would, for instance, grant a consumer 2 factors as an alternative of 1.

This alerts that, in keeping with good working morale, individuals are alleged to look into the app throughout their morning commute, their lunch break, and earlier than bedtime, and are not directly discouraged from utilizing it throughout (workplace) working hours.

The factors which might be scored on the app can be legitimate for 2 years.

On Weibo, some netizens are fairly critical concerning the ‘gaming’ facet of this app, and have already discovered methods to cheat the system. They share ideas and tips on learn how to rating inside the app: factors are credited inside 10 seconds of clicking an article, for instance, and watching movies may be simply rewarded with some extent if one instantly scrolls to the top.

Via the PC model of the app, it’s straightforward to let sure movies play whereas scrolling the web, principally incomes factors with out truly watching the movies.

“Thanks,” many commenters reply to those dishonest tips: “Simply what I used to be on the lookout for.” “I already acquired 50 factors in in the future!”


A Library in Your Pocket: Media, Books, Films


The ‘Research Xi’ app focuses on some dozen media retailers that customers can subscribe to and which additionally present up within the ‘really helpful’ homepage feed.

Included within the app are state media retailers China Every day (中国日报网), Individuals’s Every day (人民网), Xinhua (新华), Qiushi Journal (求是网), China Army Net (中国军网), Financial Day by day (经济日报), and others.

The app additionally incorporates native ‘Research Xi’ platforms, from Hubei to Jiangxi, from Shandong to Fujian.

In addition to these media, the app additionally has TV channels individuals can watch movies on, from CCTV Information to a particular ‘Xi Time’ information programme, to varied TV dramas, together with Turbulence of the Mu Clan (木府风云) and Romance of Our Mother and father (父母爱情).

“Xi Time” information clips give attention to the actions of Xi Jinping.

There’s additionally a film part inside the app, the place customers can watch classics reminiscent of The Lengthy March (长征), The Founding Ceremony of the Nation (开国大典), movies on Deng Xiaoping or Zhou Enlai, and numerous films that target the Second Sino-Japanese Warfare.

The ‘Research Xi’ library part grants customers entry to dozens of books. On the desktop model, the library is proven as an precise workplace, the place you’ll be able to click on on the books which might be displayed on the cabinets and skim them.

Some books are these by Xi Jinping, together with The Governance of China (习近平谈治国理政), however there are additionally books by the well-known Chinese language writer Lu Xun, or the 20th-century basic Rickshaw Boy by Lao She, and numerous works on calligraphy and poetry.

There’s additionally a whole part of books out there from an entire vary of subjects various from astronomy to maths, biology, and geography. The books can be found for on-line studying in pdf.

Typically, you possibly can say that the choice of media, movies, and books all fall into the classes of Chinese language conventional tradition and canonical literature, historic themes, science and know-how, and the political themes of Get together ideology and the Xi Jinping Thought that focuses on ‘socialism with Chinese language traits’ (中国特色社会主义).

Those that learn sufficient state media and Social gathering articles will simply be capable of do the quizzes and weekly questions within the app. Apart from the usual ideological questions, it additionally attracts from in style tradition; I got here throughout a query that used a trailer of China’s newest sci-fi film The Wandering Earth that wanted to be watched in an effort to full the query.


Propaganda within the Xi Period


So how well-liked is the app, actually? If the headlines in Chinese language and non-Chinese language media are to be believed, nearly all of Chinese language web customers are getting hooked on the app. That image is probably the rose-colored one the Social gathering want to envision, however judging from social media feedback and app scores, reactions have been considerably lukewarm.

On Weibo, there are some commenters who’re sharing their 1000-point standing on the app, or who say they take pleasure in wanting into the app proper earlier than sleeping.

Dozens of commenters point out that they’ve to help their mother and father in utilizing the app, or that it isn’t them, however their mother and father who’re ‘hooked’ on the app – nearly all of Weibo customers are within the 20-35 years age group.

There are native trainings on making (older) Get together members extra acquainted with the app, tips on how to obtain it and easy methods to use it. An area Chongqing group Weibo account lately posted the photographs under of their ‘Research Xi’ gathering.

On social media, some commenters complain about the truth that the Chinese language Apple retailer has turned off the evaluation remark sections on the app, even if it allegedly scored a primary spot in its “instructional app” part.

Then there are additionally dozens of commenters who say they typically use the app: the rating issues to them. In a time when every part is cellular, and on-line gaming is booming, plainly ‘Research Xi, Strengthen China’ has made its app all of the extra related by including the scoring aspect.

In doing so, the Propaganda Division of the Communist Get together is constant on the identical route it has taken for the previous couple of years, which exhibits a transparent break with the propaganda machine earlier than the Xi period.

Not solely does the propaganda within the Xi period strengthen the thought of Xi as a political idol, it additionally absolutely embraces the Web, the web media setting, and its associated popular culture in doing so (additionally see Chang & Ren 2018).

Since 2017, numerous noteworthy propaganda moments, such because the 2017 Xi Clapping Recreation, the cartoonification of Xi, or the One Belt, One Street media publicity hype, all level in the identical course, specifically that the Get together propaganda will use the modes of communication and know-how which might be hottest amongst China’s (youthful) on-line inhabitants to succeed in their audiences.

For now, I’m nonetheless caught under 50 factors on the ‘Research Xi’ app. The scoring aspect is highly effective: I really feel triggered to get my rating up. Perhaps watch a number of extra movies, do higher on the quiz, and skim some extra state media articles. I’d simply be tempted to return for some extra Xi-studies.

By Manya Koetse
Comply with @whatsonweibo

Translation recommended by Helen Wang @helanwanglondon.


Chang, J., & Ren, H. 2018. “The highly effective picture and the creativeness of energy: the ‘new visible flip’ of the CPC’s propaganda technique since its 18th Nationwide Congress in 2012. Asian Journal of Communication, 28(1), 1–19.

Xiao Junhua 肖君华. 2016. “Goals Begin with Studying – Learning Basic Secretary Xi Jinping’s Essential Discourse on Studying [梦想从学习开始——学习习近平总书记关于学习的重要论述]” Guangming Day by day, by way of CPC Information, 7 July [18.1.19].

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