PREMIER LEAGUE (6): Ideology training manuals add mystery to Communist Youth League

March 16, 2013

By KOICHIRO ISHIDA/ Correspondent

Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of articles on the Communist Youth League and the officials who have used the organization as their power base. This series will appear on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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SHENYANG, China--It has more members than most European countries have people, and it has long nurtured leaders of the world’s second-largest economy. But little is actually known about the inner workings of the Communist Youth League in China.

Few are willing to discuss what kind of organization the league actually is. And its manuals are tailored to the backgrounds of members to give them model answers to provide to potential members and curious outsiders.

Attention on the league increased after a number of former high-ranking officials landed top posts in the Communist Party and government, including Hu Jintao, who served as general secretary, and his close associate, Ling Jihua, who now heads the United Work Front Department in the Communist Party Central Committee.

Other prominent alumni include Li Keqiang, who was named premier on March 15 by the National People's Congress, and Hu Chunhua, a candidate for the next generation of leaders who was appointed secretary of the Guangdong provincial party committee.

With about 80 million members, the Communist Youth League is a major pillar of the Communist Party because of the many top officials it has fostered.

One obvious place to look into the league are universities.

Almost all students at major universities belong to the league, including Tsinghua University, Hu's alma mater, and Peking University, which Li graduated from.

However, nearly all requests for interviews at various league branches at major universities were rejected.

A league branch at a local government in Gansu province released a document over the Internet that was a manual of sorts for guiding youth. It included how to answer questions raised by university students.

One question was: "Is China really a democracy?"

The model response for that question was: "Excessive political participation during a stage of developing the economy would not contribute to social stability."

Further investigation showed the document was based on one the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League in Beijing sent to branches throughout China. It had also been partially revised for the local audience.

The Central Committee classified youth into categories of "college students," "company youth," "farming village youth" and "migrant worker youth." Manuals for ideology training were compiled for each category.

The manual designed for college students was 50 pages thick and was titled "Outline for guiding ideology." It also contained model responses for various questions that youth may raise.

To the question of "Can we act freely if it is for a patriotic cause?" the response was "Even if it is for a good cause, if it becomes too large in scale, it could lead to bad results."

An Asahi Shimbun reporter managed to meet with a high-ranking official of a league branch at a major university. The student, who was in his late 20s and majored in electrical engineering, said he has already decided to pursue a career in the league rather than work for a company after graduation.

He was also a "counselor" providing guidance to other students on their daily lives.

But in the interview at the campus cafeteria, the student ended up asking most of the questions, such as, "How does Japan regard China?"

He also asked if the reporter was interested in the recent censorship row over the Southern Weekly newspaper.

During the interview, a copy of the ideology training manual was shown to the student. Without batting an eye while reaching out with his chopsticks for stir fried vegetables, he said: "We have something like that at our college. It is from the league Central Committee."

He then changed the subject.

By KOICHIRO ISHIDA/ Correspondent
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A copy of the ideology training manual distributed by the Communist Youth League (Koichiro Ishida)

A copy of the ideology training manual distributed by the Communist Youth League (Koichiro Ishida)

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  • A copy of the ideology training manual distributed by the Communist Youth League (Koichiro Ishida)

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