My mother is an old-fashioned middle aged woman with little interest in new technology. Smartphones to her are virtually no different from the older devices. For her, the instrument is only a tool for making calls and sending messages.
But astonishingly, the recent two months have seen her become a “phubber” – what she always called me and criticized for. The “culprit” turns out to be an application named “Xuexi Qiangguo,” literally meaning to study and making the nation great, a comprehensive platform produced by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
Not content getting addicted to it herself, she advertised it to me several times. “Workplace freshmen like you should really download it! This app has rich resources and could be greatly helpful!” she recommended in earnest.
But as many daughters would do, I didn’t take her words seriously – I thought it was a tedious news app with nothing new.
Until one day when browsing through a discussion forum I frequently visit, I was attracted to a post titled “There are flower arrangement courses on Xuexi Qiangguo!” with 262 responses. One read, “I’m watching an open course video clip about arts on it – there are many more in other fields. Here is another tip: TV series and movies on this platform are without advertisement.”
Open courses, TV series and movies? I downloaded it and felt I should have listened to my mom’s advice earlier.
It is a news app, but way more than that. With 17 sections including news articles, books, open classes, songs and documentaries, it covers almost all domains, and some resources such as the e-version of ancient Chinese books are really rare. And most importantly, everything is for free.
Since then, I have been watching a TV play I always wanted to on the app, while my mom uses it to learn English every day.
Besides, the app provides many offline special offers. One can earn a maximum of 52 credit points per day by browsing news, making comments, and even watching movies. My mom can get these points in 40 minutes – but still spends many extra hours on it. She and my father could visit the Wudangzhao Temple, a Buddhist monastery in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, for free, saving 120 yuan ($18) on entry thanks to the credits they earned on this platform.
Therefore, I got a bit confused and irritated seeing such an integrated platform being labeled as an “indoctrination tool” by the West. Several Western media outlets claimed that Chinese people are forced to download the app for political education.
At least, as a CPC member working for the so-called Party-controlled tabloid, as alleged by Western media, I haven’t yet heard anything about this app from my office. I use it voluntarily, just as many others do, because of the abundant resources.
Of course, there are sections focusing on the state leader and the ruling party, but these occupy a small fraction of the platform. Even if this were a platform only having information on Chinese President Xi Jinping, how does it make a difference from precedents in the West?
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in 2015 an app just to provide the latest information about himself, and this month a 24-hour TV channel to promote himself and his Bharatiya Janata Party. US President Donald Trump posts thousands of tweets per year to promote his ideas of governance.
China has every right to keep pace with the internet era and develop something new. Western media might be objective in the Western world. But one thing is certain: When it comes to China, it is biased and ideology-driven. It seems that whatever the Chinese government and the CPC do is worth derision.
When Chinese authorities launch an app, it is taken as a propaganda tool. When China produces a Karl Marx cartoon series, it is called political propaganda. Even an English rap about the two sessions created a brouhaha in the West. If these happened in the West, would they even be noticed? Western countries should really change their way of looking at China if they want to understand it.
And for this app, regardless of what others are saying, I will keep it in my phone.
(In association with Global Times)