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Hunan, China’s would-be powerhouse, wants officials to ’emancipate their minds’.

Communist Party officials in Hunan province, located in central China, have initiated a campaign reminiscent of Beijing’s departure from Maoist doctrines of the past century. This initiative, revealed in a public notice on Sunday, involves provincial cadres engaging in discussions aimed at “emancipating the mind.” The campaign, which commenced in early February and is scheduled to continue until the end of March, draws parallels to the party’s historical efforts to promote market reforms following Mao Zedong’s era.

The slogan “emancipating the mind” recalls Deng Xiaoping’s leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which he advocated for reforms that ushered in over 40 years of economic transformation. However, analysts suggest that the current campaign in Hunan, under President Xi Jinping’s governance, serves to reinforce Xi’s ideology rather than bring about significant policy changes.

Unlike Deng’s movement, which aimed to break free from the ideological constraints of the Cultural Revolution, the Hunan campaign appears more aligned with Xi’s political goals. While discussions address local governance issues and economic revival, they stay within the framework of existing policies without seeking radical reforms.

The campaign emphasizes the need to rejuvenate the economy, combat officials’ reliance on inflated GDP figures for evaluations, and address issues like irresponsible lending practices and data manipulation. It also aims to tackle the phenomenon of officials adopting a passive attitude, known as “lying flat,” towards their duties.

Amid global economic challenges and internal pressures, Hunan’s initiative seeks to energize China’s bureaucratic system and encourage officials to take proactive measures to drive growth. With China’s economy facing various obstacles, including a property market downturn and geopolitical tensions, the province’s efforts to promote high-quality development are crucial.

The campaign involves discussions at all levels of the party, from grassroots members to senior provincial officials, highlighting the comprehensive nature of the initiative. Overall, the slogan “emancipating the mind” now signifies a commitment to delivering the high-quality growth envisioned by President Xi, with a focus on innovation, accountability, and responsiveness to challenges.

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