Five-Star Hotels, Flashy Clothes: China’s Cadres Confess Their Sins

May 12, 2014

Five-Star Hotels, Flashy Clothes: China’s Cadres Confess Their Sins

When President Xi Jinping toured a poverty-stricken county in central China’s Henan province last week, locals were eager to impress him not only with their handmade local noodles, but also by their willingness to offer Mao-era self-criticisms.

According to the party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, on the day before Mr. Xi arrived in the county of Lankao, local officials held an all-day meeting from 8:30am to 10pm, in which they confessed to a variety of faults, ranging from a fondness for five-star hotels to poor energy efficiency.

Such so-called self-criticism sessions were a Marxist-Leninist practice endorsed by Mao Zedong, in which party members confess to any sins that might undermine the image of the Communist Party. As Mao described it in 1949, such self-criticisms can “get rid of a bad style and keep the good.” More recently, similarly styled sessions have become a key element of a campaign by Mr. Xi to strengthen the party’s reputation, amid an effort to crack down on official excesses and graft.  

Mr. Xi was in Lankao this past week to honor Jiao Yulu, a local county official known for his anti-poverty work. Mr. Jiao, who died in 1964, has been regularly promoted as a Lei Feng-style model for civil servants by party media in the years since.

In Lankao, the spirit of self-cricticism is alive and well, with the People’s Daily offering a vivid taste of what such sessions look like.

The local county party secretary Wang Xinjun, for example, bemoaned the fact that the “amiable and respectable” people of Lankao were still “continuously petitioning” the government with various grievances, according to the paper.

Mr. Wang was particularly impassioned in his confessions, begging other colleagues to criticize him at will. “Please do go straight to the heart of the problem,” he said “I’m begging all of you to do it as a favor for me.”  

Another confessed that the county roads that were adjacent to the highway—that is, visible to out-of-towners or visiting leaders—were “built to a high standard,” while those leading to villages were still in need of repair.

Nothing, apparently, was deemed too insignificant for confession.

“When I go on business trips, I don’t want to stay at ordinary hotels. I don’t want to take the bus or subway. When it comes to clothes, if they’re not brand-name, I don’t want to wear them,” said Zhou Zhenliang, country director, according to the People’s Daily.

The same director also admitted to feeling scared of how alternately cold or hot he felt when visiting local villages. “And on windy days, I’m scared of the sand,” he said.

Others confessed that they were susceptible to flattery or lacking in environmental consciousness.

“Before, when I was working to try and attract investments [to the county], I would visit five-star hotels in Kaifeng several times per week,” said local party publicity official Li Jinguang. “When the hotel owners and their staff greeted me, I really felt like I was being given so much face.”

“When spending public money, I don’t feel badly,” confessed another. “The heaters in offices and dormitories are kept on all winter.”


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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