CCP Ideological Indoctrination, Part 2: The New Plan for Training Party Cadres

Publication: China Brief Volume: 24 Issue: 1

At Lanzhou University (兰州大学), new CCP members take the Party loyalty oath on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP (June 22, 2021). (Source: Xinhua)

Author’s note: This is the second article in a two-part series focused on recent initiatives taken by the Chinese Communist Party to implement ideological indoctrination programs intended to reinforce the Party’s ruling position, as well as the current official ideology of “Xi Jinping Thought.” The first article in this series (CCP Ideological Indoctrination, Part 1: The PRC’s New ‘Patriotic Education Law’”), which appeared in the December 15 issue of China Brief, profiled a new law intended to promote “patriotic education” among the general public. This follow-up article analyzes a revised CCP plan revealed in October 2023 for the intensified ideological training of Party officials.

On December 29, 2023, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping addressed a gathering of People’s Republic of China (PRC) diplomatic personnel in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. He instructed his audience to compose a “diplomatic iron army (外交铁军)” representing China’s interests. Notably, Xi emphasized the need for correct political thinking: asserting that they must “persist in our revolution (坚持自我革命),” “be steadfast in political conviction (政治信念坚定),” and “build a sturdy ideological line of defense (筑牢思想防线)” about themselves in the performance of their work (Yang Guang Wang, December 30, 2023).

These comments are the latest example of an extensive series of efforts by the CCP leadership in late 2023 to reinforce ideological regimentation within the Party. On October 16, 2023, the CCP Central Committee promulgated a new document titled the National Cadre Education and Training Plan (2023-2027) [全国干部教育培训规划 (2023-2027年)] (hereafter “2023 Cadre Plan”), which laid out extensive new requirements for ideological study on the part of CCP officials (PRC Government, October 16, 2023). This move had been signaled at a CCP Politburo meeting at the end of August, which was reportedly convened to deliberate on new draft documents related to ideological training for Party members. The official coverage of the August meeting emphasized that forthcoming Party directives would further scrutinize “political judgment (政治判断力)”—signifying loyalty and obedience to the central Party leadership—and “strengthen political gatekeeping (加强政治把关)” for cadre reliability (PRC Government, August 31, 2023).

Official state sources offered predictably laudatory coverage of the 2023 Cadre Plan. They asserted that the required training would “unceasingly use the Party’s innovative theories to firm hearts and forge spirits,” and “persist in making political training run through the entire course of a cadre’s maturation (坚持把政治训练贯穿干部成长全周期)” (CCP Member Net, October 16, 2023), thereby further “raising the skills of cadres to promote quality development [and] serve the masses” (CCP Central Party School, November 18, 2023).

The new plan—a successor to an earlier document released in 2019—heralds yet another step in the CCP’s steadily increasing drive for ideological regimentation and conformity within its own ranks. This process bears significant implications for the Party’s future implementation of both domestic and international policy. The specific contents of this new plan for indoctrinating Party members are therefore worthy of a closer look.

The Drive for Enhanced Ideological Regimentation Under Xi Jinping

Under Xi’s leadership, the Party-state apparatus has placed increasing focus on the ideological indoctrination of both Party members and the Chinese public as a whole. Xi has consistently stressed that ideological laxity has been a primary cause of the problems faced by the CCP. He has also repeatedly warned of the dangers of “historical nihilism (历史虚无主义)”—meaning a loss of faith in communism, and a failure to uphold the great accomplishments of the CCP in its ongoing mission to revive the Chinese nation (CCP Party History Center, September 25, 2015). A prominent sub-narrative of this messaging is that a loss of ideological confidence among Soviet Communist Party members was a leading factor underlying the collapse of the Soviet Union. [1] The clear message from Xi’s central leadership—and a message not always fully appreciated by outside observers—is that correct ideology is an existential matter for the CCP, and a guiding force for PRC state policy.

The Xi leadership has thus inculcated Party officials with the officially-prescribed ideology of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想)” (“Xi Jinping Thought”; hereafter, XJT). This set of ideological precepts heavily emphasizes obedience to centralized Party directives and personal loyalty to Xi himself (China Brief, September 22, 2023). The current phase of this effort extends back to at least 2019, when the CCP introduced both the smartphone app Xuexi Qiangguo (学习强国) and a new policy document requiring enhanced and formalized ideological “education” for party members (China Brief, December 31, 2019).

A series of measures have reinforced the drive to elevate the importance of correct ideology These include the promotion of Wang Huning (王沪宁)—long recognized as the CCP’s lead ideologist—to the fourth-ranked position in the CCP Politburo Standing Committee at the 20th Party Congress in October 2022, despite his lack of senior experience in either the Party’s functional bureaucracies or in provincial-level management (PRC Government, October 23, 2022; Global Taiwan Brief, November 2, 2022). This move demonstrated the newfound importance of loyalty to Xi as a requirement for advancement in the Party’s highest ranks, outweighing other credentials.

The Plan’s Overarching Theme: Loyalty to Xi Jinping

The text of the 2023 Cadre Plan shows clear intent for greater regimentation in the Party ranks. For instance, the plan describes its fundamental objective as follows:

To deepen and make more systematic the Party’s innovative theory weapons; to use [XJT]… to forge the heart and spirit to achieve outstanding results; to make the ideals and convictions of all cadres more steadfast, their ideology and willpower more unified, and their actions and steps more unanimous; and to deepen the sincerity of belief and conscientiousness of action towards the Party’s innovative theories. This must be used to guide practice and advance their work (2023 Cadre Plan, Section 1).

The plan is also clear about its purpose to indoctrinate CCP cadres in loyalty—not just to the Party as an institution, but to Xi Jinping himself. It directly asserts the need for reinforcing the political loyalty tenets of XJT, stating that cadres must “profoundly grasp the decisive meaning of the ‘Two Establishes,’ strengthen the ‘Four Consciousnesses,’ be steadfast in the ‘Two Safeguards,’ and make deeply studying [XJT] the main theme and central line …” (Section 1). [2]

The plan also emphasizes that cadres hold the proper position in “politics (政治)”—employing coded language that, within current CCP discourse, means loyalty to Xi Jinping and the central CCP leadership. This provides one of the most striking sections in the document, which invokes variations of the “politics” theme 10 times in a single sentence:

Political training (政治训练) will be made more solid and effective; the party spirit of cadres will be strengthened, the style of work will be mastered; political judgment (政治判断力), political comprehension (政治领悟力), and political execution (政治执行力) will unceasingly be improved; political discipline (政治纪律) and political rules consciousness (政治规矩意识) will be advanced and strengthened; and consciousness of political stance (政治立场), political orientation (政治方向), political principles (政治原则), and the political path (政治道路) will maintain a high degree of unanimity with the Party center with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core. (Section 1)

Official commentary regarding the plan has also alluded to the Party’s anxieties about threats to the CCP’s ruling position, with a Central Party School commentary noting that cadre education must prepare Party members to “be on guard against dissolution hazards (防范化解风险)” (emphasis added) (CCP Central Party School, November 18). This connects directly to Xi’s oft-expressed anxieties regarding “color revolutions,” or other crises of “high winds and perilous waves (风高浪急)” that could threaten the survival of the CCP party-state (China Brief, February 19, 2019; Qiushi, November 1, 2022).

Party members in Fangshan County (方山县) (Shanxi Province) listen to a speech by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping as part of a “middle-aged and youth cadre training class (中青年干部培训班)” intended to “comprehensively raise up [participants’] political quality, level of theory, and specialized abilities” (November 29, 2021). Requirements for such “collective training (集中培训)” are a significant component of the new cadre education plan. (Source: Huoshuiedu)

Requirements for Party Members in the 2023 Plan

The 2023 Cadre Plan is considerably longer than its November 2019 predecessor and significantly increases the time that cadres will be required to devote to mandatory political training. [3] The 2023 document lays out requirements for both online self-study and in-person “collective training (集中培训)” for cadres ranging from lower individual and/or township levels, up to the higher-level “county level and above party-government leading cadres (县处级以上党政领导干部).” The plan divides cadres into two broad categories based on rank and/or the nature of posts they hold. Ideological training requirements grow heavier for those higher up in the Party hierarchy. Even for lower-level cadres, the plan mandates a total of 140 hours—more than three full work weeks—of combined online and in-person training each year. The chart below, drawn from the plan, provides a breakdown of these requirements:


Cadre Education and Training Quantization Quotas


Study Period Quotas


Cadre Classification


Training Time Requirements


County level and above party-government leading cadres


Every 5 years, engage in collective study sessions adding up to at least 3 months or 550 study hours


Every year, engage in online self-study adding up to at least 50 hours


Level 4 investigators and civil servants at corresponding or higher level (including those holding posts as leading party-government cadres at the township level)

四级调研员及相当层次职级以上公务员 (含同时担任乡科级党政领导职务的干部)

Leading personnel in state-owned enterprises and corresponding posts and above


Management personnel at posts of level 6 and above in state institutions

事业单位六级管理岗位 (职员)以上人员

Township level party-state leaders (not including level 4 investigators and civil servants at corresponding or higher level)

乡科级党政领导 (不含已晋升四级调研员及相当层次职级以上公务员)

Every year, engage in collective study sessions adding up to at least 12 days or 90 study hours


Level one director state personnel and civil servants at corresponding level or lower


Other management personnel in state-owned enterprise work units


Specialist technical personnel


Figure 1: The new requirements for cadre political study, broken down by rank and time requirements, as provided in the 2023 Cadre Training Plan (Special Column 1). Chart translated by the author.

Management Responsibilities for Cadre Education

The document describes the leading roles of two bureaucratic systems (系统) in the cadre political training process. The first of these is the CCP Central Organization Department (中央组织部, COD), which handles cadre management and bears primary responsibility for the Party’s “cadre academies (干部学院)” (CCP Member Net, November 29, 2021). The second is the centrally-controlled CCP “party school (党校)” system, which operates an extensive network of institutions from the national to local level. [4] A lesser, ancillary role appears to reside with the “socialism academies (社会主义学院)” operated by the CCP United Front Work Department. [5]

The text indicates that the Central Party School (CPS) and COD will work together on the course materials for XJT courses. It employs language that, while vague in some respects, appears to reflect a higher degree of national-level centralization than the 2019 plan. The text also mentions a “national cadre training teaching materials editing and guidance committee[s]” that will “organize and compile national cadre study and training materials, and compile case studies of the implementation of [XJT]” (Special Column #1). Repeated mention of special status is given to the cadre academies of Pudong (浦东) (in Shanghai), Jinggangshan (井冈山) (in Jiangxi), and Yan’an (延安) (in Shaanxi) as model institutions in terms of developing seminars and teaching materials. This is likely because of these locations’ associations with either economic success or the revolutionary history of the CCP, although this is not entirely clear (Section 2, Part 2; Special Topic 5).

The plan lays out additional stipulations for COD management of “central management cadres (中管干部)” and “state organ-level principal leading cadres (国家机关级正职领导干部),” who are to receive a full-time collective training program in XJT every five years. The COD is also tasked with organizing annual ideology study at the CPS for a select number of central management cadres and “leading cadres at department and bureau level (厅局级领导干部).” Meanwhile, at least 50 “department and bureau-level theory cadres (厅局级理论干部)” must go to the CPS for an advanced theory course in XJT every year (Special Column #1). Party committees at all levels throughout the country are directed to ensure enforcement of the provisions of the plan, and to create “cadre education leading small groups (干部教育领导小组)” and conferences to organize coordinating mechanisms (Section 8).

Cadre Training Course Content

Consistent with Xi Jinping’s pervasive cult of personality, XJT is to be the core of all instruction. Course organizers are to:

“persist in making [XJT] the content of first importance in theory studies for party committees (and CCP leading groups), [which should] make specific arrangements to meticulously organize its implementation … make it the central mandatory course in party schools … effectively organizing theory training classes and advanced study theory classes; making it the central content of cadre studies, comprehensively systematize studies, persist in deepening studies, integrating practice and study.” (Section 2, Part 1)

The plan contains specific stipulations for course content organized by Party schools at “city level and above (市级以上).” [6] In such syllabi, “Party theory education (党的理论教育)” and “Party spirit education (党性教育)” must constitute at least 70 percent of the course term, of which Party spirit education must constitute at least 20 percent. The plan also presents these specific requirements:

  • At Party schools and cadre academies of all levels, in the Party spirit education classes, at least 50 percent of the course time should be classroom teaching.
  • Among Party schools at various levels, in the principal classes, leading cadres should lecture for at least 20 percent of the course.
  • In the principal classes organized by Party schools and cadre academies at city level and above, cadre training case-study teaching must be at least 15 percent of the coursework each term; seminar-based, simulation-based, experience-based, interview-based, and other interactive teaching methods should be at least 20 percent of the coursework each term (Special Column 1).


The 2023 Cadre Plan significantly increases the time that CCP members will be required to spend in both individual online study and in-classroom “collective training” alongside their counterparts. Furthermore, in terms of course content, the cultivation of practical skills such as effective management practices clearly takes a backseat to ideological indoctrination. The plan reinforces the message that the sine qua non for cadre evaluation and advancement will be adherence to the correct “politics” of loyalty to Xi Jinping and the Party center. The further propagation of this message—that it is more important to be “red” than “expert”—through the Party bureaucracy portends a more rigid and ideological policymaking process emanating outward from the CCP’s top leadership. This will likely have deleterious effects on the administrative efficiency of the CCP Party-state in the years to come.



[1] Two such prominent examples include: Be Vigilant for Danger in Times of Peace: Twenty Years of Historical Lessons from the Death of the Soviet Communist Party (居安思危:苏共亡党二十年的历史教训) (Social Sciences Academic Press, 2011); and the film Twenty-Year Reflections on the Death of the Soviet Party and Nation (苏联亡党亡国二十年祭),

[2] Of note, Section 3 of the document focuses on driving home these slogans. The use of terms such as the “Two Establishes,” “Four Consciousnesses,” et al. may seem like empty jargon to those not steeped in the CCP’s current ideological discourse. However, within CCP discourse, these terms relate once again to faith in Communist ideology, to the Party as an institution, and—most of all—to personal loyalty to Xi Jinping himself. For a summary discussion of these terms, see: John Dotson, “CCP Renews Political Loyalty Indoctrination,” China Brief Vol. 23, Issue: 17 (September 22, 2023),

[3] The main body text of the 2019 document is 5,322 characters long; the basic text of the 2023 document is 7,191 characters long, plus six additional special topic image sections (character count not tallied by the author) that add considerably to its length.

[4] CCP party schools (党校) also operate under the dual identity of state “administrative academies (行政学院).” In this and other CCP policy documents, they are generally referred to under both designations as: “党校 (行政学院).”

[5] The “socialism academies (社会主义学院)” are institutions operated by the CCP United Front Work Department. They operate as a parallel system of party schools for persons who are not formally CCP members, but who are members of one of the CCP-subordinate “democratic parties” or otherwise connected to the united front system. See: “CCP Central Committee Publishes ‘Work Regulations for Academies of Socialism’” (中共中央印发《社会主义学院工作条例》), PRC Government (December 25, 2018).

[6] As the CPS is assigned a leading role in determining course content nationwide, this could also apply to other institutions (“cadre academies,” etc.) outside of the Party school system. However, this is not entirely clear from the text.