by Xinhua writers Mou Xu and Xu Xiaoqing
SHANGHAI, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Mao Zedong said, "One has to be a student of the people before becoming their teacher."
Decades later, the Communist Party of China (CPC), which rose to power under Mao, is invoking this tradition of "learning from the people" in a broad campaign to clean up "undesirable work styles."
Yang Zhaoshun, a former cotton-mill worker and now CPC committee chief of a local urban community, and another two grassroots Party officials were recently invited to a study session to teach senior CPC officials of Shanghai a "special lesson."
The lesson laid bare grassroots grievances and needs in front the city's leading officials. The session was so informative that one "student" in the class, Shanghai Party chief Han Zheng, called the three local officials "teachers." Other top officials said the lesson had opened their eyes.
It was the support and trust of the people which brought the Party to power. Nearly 64 years in power, the CPC has elevated China to its place as the world's second largest economy, but the 85 million-member Party is well aware that its legitimacy does not depend solely on economic development.
The new Chinese leadership has warned that the biggest threat to the Party is alienating itself from the people, with a slew of Party members and officials appearing not to care about the people's well-being.
"Winning or losing public support is an issue of CPC survival," said President Xi Jinping in June while he launched the clean-up campaign against undesirable work styles: formality, bureaucracy, laxity and extravagance.
Earlier in March, Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, called on Party officials to take the people as teachers at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, telling them to integrate study into work.
Liu Jingbei, a professor of the China Executive Leadership Academy at Pudong, said, "It's an effective measure for the CPC to constantly learn from the people and keep abreast with the times."
Xi's directive has been answered by action nationwide.
In northwest China's Shaanxi Province, over 1,700 ordinary citizens have been invited into the normally guarded provincial government compound to "supervise" government affairs in the fields of agriculture, housing, education and environmental protection.
Sun Zhengcai, the Party chief in Chongqing in southwest China, attended a town-hall style meeting with farmers in Hejie village.
In the front yard of a local farmer called Xu Dejiang, Sun had an informal chitchat with farmers, but he took the problems and issues the farmers raised seriously. He assured them the government would address these problems.
Yang Zhaoshun, the Community Party secretary that "taught a lesson" to the Shanghai leadership, said, "the grassroots is a big university."
His 15 years as Party secretary of a community once rampant with prostitution and gambling, have seen his constituency redeem itself. The community used to be so insecure that no taxis could be found at night.
Yang told his senior official "students" his single one most important work principle: Action speaks louder than words, even though one strains one's throat shouting."
"People know and judge the CPC through the Party members around them. If the members are good, people think the Party is good and vice versa," Yang said bluntly.
Zhu Guoping, another community Party chief, revealed her worries from working at the grassroots, one of which is that officials focus on formality instead of delivering specific benefits for the people.
At the study session, Shanghai Party chief Han Zheng said Party officials must establish genuine relationships with the people and must visit the places with the greatest hardships and social conflicts to listen to the residents there.
The current campaign came on the heels of an eight-point regulation that the CPC leadership began promoting in December 2012, to ban extravagance and formality from events attended by officials.
Since its introduction, luxurious upscale restaurants have seen less lavish banquets and declining revenues.
The CPC in July introduced a five-year ban on the construction of new government buildings as another step in the frugality drive.
Numerous scandals in recent years have centered on extravagant expenditure on new government buildings by officials, often in poverty-struck inland regions.
Experts said the directive is a continuation of efforts to build clean government and improve work styles, strengthening the government's ties to the people.
Professor Liu Jingbei said the public has high expectations of the new CPC central leadership to continue improvement of official work styles.