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Chinese leader pushes officials to admit mistakes on national TV

A worker looks at the new portrait of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong as it is moved into place to replace the old one at Tiananmen Gate during annual renovation works before the country's 64th national day on October 1, in the early morning in Beijing September 28, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS TRAVEL CITYSCAPE)

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By USA Today
Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 5:42 p.m.

BEIJING — Leaders worldwide may secretly envy a classic move from the Chinese president's playbook.

Tired of local officials who are corrupt, arrogant or just plain slackers? Make them confess their errors on nationwide television.

Xi Jinping hit the road last week to Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing, whose 73 million residents have built an economy the size of Colombia's. Instead of praise, Xi pushed Hebei's leaders to criticize each other — and themselves — on camera.

“Criticisms and self-criticisms are forceful weapons to solve contradictions within the party,” Xi told them in his far more important role as boss of China's ruling Communist Party.

“It's a dose of good medicine,” he said, to boost unity, rectify decadent work styles and impose “democratic centralism.”

With language and methods drawn from the often bloody rule of Chairman Mao, Xi's play reveals the party's urgent need to strengthen its appeal and legitimacy in the eyes of a population deeply cynical about officials' behavior and widespread corruption.

The unusually public self-criticism sessions last week form part of a yearlong “mass-line” campaign, which began in June, to boost ties between the party's 85 million members and the 1.3 billion Chinese people the party controls.

State broadcaster CCTV aired 24 minutes of footage last week showing Hebei's top party members, overseen by Xi, criticizing co-workers and themselves in sessions from Monday to Wednesday.

Their shortcomings included too many official banquets, illegal use of a fancy SUV and an emphasis on showy projects.

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