Delegates from Britain, Ireland and the US learn about the past, present and future of Socialist China

The first exclusive Friends of Socialist China delegation to the People’s Republic of China took place from 14 to 24 April 2024.

Invited by the China NGO Network for International Exchanges (CNIE), which works under the direction of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC), 14 comrades (11 from Britain, two from the United States and one from Ireland) visited Beijing, Hangzhou and Jiaxing (Zhejiang province), and Changchun and Siping (Jilin province). The packed program featured visits to public service and community facilities, historic revolutionary sites and museums, political, scientific, cultural, industrial, and agricultural organisations, exhibition centres and cooperatives, and famous scenic spots among others.

Serving the people

Our first site visit, on 15 April, was to the Beijing headquarters of the ‘12345’ government service hotline, where 1,500 employees (mostly CPC members) work in shifts to provide a single point of access for any and all problems and queries – for example, rubbish being left on the street, heating not working, or older people not receiving food deliveries. The service aims to provide “a bridge connecting people, party and government”, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, free of charge. We were told that the Beijing HQ typically receives 60,000 calls a day, and 90 percent of these are resolved to the user’s satisfaction. The service in some form has been operating for 30 years, with substantial improvements over that period, including most recently support for more languages allowing visiting tourists and international residents to utilise the hotline.

Thanking our hosts at the 12345 hotline HQ, head of delegation Keith Bennett observed that the service embodies three important characteristics of the Chinese Revolution. Firstly, it represents a modern implementation of the slogan ‘serve the people’. Secondly, it is consistent with the mass line: “take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action”. Lastly, the 12345 service is an example of using modern technology in order to carry out social investigation, “investigating the conditions of each social class in real life”. The use of big data allows the local government to notice trends in residents’ enquiries and proactively solve problems and improve services.

At the Beijing headquarters of the ‘12345’ government service hotline

The spirit of serving the people was also evident at the Party-masses Service Centre of Jiaxing, Zhejiang, which we visited on 19 April. Opened in 2021, it’s a hub for training, exhibitions, volunteer services, social organisation incubation, and provision of mental health services. Delegates were amazed to learn that people can register for counselling and get an appointment booked for the next day – free of charge. Also impressive were the meeting spaces and lecture halls that could be hired free of charge for use by the local community. The therapy is framed within a context of public health, and is based on the principle that “only with peace of mind can the people and the country be safe.”

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