The long history of China’s obsession with numbered policies

Two men, one political strategy.
Two men, one political strategy.
Image: Reuters/Sheng Li
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Government policies in the US are often characterized by the silliness of their acronyms, like the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) or PATRIOT (Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) acts. In China, the favored ridiculous convention is enumeration.

Consider current president Xi Jinping’s new proposal: the “Four Comprehensives,” a group of items he laid out in detail in a People’s Daily editorial on Feb 24, after first introducing the idea late last year. The plan sets the stage for Xi’s plans to do something “comprehensive” to the economy, in reforms, about the rule of law, and against corruption in the coming years. Sounds bold.

The Four Comprehensives are the latest in a long tradition of numbered Communist Party policies. Like American acronyms, these are usually forced. They almost always sound comical.

Here is a comprehensive list of major numbered party policies from Mao to now. May we look forward to more in the future.

The Four Comprehensives (Xi Jinping, 2015)

  1. Comprehensively develop a moderately prosperous society
  2. Comprehensively deepen reform
  3. Comprehensively govern the nation according to law
  4. Comprehensively be strict in governing the party

The Three Supremes (Hu Jintao, 2007)

  1. Supremacy of the business of the Chinese Communist Party
  2. Supremacy of the interests of the people
  3. Supremacy of constitutional law
A poster from Mao Zedong’s “Four Pests Campaign”
A poster from Mao Zedong’s “Four Pests Campaign”
Image: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Eight Honors and Eight Shames (Hu Jintao, 2006)

  1. Honor patriotism, shame that which harms the country
  2. Honor the service of the people, shame that which departs from the people
  3. Honor science, shame ignorance and superstition
  4. Honor diligence, shame the indolent
  5. Honor unity, shame those who seek to gain at the expense of others
  6. Honor honesty and trustworthiness, shame those who sacrifice ethics for personal gain
  7. Honor the law and discipline, shame those who do not follow them
  8. Honor hard work, shame luxuries and pleasures

The Three Represents (Jiang Zemin, 2000)

  1. The Party represents the advancement of technology
  2. The Party represents a trajectory toward the advancement of culture
  3. The Party represents a fundamental benefit to the people

The Four Cardinal Principles (Deng Xiaoping, 1979)

  1. The principle of keeping to the socialist road
  2. The principle of upholding the dictatorship of the proletariat
  3. The principle of upholding the leadership of the Communist Party
  4. The principle of upholding Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought

The Four Modernizations (Zhou Enlai, 1975)

  1. Modernization of industry
  2. Modernization of agriculture
  3. Modernization of national defense
  4. Modernization of science and technology

 The Four Olds (Mao Zedong, 1966)

  1. Old ideas
  2. Old culture
  3. Old customs
  4. Old habits

The Four Pests Campaign (Mao Zedong, 1958, also known as the “Kill a Sparrow Campaign”)

  1. Rats
  2. Flies
  3. Mosquitoes
  4. Sparrows