Document 9, 10 Years Later

Ten years ago, in April 2013, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promulgated a critical directive: its “Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere.” The document, issued by the CCP’s General Office and not intended for public distribution, enumerated seven “false ideological trends, positions, and activities” that posed a “severe challenge” and that the Party worried could lead to “major disorder.”

Document 9,” as it would come to be called, heralded the tone of the new Xi Jinping administration. It laid bare many major themes of Xi’s tenure: a disdain for genuine, grassroots civil society; a reassertion of Party control over any and all media messaging; an insistence that the Party alone can describe and interpret history.

And, infused throughout the document, a loathing—or perhaps, a fear—of anything “Western.”

Later that fall, Mingjing Magazine, a U.S.-based Chinese-language magazine, obtained and published the full text of Document 9. ChinaFile then published a full translation in English. I read ChinaFile’s translation from my desk in the U.S. State Department, where I was a Research Analyst for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

The translation was powerful: it offered a clear and concise depiction of the CCP’s preoccupations, in English, straight from the horse’s mouth. ChinaFile had recognized the importance of this document, and, unusually, run its entire contents. And it had been translated with care, ensuring that even a reader with little background knowledge or expertise could grasp the ideological direction China was headed.

Ten years later, at the dawn of yet another Xi Jinping administration, Document 9 remains as relevant as ever. In late February, the General Office issued a notice admonishing legal theorists and educators to “firmly oppose and resist erroneous Western views of ‘constitutional government,’ ‘separation of three powers,’ and ‘independence of the judiciary.’” The struggle against intrusive Western ideologies continues apace.