One of the most frequently asked questions Qu Qingshan hears from foreign audiences is "With 89 million members, how does the Communist Party of China (CPC) stay united?"
"We keep learning," is Qu's response.
As head of the CPC's Party history research arm, one of Qu's duties is to share the CPC philosophy and experiences in governance with overseas political parties. It is Qu's belief that through learning and study, Party members reach consensus, increase cohesion and become more effective.
To that end, the CPC leadership, the entire Party and the Chinese public at large, have furrowed their brows and settled to do some hard studies.
Study and implementation of the "spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress" is now the "primary political task" for the Party and country. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, gave this directive while presiding over the first group study of the Political Bureau of the 19th CPC Central Committee in October, just three days after the conclusion of the congress.
Such group study sessions are a regular feature of the lives of senior CPC officials. Indeed, 45 such study sessions have been held since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. Topics covered included various issues from Marxist ideology and state governance to green development and information technology.
"They keep very quiet while listening, taking notes or underlining key points," said Bu Xianqun, director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences history research institute, recalling his two lectures at the sessions.
"A lecture lasts for more than an hour, and they stay very focused throughout," he said. "It is really impressive."
In addition to the top leaders, the CPC Central Committee Party School is launching training programs for "the key few," provincial and ministerial officials, to help them internalize and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and the philosophy at the heart of the 19th congress.
For more CPC members and the public, study is a must.
Teams have been sent to communities, rural areas, universities and enterprises equipped with the congress spirit and tasked with spreading the word.
In Shanghai, birthplace of the CPC, Party members can attend lectures or access information through social networking.
The entrepreneurs also recognize the need of study. "I have read the congress report many times," said Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group. "It charts out clear goals and direction for the country's future."
"Understanding policy, not waiting for favorable policy, helps an enterprise develop," he said.
A TRADITION OF LEARNING
For Qu, study is part of the fine tradition of the CPC. "Life-long learning is a key factor in the Party's transition from small to large and from weak to strong."
In the early years of the Party, the focus of study was to improve members' literacy. Study did not come to a halt even during the interminable hardships of the Long March.
Over 70 years ago, Mao Zedong warned Party members that they should always be wary of their own incompetence. Xi's opinion today is little different.
"We will foster a strong atmosphere of learning and practicing in the Party, and build our Party into a Marxist learning party. We will nurture a love of learning in our people," read the report Xi delivered to the 19th congress.
Over the last five years, the CPC has carried out a series of study and education campaigns including the "Three Stricts and Three Earnests" and one that has ensured Party members have a good command of the Party Constitution, Party regulations, major policy initiatives and Party discipline standards.
Xi's report requires Party members to be good at learning, be good at exercising political leadership, be good at promoting sound development, be good at exercising law-based governance, be good at engaging with the people, be good at implementing policy, be good at managing risks and be good reformers and pioneers.
"The standard for CPC officials and members in the new era has been set very high," said Mei Liming, vice president of the China Executive Leadership Academy of Jinggangshan, Jiangxi Province.
Jinggangshan, the cradle of the revolution, is now home to one of three executive leadership academies in China. The other two are in another stronghold of the revolution, Yan'an, Shaanxi Province, and in Pudong, Shanghai's ultra-modern business center.
These three academies, together with the CPC Central Committee Party School and the Chinese Academy of Governance, form a comprehensive education and training system for Party and governmental officials.
According to vice president of Pudong leadership academy Zheng Jinzhou, courses on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era will soon be on the curriculum.
NEW LESSONS FOR THE NEW ERA
"Through study, we have determined those issues closest to the hearts of both businesses and the people," said Weng Zuliang, Party chief of Pudong District. Pudong is expecting to take the opportunity of celebrating the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up to continue to spearhead the country's reform and development.
"We must always keep hungry for knowledge," said Liu Hong, local Party chief in Jinggangshan. "That requires officials closest to the ground to understand the real demands and needs of the people."
Zhai Lixin, director of the management committee of Zhongguancun, a center of scientific and technological research in Beijing, is clear that the major theme of their study is reform. "Reform is the spark that ignites innovation, and we, the managing officials, have a duty to keep pace with the times and never stop learning."
"The 96-year history of the CPC reveals study to be an intrinsic faculty of the Party," said Xie Chuntao, head of academic affairs at the CPC Central Committee Party School. "It is one of the sources of the Party's victories and long-term governance."
The ultimate goal of study is to remind CPC members of their roots and mission -- to seek happiness for the Chinese people and the rejuvenation of the nation -- and to ensure they succeed.
In his New Year speech for 2018, President Xi noted that "the well-being of our people is the Party and government's greatest political achievement."
To lead a country of more than 1.3 billion people, the Party must be both politically strong and highly competent. This year, the first full year under the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress, will see the start of the implementation of the blueprint for the next three decades.
Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. The evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society is a historic shift that affects the whole landscape, creating many new demands for Party and people.
A four-day workshop on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress for newly-elected members and alternate members of the CPC Central Committee, as well as provincial and ministerial-level officials concluded Monday.
"Study has taken Chinese Communists to where it is today," Xi once said. "And study will lead us into the future."