My Confession

The following is a translation of a “letter of self-confession,” or jiantaoshu (检讨书), written by Shi Lianwen (left), the former executive of China’s Liaoning Television. For more on the history of self-confessions in China, and how they are making a comeback under Chinese President Xi Jinping, please read this companion piece.

It can be said that everywhere I went the red carpet was rolled out for me, that my life was bright and blessed. As a reporter, I received the highest honor possible in the news profession, the Fan Changjiang Prize. I received the National Labor Day Prize too. While I was news director, I received a special allowance from the State Council, a lifelong honor. By the time I was station director, I was recognized as a top-ten leading figure in the news industry. I was draped in honours, you might say. Naturally, these honors were the product of nurturing and promotion by the Chinese Communist Party, and they involved my own hard work too. I think back now on those days as days of honor and integrity, during which the interests of the Party were the loftiest interests, when I worked to point of forgetting my own self. Each time I was honored with an award I felt electrified!
As to how I went astray, I’ve thought long and hard, and one line impresses me deeply: if one person’s power is too great, if they can act without a thought to others, they will use that power to serve themselves, and the interests of the Party and the people will be set aside — and losing that aim [of serving the Party and the people] means losing one’s direction.
I became the head of Liaoning Television in 2009. Early on, I took to my work with great enthusiasm, and I did many great things others had not managed to do successfully before. Within just a few years, Liaoning Television underwent dramatic change. During the four and a half years that it was under my leadership, Liaoning Television developed into a station of nationwide influence, consistently at the top of [television] group rankings, with income already approaching 10 billion. Reforms at Liaoning Television were upheld as a model for the rest of the industry, praised by government leaders, industry professionals and viewers alike.
My degeneration owed chiefly to high professional standing without sufficient study, to estrangement from the masses. My consciousness of maintaining oneness with the politics of Central Party diminished; I lacked perseverance and patience in the nurturing and training of my work style and my ideological character. This became especially true in the tide of commerce, where I became obsessed both at the station and away from the station with business ventures and commercial values, where everything became about “money.”
At the television station, I came to apply the “money” standard alone in determining the quality of the work produced by my comrade. I even put forward the slogan, “Not a cent can be lost within our business scope.” At the same time, I became obsessed with the enterprise’s external relations, always believing that a work unit must be popular [to succeed], that if we wanted to build Liaoning Television as a first-rate media we must win the support of certain groups of people. And so, I made a special point of researching the [government] departments and other interests key to Liaoning Television’s development, and according to their preferences and particularities, I sought the pulse [of the situation], and I made sure that those groups that were useful all supported Liaoning Television and worked for Liaoning Television. While Liaoning Television did achieve influence, this was not by adhering to the cause of the Party but rather by serving the interests of various groups or individuals, through the service of small groups.
Moreover, after I became station chief, my vanity intensified and I became estranged from the supervision of the masses. My newfound power was also changing the way those around me behaved towards me. Their talk, behavior and attitudes were such that, as a natural person vested with power, I became a robot controlled by them. Being surrounded by flattery, falsehood and obsequiousness causes you involuntarily to slip into the mire they have prepared for you. And I fell in! Gradually, I accommodated them, and there were also actions in the “common interest.”
As the business mindset grew more serious in my head, this also naturally changed my conduct, and I also sought out partners with whom to do my own business. I made investments, engaged in projects, researched content suited to the market, and sought my own escape route for retirement. I had no principles of self-restraint . . . [and] my thoughts entered a spiral of abnormality. Why should I avoid it? After all, they hadn’t come by their money cleanly! And so I took what I could. At first, I sought money and connections for the sake of the station. Later, this became seeking money to prepare for my own retirement. Ten-thousand here, a hundred thousand there. If people offered it, I accepted it. I opened my palms, and so as a result the barrel of [Party discipline] turned on me. If you open your hand you will be caught!
When I think of all this, I feel such loathing about myself. I should have known this day would have to come! I think back on the road I traveled and I truly feel sorry for all the nurturing the Party gave me over the decades, I feel sorry for all of those glittering prizes and awards, and I feel even more sorry for all the care and support that various leaders gave me. My serious violations should be a lesson to all those leaders like me: make note of and learn from my example, and avoid making similar mistakes.