Xuexi Qiangguo is an app for Chinese Communist party members. Photo: Xinhua

A new mobile app may have been too successful for China’s Communist Party. The Xuexi Qiangguo (iOS, Android), which literally means “learning from the strong nation,” has become the No. 1 app in the iPhone App Store, surpassing popular video app Douyin and even social messaging service WeChat since it was launched by the party’s propaganda department in January.

It also has had more than 17 million downloads in Huawei stores. However, patriotic party members have found the app to be addictive as they try to get a high social score.

The app reminds the 90 million party members to learn from President Xi Jinping – his words, ideology and advocacy – the same way as they learned from his paramount predecessors such as founding chairman Mao Zedong and economic reformer Deng Xiaopeng.

But the trick is in the scoring system. Party members are encouraged to download the app, read, play and participate in games that will earn them bonus points and rank them accordingly, just like in high school.

For example, users get one mark for entering the app and another mark for reading or watching a video. They get up to 10 marks for correct answers in a series of multiple choice questions.

Not to divert their attention from their work, they are given double marks if they log on the system before work – 6 am to 8am – during lunch and after work – 8 pm to 10.30 pm. The system’s backend management is said to be done by the Alibaba Group, which made the app look and feel more like a private platform than a public government system.

But here is the problem. Members are competing for more marks – and therefore some people have found ways to break the system with plug-in software.

To address this problem, the propaganda department revised the scoring system. The new system downplayed the rankings. In fact, the app was taken out of Apple or Huawei stores. It further discouraged members to download the app unless they voluntarily wanted to do so.

That should put an end to all the fuss about the controversial app, which made party members nervous.

In fact, if the propaganda department continues to let party members chase high scores on the app, users will have no choice but to outsource these tasks to someone else.

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