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Party members who work at foreign companies in Shanghai gather with their families in a park on International Children's Day. Provided to China Daily
Two Party members visit a low-income elderly resident in Shanghai. Provided to China Daily
Foreign companies acknowledge the role of CPC units and are keen to expand their clout, He Wei reports in Shanghai.
Even though he helped organize the event, Sun Ming-quan still had to stand in a long line to enter his local theater, where a lecture on maintaining a balanced diet had attracted hundreds of residents.
"In general, eating a wide variety of fresh, wholesome foods has proved favorable for one's health, compared with monotonous diets based on processed foods," the lecturer told the audience.
Sun, the Party secretary of Middle Huaihai Road Community General Commission of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai, is not an expert in healthcare, but his efforts to promote basic dietary know-how are aided by a group of Party members at a US commodity company that specializes in promoting nutritional balance and optimal health.
"Party members in many foreign companies are at the forefront of facilitating community activities such as these. Through events like this, they have forged closer links with the Party by playing an active role in attending to the welfare of the people," Sun said.
The densely populated Middle Huaihai Road in Shanghai's Central Business District is home to some 1,500 foreign-owned enterprises or joint ventures, 44 of which are listed as Fortune 500 companies.
"It is therefore imperative to unite Party members in these companies, because the non-State sector employs some of China's best talent," Sun added.
Party branches in foreign companies were in their infancy during the 1980s, when China began to open its market to investment from overseas. Ideological concerns were prevalent among many foreign investors who were reluctant to allow the establishment of Communist Party branches within their businesses.
Sun said the same question was raised time and again: China's enterprises are being encouraged to adopt modern management practices, so what role can the Party play in those organizations?
Zhu Qing, an accountant working at a Fortune 500 US car manufacturer in Shanghai, said the past five years have seen foreign businesspeople and Party members change their attitude toward Party activities at work.
"Party life used to be restricted to the circulation of documents, self-study and one-on-one talks. It was very loosely organized and members of joint Party branches met on a monthly basis," he recalled.
Joint Party branches, which consist of Party members from different companies in the same neighborhood, were created to address the fact that only a limited number of Party members were employed by foreign companies, something that tended to diminish the value of Party activities within those organizations.
The branches were formed under the auspices of the State-owned human resources agency, Shanghai Foreign Service Co. One of the agency's functions is to establish Party offices in companies and provide staff members to act as branch secretaries and organize activities.
To date, the SFSC, which serves 25,000 enterprises, has set up 486 Party branches in Shanghai-based foreign companies, consisting of 10,000 Party members.
However, despite the growing numbers involved, there were still problems. "When people of the same group hardly know each other, it is not realistic to think and act together and do something genuinely meaningful," Zhu admitted.
But the tide began to turn after a number of foreign enterprises established Party branches themselves and came up with innovative initiatives.
"Now we regularly go out on outdoor activities and perform philanthropic acts. It's more fun and engaging than before," said Zhu.
Tapping into CSR
Many Party secretaries at foreign-funded companies agreed that their foreign partners have become aware of the advantages of having Party members as employees.
There are more than 100 Party members at the Shanghai office of DuPont, the global chemical sciences giant whose research and development department boasts the highest number of Party members out of the five Party sub-branches at the company.
Party members at DuPont are required to study not only the latest Party policies, but also production strategies and management skills, said Bai Nan, leader of the company's No 2 sub-branch.
"It's safe to say that Party members at DuPont can contribute to world-class technological breakthroughs," said Sun, who regularly leads the activities at the company.
"In many cases, foreign executives have started to acknowledge that Party members usually take an upfront role and are exemplary employees who perform well at work and bolster the company's business development," said Lu Qianfeng, director of Colliers International in Shanghai, a leading real-estate services provider.
He cited the example of a young Party member at his company whose job involves client management and scouting out locations for businesses throughout the city.
"The management team recognized her outstanding abilities, which left a deep impression on our clients and is conducive to our brand image," said Lu.
Colliers' Shanghai operation has 16 registered Party members among its more than 200 employees, and although that number doesn't amount to a large proportion of the total workforce, the members are usually highly ranked in the annual performance assessments conducted by top executives.
Young Party members also provide assistance to children whose parents have moved away for work. They arrange activities for the kids, teach them basic math and interact with them on the weekend. All of this is done with close cooperation of the Middle Huaihai Road Community Commission, said Dai Qiming, head of the commission.
In general, these members are usually upbeat at work and are especially keen to integrate corporate culture into their daily routine, he said.
The best scenario is to combine Party life with a company's pronounced strengths and also to implement corporate social responsibility through initiatives, according to Party secretaries.
"As most white-collar Party members are under great pressure at work, we encourage them to get away from the office environment and serve the local community on a monthly basis," said the Party secretary of the US commodity company that helped organize health lectures with Sun.
The company's Party branch in Shanghai, established in 2008, has now grown into four sub-branches with 50 active members.
To engage with residents, the members acted in a self-written play that warned the elderly of a number of prevalent fraud schemes, Sun said. Meanwhile, in October, they organized a quiz on anti-theft issues and distributed fridge magnets bearing security tips to all the participants.
They are now on course to roll out a series of lectures on traditional Chinese medicine, which will be delivered by experienced doctors from top-grade hospitals.
Party life in many of Shanghai's foreign-funded enterprises follows a pattern whereby the branch produces a draft plan of action for a specific issue and then discusses it with the local community Party organization, under Sun's leadership.
The revised plan is then implemented jointly by company Party members and third-party specialists. Usually these plans are funded by the company and the local community organization.
One of the world's leading manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, Anheuser-Busch InBev, employs this hybrid model.
According to Han Xue, head of the company's 43-member Party branch, members engage in volunteer work organized by the local community Party organization and in homegrown charities that are closely related to the companies' core businesses.
For instance, AB InBev feels that it has an obligation to set a high industry standard in encouraging a responsible attitude toward its products. As a result, Party members act as advocates, promoting responsible drinking and discouraging alcohol abuse.
Since 2011, they have also financed the construction of three Hope Schools, establishments that provide free education for children from impoverished rural families, and regularly donate school supplies to the impoverished students.
"The rationale is that if Party members play a pioneering role in corporate social responsibility, it will be beneficial to company's brand image and the individual employees," said Han.
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(China Daily 11/17/2012 page1)