Last week, the international press went gaga over the release of an app called Study China. The app was developed by engineers at China’s Communist Party School, and it gives users easy access to the complete written works and sayings of Chinese president Xi Jinping. The inevitable Western comparisons to Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book” quickly followed news of the app’s release.
Interestingly though, the app is doing quite well in China. According to App Annie, it has been among the top five iPhone education apps in China since Thursday, and as of this writing it has a relatively positive 3.5 star rating. All the Western media attention has also boosted the app’s visibility in other countries; last week’s news spike saw the app break into the top 200 educational apps in the US and Great Britain, and it reached the top 100 in Singapore.
It’s not clear how many Chinese are really downloading the app to study the wisdom of their fearless leader, though. A peek through the app’s reviews on the China App Store reveals plenty of critical commentary, even among the five-star reviews. More than a few Chinese reviewers have also made the “Little Red Book” comparison with comments like “I guess a cultural revolution is coming soon” and “this is truly a step backward in history.”