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    Virtual Reality Ideology Test Panned as Pointless Gimmick

    Shandong county employs 21st-century tech to quiz Communist cadres, 200 years after Marx’s birth.

    A small county in eastern China’s Shandong province is using cutting edge technology to test officials’ Party spirit.

    Local media commended Zouping County last week for its pioneering service center for Party education, which analyzes Party members’ knowledge and loyalty using a virtual reality (VR) quiz.

    The center, opened last month, cost 700,000 yuan ($110,000) to build, and offers education, testing, ideological “rehabilitation,” and other services across its three buildings. Local Party Secretary Duan Shuguo told reporters that the center aims to take the county’s Party establishment to the next level.

    The testing section of the center seats participants in office chairs, where they don VR goggles and headphones and use a clicker to go through multiple-choice questions on topics like corruption. After the exam, the participant’s report automatically prints in another room. Unsatisfactory results — whether due to incorrect answers or answering too quickly or too slowly — flag individuals for further schooling in face-to-face or video chats with Party educators.

    Applying cutting-edge technology in a scenario where simple computers would suffice has attracted criticism online. “This is a joke,” one netizen commented on microblog platform Weibo — though others praised the center’s innovation. Even state media outlet Shanghai Observer published a commentary on Monday slamming the Shandong government for abusing both financial and human resources to develop gimmicks.

    When Sixth Tone called the county government office on Tuesday, the person in charge of the education program refused to comment.

    China has embraced VR technology across a wide range of applications, from courts to funeral homes — and even archeology.

    Albert Chen, chief operating officer of Vancouver-based VR startup Morfus Mixed Reality, told Sixth Tone that VR can revolutionize education, particularly in fields like medicine and architecture, where spatial reasoning and hands-on practice is essential.

    “But if it’s just like a university entrance examination, then we don’t think it’s necessary,” Chen commented.

    Editor: Qian Jinghua.

    (Header image: John Locher/IC)