Monday, 5 March 2012

Is Lei Feng Still Relevant?

An iconic image of Lei Feng when he was in the PLA
The Communist Party of China is reviving Lei Feng as a model citizen for the Chinese to emulate.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of "Learning from Lei Feng Day" where people can stop and remember the selfless young man who served his country.

After he died on March 5, 1962, the Chinese government promoted him as a patriotic individual was born into a poor peasant family in Changsha, Hunan province. When he was seven years old Lei Feng became an orphan and was cared for by the government. Three years later he was enrolled at a primary school.

Apparently he came to school early everyday to clean the classroom to prepare for lessons and after six years of education he became a farmer. According to the story he also contributed to many work units.

When he became 20 he joined the People's Liberation Army. He was only 1.6 metres tall, just shy of the minimum height limit, but nevertheless had good work performance and was stationed in Fushun, Liaoning province. He was also made a party member.

In the army he was said to wash his comrades' clothes and given them free haircuts, as well as given away money and possessions to people in need. And when he traveled by train, he would give his seat to elderly people and help stewards clean up.

Sound too good to be true?

Today many young people in particular question whether Lei Feng is still relevant in today's world.

One Chinese state media outlet stated: "The post-1970s generation learned from Lei Feng, the post-1980s generation revolted against Lei Feng, and the post-1990s generation has forgotten about Lei Feng."

However the Propaganda Department has been quietly bringing back Lei Feng in the last few months that culminated into The Complete Works of Lei Feng that was published in a massive 200,000 Chinese character-long anthology on February 23.

So as the government keeps trying to push Lei Feng as an altruistic example of a good person, the public find it hard to swallow seeing as the state is hardy a selfless body, with its officials perceived as corrupt and selfish.

The more Beijing cultivates an image of him, the more unbelievable it becomes.

Perhaps the most tragic part of this story is that Lei Feng died at the tender age of 22 when a telegraph pole fell on him thanks to a reversing truck he was directing.

So while he was selfless, Lei Feng wasn't that bright.

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