Thursday, 16 December 2010

Reviving the Red Revolution

Following The Wynners harking back to the propaganda posters of the 1950s, it was intriguing to find that Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai has launched a "red culture" campaign and has pushed it to a new level with a new microblogging website to promote his revolutionary image and political philosophies.
The site, called Red Microblog, is run by, the website of the Communist Party Chongqing committee's propaganda department.
"I really like the words below by Chairman Mao [Zedong] that 'The world is ours; we should work together'," was one of Bo's postings.
What was also worth noting was that the Chinese characters were put in the similar typeface to the style used for Mao's quotations during the Cultural Revolution.
Also on the site are instructions of Li Changchun, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, which urges low-level authorities to master new media.
"The Red Microblog is aimed at expanding the influence and the coverage of our campaign," the statement said, adding that it was a way to help the public have a closer connection with the red culture campaign that has been ongoing for more than a year in Chongqing.
And Bo has taken up the mantle, asking Chongqing citizens to sing "red" songs, read classical literature and tell revolutionary stories.
They are also encouraged to write text messages praising the country or the city, describing how they were inspired. Apparently by October some 120 million "red text messages" had been sent by local residents.

Early last month Bo even said more than 750,000 students from Chongqing should spend at least four months of their four-year studies working with farmers or People's Liberation Army soldiers. Sound eerily familiar? The campaign is meant to remind the public that during the Cultural Revolution, tens of thousands of students were sent to the countryside.

Why this revival of the Cultural Revolution? We have all heard the horrible things that have happened and now this revisionist campaign has been launched to create a new version of the Cultural Revolution which is frightening to those who went through it or heard about the horror stories.

This need to be "red" is unsettling to see from across the border. It seems the government is keen to build a new generation that's "red". However, many young people are only doing this in the hopes of getting ahead. That's why many join the Communist Party in the first place, expecting that membership will have its benefits.

But in the end they realize it's those who are connected with guanxi who really get ahead, and all the "redness" in their heart won't get them very far.

So it'll be interesting to see how successful Bo's "red culture" campaign is. While numbers may seem impressive, it's really what happens a few years from now that really matters.

And did we mention how Bo's son Bo Guaguoa just finished studying philosophy, politics and economics overseas in Balliol College in Oxford? How come he doesn't have to spend four months working with the farmers or PLA soldiers?

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