In China, a Place Where Maoism Still Reigns (Updated)

As China’s socialist past is being glorified by local officials , academics, and others throughout China, the New York Times Magazine visits Nanjie Village, known as the “reddest village in China”:

For 34 years, Wang has been secretary of the local branch of the Communist Party, and under his leadership, Nanjiecun has held fast to a retro red vision of China at the same time that much of the rest of the country has flirted with, or outright embraced, a free-market economy. Villagers wake up every morning to loudspeakers blaring the classic anthem “The East Is Red,” take a lunch break when they hear “Sailing the Seas Depends on the Helmsman,” a paean to Mao, and leave work to “Socialism Is Good.” It is one of the few remaining self-styled Maoist collectives in the country.

Which is not to say that the construction of skyscrapers and shopping malls has wiped China clean of Mao’s influence. The nation finds itself gripped by something of a red revival these days. Conservative factions within the Communist Party have been defending Mao’s legacy with greater vehemence than usual, and top officials are pushing a campaign to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the party’s founding on July 1. Workplaces have been told to organize employee choirs to belt out “red songs.”

Wang is delighted by this, of course. “When we restarted collectivization” in 1986, to combat falling incomes, “we asked ourselves what kind of thought can guide our practices,” Wang said. “We concluded that it was Mao Zedong thought. It’s a scientific theory. It’s a ‘serve the people’ theory.”

The New York Times report includes a video. Read more about Nanjie via CDT.

With the 80th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party approaching on July 1, the Guardian’s Tania Branigan also looks at Mao’s role in today’s society in China:

The CPC has plenty to celebrate. It began in 1921 when 13 men gathered on a boat in eastern China to create an illegal organisation. Today it is the world’s largest and most powerful political party, with more than 80 million members and control of the world’s second largest economy.

Despite this, it seems necessary to keep today’s members in awe of the glory of the past, hence a busy campaign complete with revolutionary tours, red song concerts and a new patriotic movie that sprinkles its account of the party’s creation with a host of star cameos aimed at younger viewers.

As the party moves ever further from its roots – the new film is co-sponsored by Cadilllac – it exploits them to bolster its relentless, Leninist grip on political power.

“This is an absurd era,” Professor He Bing of the China University of Politics and Law told graduates in a bold speech this month.

“They encourage you to sing revolutionary songs, but do not encourage you to make revolution; they encourage you to watch [the new movie] The Great Achievement of Founding The Party, but they do not encourage you to establish a party.”

See also “The changing face of China’s Communists” from the Globe and Mail.

Update: Meanwhile, the Chinese government is making efforts to ensure that the latest propaganda blockbuster, in honor of the CCP’s anniversary, is a box office hit. From the New York Times:

The movie, which opened on Wednesday on almost all of the country’s 6,200 screens, is part of a campaign to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party next Friday. It is also playing in 29 American theaters, including ones in New York and Los Angeles.

The movie, along with its sister film, “The Founding of a Republic,” which was made for the 60th anniversary of the birth of the People’s Republic of China, in 1949, is an attempt to update the state-sponsored propaganda movie to appeal to younger audiences, by adding screen stars, a subplot and modern production methods. The government has stacked the deck, so success is virtually guaranteed. Government offices and schools are buying tickets in bulk and organizing viewing trips in the middle of the workday, and there are officially sanctioned movie review contests, presentations of paintings inspired by the film and group singing of classic Communist songs at cinemas.

The film claims to have a cast of 178 of the most well-known Chinese-language actors, including Chow Yun-fat and Andy Lau. It borrows stylistic cues from popular Korean soap operas and makes Mao Zedong, the Communist Party leader who died in 1976, both a romancer and a revolutionary, playing up the love story between him and his second wife. It cost $12 million to make. By contrast, just over 10 percent of movies made in China last year had a budget of more than $1.5 million.

Watch a trailer of the film via YouTube:

June 24, 2011 1:06 PM
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Categories: Politics, Society