A “Glorious Mission” in “Cultural War”

An article in USA Today describes a soft power maneuver that seems to digitally actualize Hu Jintao’s recent reference to the ongoing “cultural war” between China and the West:

“International hostile forces” use thought and culture “to Westernize and split” China, Hu stated in a speech publicized in January in the party magazine Seeking Truth.

At least China’s embattled youth can strike back at the West come May when Glorious Mission, a civilian version of the Chinese army’s first training simulation game, goes on sale, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper. Co-developed by the People’s Liberation Army, the online, first-person shooter game allows players to destroy enemies that resemble U.S.forces.

Glorious Mission and other “serious games” supported by Chinese authorities form one front in Beijing’s multiheaded cultural offensive, launched last fall. There’s been fighting talk from Hu’s likely successor, Xi Jinping.

Here is some footage from the video game from NDTV:

The USA Today article goes on to mention longstanding censorship policies, and the recent limitations on entertainment programming in China. The article includes quotes by Chinese intellectuals hinting at possible policy contradictions between soft power campaigns and ones aimed at bolstering moral correctness:

Grabbing the world’s attention will remain a tough task unless the government relaxes its decades-long control of “cultural products,” cautions Yin Hong, a professor of film and television studies at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

“The restrictions on culture always make it hard for China to produce world-influencing literature and cinema,” writes China’s most popular blogger, novelist Han Han.

The Diplomat’s David Cohen has more to say about the self-defeating nature of China’s current “cultural” policy:

Paradoxically, the call for strengthening Chinese culture may mean pulling popular (and apolitical)  homegrown content off the air and out of the cinemas – there has been a recent spate of bans directed at popular Chinese TV, including dating shows and, most eccentrically, dramas that involve time travel.  Of course, this type of cultural censorship has a long history in China, including a previous ineffectual effort to force moviegoers to watch a martial arts epic about Confucius instead of Avatar.

Censorship is likely to cripple the international prong of cultural security – the effort to build a high-powered cultural industry.  China’s efforts, such as the recent “Flowers of War,” which starred Christian Bale in what was an effort to communicate the Chinese perspective on World War II to a foreign audience, are frequently overshadowed by negative stories. In this case, Bale was forcibly prevented from meeting a rights activist under informal house arrest.

January 13, 2012 6:39 PM
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