China’s many messages to quell unrest – Robert Marquand

From the Christian Science Monitor (link):

As Chinese leaders fret over rising peasant protests, political instability, and a decay of traditional values, the Communist Party is experimenting with multiple new messages – designed to capture the hearts and minds of ordinary people.

“It is a very intelligent strategy,” says a Western historian here. “If people are nostalgic for Mao [Zedong] and old moral values, they’ve got Lei Feng [a model soldier lauded for selfless service]. For those who say China has lost its traditions, they promote Confucianism. For those who long for spirituality, it is Buddhism. The party is saying, ‘you name it, we’ve got it.'”

But the disparate propaganda campaigns often seem like unrelated story lines in search of a central script. Last month, President Hu Jintao launched the “eight honors, eight disgraces” – spelling out the virtues of hard work and discipline, and the vices of cheating and selfishness. Other campaigns include engineering a “new socialist countryside,” promoting old model revolutionary soldiers such as Lei Feng as “cool” for kids, and biweekly ideology sessions for party members billed as a chance to “refresh your mind.”

In a fresh twist, the Party is also quietly backing campaigns that diverge from the standard political propaganda: opening a department of Confucianism at People’s University, turning the late pop star Cong Fei into “young pioneer” style model, holding the first Buddhist forum in modern China on April 13. And a hard-core neo-Marxist faction has been allowed to rise – contrary to a decade of greater liberalization – which helped kill a proposed law allowing private property rights at the annual People’s Congress last month.

See also Reuters’ “China issues slew of regulations to curb media” carried by the Washington Post; also BusinessWeek’s “China’s ‘New Socialist Countryside’” by Stephen Green

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