When it comes to selling products, Chinese advertising firms employ many of the snazzy techniques of Madison Avenue. But when it comes to selling ideology, the Chinese government is still stuck in the Mao Zedong (毛澤東) era.
The propaganda czars have recently turned the death of a small-town police chief into a nationwide media blitz, their largest effort in several years to create
a new Communist Party hero. Eager to boost the image of China's much-maligned police officers, authorities have ordered blanket coverage on the nightly news and by most major newspapers and magazines of the good deeds of Ren Changxia (任長霞), a female police chief who died in a car accident in April.
In bygone years, the "model worker" technique was a tool for galvanizing the collective spirit -- turning an ordinary good citizen into a paragon of selflessness. But in today's society, where commercial and individual interests dominate and cynicism abounds, the message is lost on the Chinese populace.
"It's Stone Age stuff," scoffed Jing Jun, director of the Social Policy Institute at Tsinghua University. "This kind of style, making her into a Joan of Arc kind of hero, is unbelievable in the pure sense of the word. It doesn't make her human."
Some experts say the outdated style shows how out of touch the government is with modern society.
"This is a warning signal for the government," said Li Xiguang, vice director of Tsinghua University's School of Journalism. "The government is losing its agenda-setting power. For the next generation, it has a big, big challenge."
Ren had been police chief of Dengfeng, a small city in Henan Province, for three years when she died. She was known for working tirelessly to chase down criminals and for listening to citizen complaints. She gave out her mobile phone number to the public and adopted an orphaned girl. At least 140,000 Dengfeng residents turned out to mourn her, more than one-fifth of the town, according to official media reports.
The propaganda campaign has included reams of file footage of her meetings with local residents. She has been eulogized with coverage by the state-run media of officials and police officers around the country holding "study sessions" of Ren's work, including a session that took place in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, where China's legislature meets annually. Even the country's top leaders, President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), have urged police officers and party officials to follow her good example.
Chinese people who have paid attention to the campaign, which has lasted throughout the month of June, don't doubt that Ren was a better-than-average cop. But the lavish praise heaped on her also raised questions.
"Why do they always wait until the person's dead?" said Han Fengling, 30, an insurance agent in Beijing. "It seems like it's too late. They should've praised her when she was still alive. It would've been more effective."
In China's lively online chat rooms, citizens are even more skeptical. The propaganda shows only the positive, but many see only the negative.
"In everyday life, it's very difficult to see a good police officer," one person wrote. "You can see it only on TV."
"It's very moving, but the details beg a lot of questions," one person wrote. "In dealing with all those cases (of citizens' grievances), why were they not handled by her predecessors? What were they doing?"
Chinese people have become more cynical than ever about the government and corruption. Police in particular are seen as corrupt and uncaring.
"The irony is when people look at this, they see what's lacking in society," said Dali Yang, a political science professor at the University of Chicago.
Since taking office more than a year ago, Hu and Wen have tried to differentiate themselves from their predecessors, especially Jiang Zemin, by portraying themselves as compassionate toward ordinary and disadvantaged people.
While Jiang emphasized rapid economic development, the new leadership has endeavored to strike a populist stance.
Over the years, the Communist Party has had no shortage of model workers. There was Wang Jinxi (王進喜), the "Iron Man" of the northeast oil fields who died in 1971. Wang's greatest deed was jumping into a vat of cold water to stir cement with his own body.
The best-known is Lei Feng (雷鋒), a young soldier whose posthumously found "diary" showed his undying love for the revolution and Chairman Mao. A national campaign was launched in 1963 to study the "Lei Feng spirit."
To this day, people still learn of Lei Feng's good deeds.
But in an era when Michael Jordan and Bill Gates are their greatest idols, a model soldier can hardly compete in the eyes of Chinese schoolchildren.
"There's a very deep generation gap," Jing said. "They really need to find a new way to reach out."
French firm DCI-DESCO in April won a bid to upgrade Taiwan’s Lafayette frigates, which has strained ties between China and France. In 1991, France sold Taiwan six Lafayette frigates and in 1992 sold it 60 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. To prevent arms sales between the nations, China negotiated an agreement with France and in 1994 in a joint statement, France promised that there would be no future arms sales to Taiwan. From China’s point of view, the DCI-DESCO deal constitutes a breach of the agreement, but the French stance is that it is not selling Taiwan new weapons, but instead providing a
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in her inaugural address on May 20 firmly said: “We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.” The Chinese government was not too happy, and later that day, an opinion piece on the Web site of China’s state broadcaster China Central Television said: “While Tsai’s first inaugural address four years ago was read by Beijing as an ‘unfinished answer sheet,’ the one she presented this time was even more below-par.” Speaking to the China Review News Agency, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies vice president
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc worldwide. Despite countries being under pressure economically and from the novel coronavirus, China’s National People’s Congress last month passed national security legislation for Hong Kong, a decision that has shocked the world. Let there be no doubt: This move is the beginning of the end of China’s plans for “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Proposed amendments to extradition laws last year ignited massive protests in Hong Kong, with millions of participants, shocking the world and making confrontation between government forces and those who opposed the change a permanent part of Hong
Protecting domestic workers Ms Heidi Chang’s (張姮燕) article (“Employers need protections too,” May 24, page 6) made the case that “migrant workers’” rights had improved in Taiwan, but employers’ rights had not, going so far as to complain that all employers are treated equally under the law — as though this was not how the law was supposed to work. The truth is that the rights of foreign blue-collar workers have still not caught up with the rights their employers have always enjoyed. This segment of the foreign community in Taiwan is more likely than other groups to encounter abuse. Recently, a care