Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 9 News List

To young Chinese, Stone Age hero politics are positively Jurassic

By Julie Chao  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , Beijing

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."

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