China plans to send artists, filmmakers and TV personnel to live in rural areas so they can “form a correct view of art,” state media outlets said yesterday.
The move is the latest by the Chinese Communist Party to echo the Mao Zedong (毛澤東) era, during which intellectuals and others were “sent down” to work among peasants in the countryside.
Chinese Internet users reacted to the decision with derision, with some calling it the beginning of a “new Cultural Revolution.”
The move comes weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) told a group of artists not to chase popularity with “vulgar” works, but to promote socialism instead, with state media comparing his remarks to those in a speech by Mao.
China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said in a notice on Monday it “will organize film and TV series production staff on a quarterly basis to go to grassroots communities, villages and mining sites to do field study and experience life.”
Scriptwriters, directors, broadcasters and anchors are also to be sent to work and live for at least 30 days “in ethnic minority and border areas, and areas that made major contributions to the country’s victory in the revolutionary war,” the notice said.
The measure “will be a boost in helping artists form a correct view of art and create more masterpieces,” it added in the notice.
Ideological restrictions have tightened under Xi, with authorities censoring Ai Weiwei (艾未未) and other artists they perceive as challenging the party’s right to rule.
Joseph Cheng (鄭宇碩), professor of political science at the City University of Hong Kong, described the move as a Mao-style “rectification campaign” aimed at silencing potential critics as Xi leads a far-reaching anticorruption sweep.
“Xi Jinping is under considerable pressure, because his anticorruption campaign certainly has hurt a lot of vested interests,” Cheng said. “This is again a time of pressure tactics on the intelligentsia and on the critics.”
The new edict harkens back to the era of Mao, when popular art was little more than propaganda, but Cheng said that whereas the Cultural Revolution was aimed at the entire intelligentsia, Monday’s move was more targeted.
“This campaign is a bit different in the sense that as long as you don’t challenge the authorities — as long as you keep quiet — you are safe to keep making money,” he said.
Some netizens posting on microblogging site Sina Weibo voiced worry about the announcement.
“Is this a new Cultural Revolution?” one blogger wrote. “Even the media watchdog is beginning to be rectified.”
“I want to know who organized Lu Xun (魯迅), Lao She (老舍) and Mo Yan (莫言) to go to grassroots communities,” another netizen wrote, referring to three of China’s most revered writers.
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