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Some experts say the outdated style shows how out of touch the government is with modern society.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."
With its passing of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to tighten its noose on Hong Kong. Gone is the broken 1997 promise that Hong Kong would have free, democratic elections by 2017. Gone also is any semblance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. All the CCP had to do was hold the fort until 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework would end and Hong Kong would rejoin the “motherland.” It would be a “demonstration-free” event. Instead, with the seemingly benevolent velvet glove off, the CCP has revealed its true iron
At the end of last month, Paraguayan Ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillen told a group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that his president had decided to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from the Chinese government and local businesses who would like to see a switch to Beijing. This followed the Paraguayan Senate earlier this year voting against a proposal to establish ties with China in exchange for medical supplies. This constituted a double rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) diplomatic agenda in a six-month span from Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America. Last year, Tuvalu rejected an
US President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday last week announced it would impose sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a vast paramilitary organization that is directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and has been linked to human rights violations against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. The sanctions follow US travel bans against other Xinjiang officials and the passage of the US Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which authorizes targeted sanctions against mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials, in response to Beijing’s imposition of national security legislation on the territory. The sanctions against the corps would be implemented
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose