Tag Archives: Chinese politics

Civilisation-State: Modernising the Past to Civilise the Future in Jiang Zemin’s China

This research article by Nicholas Dynon in this April’s issue of the peer-reviewed China: an International Journal analyses the largely overlooked role of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the promotion of “socialist spiritual civilisation” in contemporising the exemplary role of the Chinese state and in informing the state’s efforts to rehabilitate China’s cultural traditions.

Drawing material from handbooks, newspaper articles and posters published between 1996 and 2002, it may be argued that the ability of the Party to reclaim the achievement of “civilisation” as an ultimate goal in Chinese history has a direct impact on its continuing pursuit to underwrite its long-term legitimacy. The article departs from the existing scholarship to locate the CPC’s civilising discourses within an historical context that predates the apotheosis of the CPC itself and links them to the sacred mission of maintaining the Chinese civilisation-state.

Available here at Project Muse

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[Creating a civilised community – propaganda poster in a residential compound in Shawo, Beijing]

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Shanghai 2010 World Expo at Street Level: The Local Dimensions of a Public Diplomacy Spectacle

Internationally, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo was a major tourism and branding draw card for its host city. Domestically, the Expo constituted a major source of national pride and a key vehicle for the promotion of official messages reinforcing traditional state propaganda themes. Like the Beijing Olympics two years prior, the Shanghai World Expo was an opportunity for the state to cross-brand its messages with the fervor and prestige surrounding a world-class event.

This essay’s seven photographs explore the domestic cross-branding of the World Expo with traditional propaganda messaging as it appeared in advertising posters/billboards throughout downtown Shanghai during the Expo. Although not all constitute direct political advertising, they all nevertheless perform a definite ideological role in reinforcing key propaganda themes.

The public relations machinery of the Chinese state has emerged as a formidable force in the production of messages in what some have referred to as a post-communist era. As these photographs suggest, this is due largely to an adaptation of Chinese Communist Party signs and symbols to the new advertising industry and media of the reform era and, importantly, to their increasingly decentralized and commercialized production. Read more at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy blog

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[Go Shanghai! – street-side poster propaganda in downtown Shanghai during the 2010 World Expo]

 

Happy New Year!

Xinnian Daiji!

Happy New Year to all of our supporters!

Best wishes for a prosperous year of the horse!

China and Nation Branding: The Diplomat

The latest piece by Nicholas Dynon in The Diplomat

In a speech to members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee last week, Chinese president Xi Jinping called for renewed efforts to promote China’s cultural soft power. “The stories of China should be well told, voices of China well spread, and characteristics of China well explained,” Xi said.

Various commentators have long slammed China’s state-led efforts to strengthen the country’s soft power. Joseph Nye, to whom the soft power concept is credited, has commented that the Chinese government just doesn’t get soft power. Nye quotes Pang Zhongying of Renmin University as describing Beijing’s focus on promoting ancient cultural icons in terms of a “poverty of thought” among Chinese leaders.

Culture has emerged as the cornerstone of Beijing’s policies to develop soft power, yet the efficacy of this “all culture, no politics” approach has been widely criticized. Nation branding approaches also suggest that Beijing’s culture plugging is, at the very least, a monumental waste of effort. Read more

Beijing bird nest stadium

 

[Beijing’s national stadium, which hosted the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony – a stunning cultural extravaganza completely devoid of politics]

The Language of Terrorism in China: Balancing Foreign and Domestic Policy Imperatives

The latest article by Nicholas Dynon for the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief…

In late October, central Beijing tasted terror when a flaming SUV rammed a crowd of tourists at the city’s iconic Tiananmen gate, killing the three alleged perpetrators and two bystanders. Authorities were quick to label the attack an act of jihadist terror.

The ensuing media commentary and controversy prompted questions around how terrorism is defined—and how terror incidents are framed—by Chinese authorities. Were the perpetrators of the attack radicalized Uighur Islamist insurgents or were they just normal folk marginalized and driven to extreme measures by an arbitrary and belligerent state?

Ultimately, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), an extremist group with purported links to al-Qaeda, praised the attack in a speech given by its leader posted online—a move that seemingly vindicated official finger pointing. While this perpetuates Beijing’s narrative of China as victim of international terrorism, it takes the focus away from a more inconvenient truth. Self-immolation, bombings and other indiscriminate attacks have abounded in China in recent years, and most have been carried out by citizens with no known terrorist, separatist or ethnic minority links. Yet as frequent as these attacks are, the use of “terrorism” to describe them in official media reportage has been noticeably absent. Read more

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[Propaganda feature in Beijing Airport’s Terminal 3, where frustrated petitioner, Ji Zhongxing, detonated a homemade bomb last July]

 

Season’s Greetings from the Line 21 Project

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Thank you to our supporters for a great 2013. Wishing everyone a safe and prosperous 2014!

Dream of the Red Future: Will the Chinese Dream Become an Enduring Classic?

In a scene in Cao Xueqin’s epic 18th century classic, Dream of the Red Chamber, protagonist Baoyu drifts into a dream while in a courtly chamber. His unconscious journey takes him to the “land of illusion,” where the fairy, named Disenchantment, reveals the fates of several characters close to him.

John Minford, professor of Chinese at the Australian National University, suggests the underlying theme of this great work is one of “seeing through the Red Dust,” beyond the illusion of earthly “reality.” Richard J. Smith of Rice University notes its theme of the “interpenetration of reality and illusion,” and of true and false producing one another. Ultimately, the work is semi-autobiographical, and reflects lost dreams, particularly the waning fortunes of Cao Xueqin’s own family and, by extension, that of the Qing dynasty.

While perhaps seated in his chamber in Zhongnanhai, Chinese president Xi Jinping recently dreamt his own “Chinese Dream,” but rather than foretelling a future of ill-fortune and decay, this dream speaks of a China on the ascendancy and of the promise of national rejuvenation… read more at World Policy Blog