Why Does the Communist Party Leadership Still “Sing Red” in 2012?
In 2008, after the Sichuan earthquake and the Beijing Olympics, Politburo Standing Committee propaganda chief Li Changchun, CCP Central Propaganda Department Director Liu Yunshan, and Beijing Municipal Party Committee General Secretary Liu Qi, all wrote articles praising the “whole nation system.” The Chinese Communist Party was determined to present the “Chinese model” and “Chinese road” to the world. This propaganda reached its peak in 2009, when the financial crisis spread across the globe.
That same year, two months before Liu Xiaobo was arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” in connection with Charter 08, Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao made a speech at the third Plenary Session of the 17th Party Congress declaring that “anti-westernization and anti-separatism are long-term priorities of our Party’s political and ideological line.” He emphasized that “the Party must consistently strengthen the management of public opinion and propaganda, do a good job in managing media and the Internet, and create a good environment of public opinion for the recovery of the economy and maintaining social stability.” The speech was a continuation of Hu’s address at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th Party Congress in 2004, when he was elected Chairman of the Central Military Commission and said, “In the management of ideology, we must learn from North Korea and Cuba.”
In 2010, China surpassed Japan to become the second largest economy in the world. That same year, the Chinese Communist regime came into conflict with the international community when it tried to interfere with the presentation of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize. Several hundred dissidents were detained or put under house arrest, and their Internet and telephone services were cut off to prevent them from expressing their opinions. Prominent academics, including renowned economist Mao Yushi, were blocked from traveling abroad for academic exchange on the grounds that they might “endanger national security.” Dissident Liu Xianbin, who wrote five articles criticizing the shoddy construction of buildings in Wenchuan, the epicentre of the Sichuan quake, was arrested for the fourth time on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” In the end, the government succeeded in preventing anyone from China from attending the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on December 10.
2011 brought an even greater level of social conflict in China. Authorities imposed a heavy prison sentence on Liu Xianbin, arrested Ai Weiwei, and criminalized dissidents Chen Xi, Chen Wei, and Li Tie for exercising their right to free speech, handing them heavy sentences during the Christmas holidays to intimidate society. In October, the Party passed a resolution at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 17th Party Congress to develop “Party culture” and intensify control over ideology-related publishing.
The 18th Party Congress will be held this year after a series of events—the Wukan anti-government protests, the Chongqing incident with Politburo member Bo Xilai, the Chen Guangcheng incident—that has exposed an unprecedented social and political crises in the “China pattern” and the “Chinese road.” The response? Premier Wen Jiabao publicly announced that there is a danger that the “Cultural Revolution” could return. A government-sponsored “sing red” campaign in Chongqing was launched to praise Chairman Mao. The purpose of China’s “opening to the outside world” 34 years ago was to reform “Mao Zedong’s socialism”; now an even bigger wave of “sing red” is being pushed by CCP leadership in their Zhongnanhai headquarters.
This year, on the 70th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s “Yan’an Talks on Literature and Art,” a forum was held in Zhongnanhai. At that forum, Hu Jintao issued a directive saying that Chairman Mao’s Talks are “a classic document and our Party’s guiding principle in literature and art work.” The Writer’s Publishing House organized 100 writers, who were each paid ¥1,000, to hand-copy the Talks into a collector’s album. (As a countermeasure, activists launched an online campaign to hand-copy the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights.”)
Mao’s “Yan’an Talks on Literature and Art” created a blueprint for brainwashing the Party and people. Mao Zedong republished his “Talks” in 1966 and 1967, when he launched the Cultural Revolution. This year’s Zhongnanhai commemoration is the third time the CCP has recycled Chairman Mao’s Yan’an Talks, and serves as irrefutable evidence of the Chinese regime’s ongoing ideological dictatorship in the age of globalization and the Internet.
Gao Yu is a renowned journalist who spent nearly seven years in prison for her work. She is a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre.