Political Essay Says Revolution in China to End 'Sissy' Celebrity Billionaire Culture

State-run media under the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reprint the essay in full, which signals a 'profound' political shift under leader Xi Jinping.
By Jane Tang
2021.09.02
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Political Essay Says Revolution in China to End 'Sissy' Celebrity Billionaire Culture A screen shows a video of overseas celebrity idols at a fan merchandise store in Beijing, Sept. 2, 2021.
AFP

A political essay by a little-known commentator has been given pride of place by China's state-run media in recent days, suggesting a profound shift in political direction under ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping away from the pro-market policies of the past four decades, political analysts told RFA.

The essay, titled "Everyone can tell that profound social change is under way" and printed in CCP mouthpiece the People's Daily, uses the recent crackdown on China's scandal-hit entertainment industry to argue that profound political change is afoot that will focus on easing inequality.

The essay argues that the CCP has launched a "profound revolution" with its crackdown on celebrity culture, billionaires, and the private sector generally, citing Beijing's blocking of Ant Financial's initial public offering (IPO) in New York in late 2020, as well as an ongoing probe into the business operations of ride-sharing app Didi Chuxing.

"China is undergoing a profound revolution ... turning away from a capital-centered approach to a people-centered one," the essay said. "It represents a return to the original aims of the CCP ... and to the essence of socialism."

"This revolution will wash all of the dirt away," said the essay, signed by Li Guangman, columnist and former editor of the trade publication Central China Electric Power.

"Our capital markets will no longer be a paradise for capitalists to get rich overnight; our cultural sphere no longer a paradise for sex-crazed celebrities, and the worship of Western culture will no longer be a feature of our news coverage or public opinion," Li wrote.

The article was also reprinted on Aug. 29 by state news agency Xinhua, CCTV, China News Service, the Global Times website and Guangming.com.

"While we are not trying to kill the rich to help the poor, we need to solve the problem of the growing income gap between the richest and poorest, and seek common prosperity, allowing ordinary workers a greater share in the wealth our society creates," the essay said.

"Literary and artistic workers, film and television workers must get down to the grassroots of society, making ordinary workers and ordinary people the masters and protagonists of art and literature," it said, adding that the ongoing political shift in China is in response to "barbaric and ferocious attacks" from the United States.

An ideological purge

Feng Chongyi, a political scholar at the University of Technology in Sydney, said Xi has been rolling out an ideological purge across every area of people's lives since taking power in 2012.

"First they rectified the Big Vs [social media stars] of Weibo and WeChat, and now it's the turn of the film and TV industries," Feng said.

He said the essay suggests that a form of "fascist aesthetics" will be imposed, top down, by Beijing.

"Everyone can tell that the party is moving ahead with a monumental campaign for dominance, which is explicit about including the elements of fascist aesthetics: no feminine-looking sissy boys, a strong party spirit, a return to the red."

"The whole of culture is about to become an amalgam of communist-style centralization and fascism," Feng said.

Cai Xia, a former professor at the CCP Party School, said the party is launching a campaign that it hopes will ensure its political survival.

"This rectification campaign wasn't triggered by any one thing," Cai told RFA. "Whenever the CCP's highest-ranking leaders fear the end is nigh, that's when they launch an ideological campaign."

She said the move was in part likely triggered by growing fiscal deficits among local governments, and the economic impact of the Sino-U.S. trade war.

Like the Cultural Revolution

Cai said the campaign had little to do with any genuine concern for the "people," however.

"The more people start to hold you to account, the more you have to incite populism in the name of the people, or hatred of the rich, or foreigners, to escape from your own predicament," Cai said.

She likened the move to those made by late supreme leader Mao Zedong, that culminated in the political violence of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which she said resulted from a campaign launched by Mao in the early 1960s to eliminate those who sought to hold him to account for the famines of the Great Leap Forward, during which hundreds of thousands of people died.

"He ignited that fanatical cult of personality among the people so as to consolidate his personal power," Cai said. "Can you see how this is happening all over again in China?"

Yang Jianli, U.S.-based founder of the Foundation for China in the 21st Century, said Xi's ultimate aim is to build a personal empire.

"Xi Jinping is using populism and nationalism as a foundation to build this empire," he said, adding that there will be no "return to socialism" in any meaningful sense of the word.

"It is a profound change in one sense, but we're not talking about a return to Marxist fundamentals," Yang said. "Nor is it a move towards capitalism."

"They are abandoning Deng Xiaoping's policies on domestic and foreign affairs alike and forging a path for China according to Xi," he said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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