A newly composed patriotic song lauding Chinese President Xi Jinping is taking to the airwaves in China, as state media published a lengthy article painting the country's "unrivaled helmsman" in rosy tones on Friday.
The song, "To Follow You is to Follow the Sun", is strongly reminiscent of revolutionary songs praising late supreme leader Mao Zedong, of whom choirs of patriotic singers once sang that he was "the reddest sun burning in all our hearts."
Another Mao-era ditty proclaimed that "there is a golden sun in Beijing, that shines all over the earth," while the ruling Chinese Communist Party's anthem "The East is Red," contains the lines: "The east is red; the sun is rising. Mao Zedong has appeared in China."
The new hymn to Xi, accompanied by patriotic images of Chinese flag ceremonies and saluting soldiers, proclaims that his "deep and genuine love shines across the earth, making the rivers flow and the ships sail."
Like many of the Mao-era songs, the lyrics impute almost supernatural significance to Xi, whose brand of "New Era" political thought was enshrined last month into the ruling party's founding document.
"The sweat of your brow ... waters the earth, giving us our harvest of grains," the lyrics say. "Your ideology illuminates everything, making the people hard-working and prosperous."
"To follow you is to follow the sun .. the people cry out in welcome and sing of the Chinese dream," runs the chorus.
In the video, people dance, smile and wave in colourful ethnic minority costume, on fields of wheat, Mongolian grasslands, while a train of camels threads through sunlit sand dunes.
Xinhua gushes over Xi
Xi's "vision" of the Chinese dream was echoed on Friday by state news agency Xinhua.
"China will become a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful," the agency said, describing Xi's plan for the next few decades.
"At this point, Xi is the unrivaled helmsman who will steer China toward this great dream," the article said, using another epithet that was once used to describe the "Great Helmsman" Mao Zedong.
"Xi's indomitable spirit originates from his faith in Marxism," it said, proceeding to list the president's appearances among ordinary Chinese people.
"He queued and dined with members of the public in a roadside restaurant," it said. "He stood in heavy rain talking with front-line workers."
"He has walked into farmers' barns and kitchens [and] checked the menu at nursing homes," it said.
Beijing-based political commentator Zha Jianguo said Xi appears to be on the way to complete dictatorship.
"In a democratic country, it is possible to have doubts about one's leaders, and you are allowed to criticize them," Zha said. "There is also a political opposition, which can point out the leaders' mistakes, and bring them to light. They are watching out for issues."
"But in a dictatorship, they make gods of their leaders."
A Beijing resident surnamed Liu said she was surprised to see the resurgence of Mao-era politics, just a few decades after the end of the disastrous Cultural Revolution (1966-1967).
'Very dark road'
But she said not everyone will take the "New Era" at face value.
"In the age of the internet, everything is pretty transparent," Liu said. "Just because nobody is opposing or criticizing you, doesn't mean that they can't see clearly what's going on."
"This is a very dark road to travel down, and when you get to the end of it, it peters out."
Meanwhile, a Catholic news service reported that officials in the eastern province of Jiangxi are replacing religious images in people's homes with portraits of Xi.
Social media users from Jiangxi's Huangjinbu township showed officials removing images of the cross and Jesus, because the Christian families had "recognized their mistakes and decided not to entrust to Jesus but to the party"
Officials said Christians had "voluntarily" removed 624 religious images and posted 453 portraits of Xi, the Asian Catholic news service UCA News reported.
It quoted "Father John in northern China" as saying that Xi had become "another Mao" following last month's 19th party congress.
U.S.-based Chinese Protestant pastor Liu Yi told RFA that the move is part of a drive to force China's Christians to show their loyalty to the atheist Communist Party.
"They're not only demolishing crosses on churches now; they are going into the homes of believers," Liu said. "I notice in particular the claim that the religious images were torn down voluntarily, when in fact this happened under duress."
"The aim is very clear, which is to force religious believers to turn their faith to the party and to Xi Jinping ... who has wanted Protestant worship to become more Chinese all along, as well as to accept greater control by the party," he said. "It is likely that we will see this happening in other places in future."
UCA News also cited concerns over two videos published by the government-backed Chinese Society of Education calling on Chinese children to report anyone, including their parents, who might be suspected of "illegally relaying confidential information, especially to foreigners."
The videos provide a hotline phone number to report "suspicious activities," it said.
During the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, young people were encouraged to criticize their elders, including parents and teachers, and their denunciations often led to detentions, beating and other ill-treatment, and sometimes the deaths of those denounced.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.