“These cultural products have their own artistic value,” said Denise Ho, an assistant professor of history at Yale University who studies 20th-century history in China. “For many Chinese, there is a nostalgia for some aspect of the Mao era.”
- Behind the Hong Kong takeover: A year ago, the city’s freedoms were reduced at breakneck speed. But the crackdown lasted for years and many signals were missed.
- A year later in Hong Kong: Neighbors are invited to point out each other. Children are taught to look for traitors. The Communist Party is remaking the city.
- Charting China’s post-Covid path: Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, seeks to balance confidence and caution as his country progresses while other countries continue to fight the pandemic.
- A challenge for the global leadership of the United States: As President Biden predicts a struggle between democracies and their opponents, Beijing is eager to defend the other side.
- “Red tourism” flourishes: New and improved attractions dedicated to the history of the Communist Party, or a sanitized version of it, draw crowds ahead of the party’s centenary.
By reviving older works, Xi seems keen to remind audiences of the holiday’s glory days. His government has redoubled its efforts to strengthen ideological loyalty among artists. This year, a government-backed industry association issued a moral code for performing artists – dancers, musicians and acrobats included – calling on them to be loyal to the party and help advance the socialist cause.
Xi, in a ceremony this week at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, presented centenary medals to 29 party officials, including Lan Tianye, an actor often described as a “red artist,” and Lu Qiming, a patriotic composer known for the play “Ode to the Red Flag”.
“For Xi, as for Mao, art is above all a political instrument,” said Professor Ho.
The Chinese government has tried to use music, dance, television, and movies in recent years to improve its image, especially among young people, many of whom have no direct connection to the communist revolution of 1949.
A rap song celebrating the centenary, titled “100%,” has been widely shared on the Chinese internet in recent days. But the 15-minute track, featuring 100 performers, was mocked for its wooden propaganda slogans.
“Our spaceships fly in the sky,” says a lyric. “The new China must ignite.”
The performers say they hope the high caliber of centennial productions, including elaborate costumes, sets and visual effects, will appeal to a younger audience.