PRC vs Cultural Imperialism: Mao 1, Disco Stick 0

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 1/04/2012 08:03:00 AM
I've talked about how a left-leaning British professor of my acquaintance claims that he does a roaring trade in consulting with PRC doctrinaires on Marxist theory. Talk about the contradictions of market authoritarianism. It is befuddling to me how the Communist Party in particular pays lip service to fairly conventional Marxist theory when modern China is precisely the sort of bourgeois society Herr Marx would disapprove of with its often crass materialism and gross inequality. It outdoes any number of Western nations in both respects, while adding insult to injury by having perhaps the lowest labor share of income of any major country. Worker's paradise? I think not.

We recently read news that China is once again entering one of its Western demonization phases. There are any number of reasons being cited for this turn of events: PRC officialdom wanting to deploy its culture as a "soft power" instrument; authorities fearing the erosion of morals via lowest-common denominator Westernized culture; and a tit-for-tat retaliation reflecting resentment at attempts to isolate it economically in its own region. Whatever the reason--I think it's a mixture of different concerns--the screws are being tightened:
President Hu Jintao has said China must strengthen its cultural production to defend against the West’s assault on the country’s culture and ideology, according to an essay in a Communist Party policy magazine published this week. The publication of Mr. Hu’s words signaled that a new major policy initiative announced in October would continue well into 2012.

The essay, which was signed by Mr. Hu and based on a speech he gave in October, drew a sharp line between the cultures of the West and China and effectively said the two sides were engaged in an escalating war. It was published in Seeking Truth, a magazine that evolved from a publication founded by Mao Zedong as a platform for establishing Communist Party principles.

“We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of westernizing and dividing China, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their long-term infiltration,” Mr. Hu said, according to a translation by Reuters. “We should deeply understand the seriousness and complexity of the ideological struggle, always sound the alarms and remain vigilant, and take forceful measures to be on guard and respond,” he added.
So far so propaganda-ish alike the 1954 poster above about how Chairman Mao Gives Us a Happy Life. The New York Times article linked to above goes into how making mainland media outlets more self-sustaining has resulted in progressively racier reality show-type fare (and worse). Mirroring the drug legalization argument, that the number of Western films that can be shown in a given year is limited may only create more demand for such "forbidden fruit":
Chinese leaders have long lamented the fact that Western expressions of popular culture and art seem to overshadow those from China. The top-grossing films in China have been “Avatar” and “Transformers 3,” and the music of Lady Gaga is as popular here as that of any Chinese pop singer. In October, at the sixth plenum of the party’s Central Committee, where Mr. Hu gave his speech, officials discussed the need for bolstering the “cultural security” of China...

Mr. Hu’s words suggested that China would not lift anytime soon strict limits that it sets on imports of some cultural products. Each year, the agency in charge of regulating film allows only 20 foreign movies to potentially make a profit off their box office take here. Hollywood studios have long criticized that system and lobbied the United States government and international organizations to pressure China into scrapping or loosening the quota.
Let the market decide? We're talking about "Communist" China here, classified by the US as a non-market economy after all. The BBC further notes that p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-poker faced telecasters have begun removing Westernized vulgarities faster than you can say "Berlusconi variety show" in the wake of Chairman Hu's proclamations. It hastens matters that there were edicts requiring them to do so, too:
Satellite broadcasters in China have cut entertainment TV by two-thirds following a government campaign, state news agency Xinhua has reported. An order by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) to curb ''excessive entertainment'' came into effect on 1 January. The number of entertainment shows aired during prime time each week has dropped to 38 from 126, said the watchdog. The news came as the president warned of the influence of Western culture...

The order, which was issued in October 2011, limits each of the country's 34 satellite channels to two entertainment programmes each week and a maximum of 90 minutes of entertainment content every day from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Broadcasters are also required to air at least two hours of news programming between 6 a.m. and midnight. They must each broadcast at least two 30-minute news programs between 6 and 11:30 p.m. The country has the largest number of television viewers in the world - an estimated 95% of its 1.3 billion people.
Is access to trash TV the right of every person? My intuition tells me that the killjoy Chinese authorities would not be so censorious if a Chinese Lady Gaga double entrende-spouting rival existed, but till then, mum's the word. As in the days of way back, lay back and think of...Chairman Mao.