Chinese Communist Party Takes a Stab at Making Viral Online Videos
BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, January 7 2014
It seems as if the Chinese Communist Party is looking for a little country rebranding for the new year and is taking a cue from the power of viral online videos. In its second installment – its first propaganda video achieved some moderate success – the CCP mysteriously published on new year's day a three-minute video on Youku, China’s version of Youtube. It contains no credits though some officials have publicly noted the video and a CCP logo complete with sickle and hammer appears in the right-hand corner of the screen.
The voiceover is notably in English but the video contains both English and Chinese subtitles. Among wide sweeps of China’s idyllic countryside and rice fields, smiling Chinese peasants and workers voice their hopes for a good harvest, larger pensions, and cleaner air. The video also gives President Xi Jinping a cameo as he shakes hands and embraces world leaders at the fifth summit of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). As white westerners interact happily with the Chinese among China's historical sites, the voiceover exclaims, “We walk side by side sharing weal and woe, transcending differences and shaping the future together.”
Consistent with the CCP's perpetual message of “harmony," the campaign emphasizes the importance of unity: “Our people’s dreams are our goal" and their 1.3 billion population and 85 million CCP members are “working for everyone’s dreams.” It’s clear from the video the distinction they make between an American and Chinese dream: every individual achievement and success in China is in part cradled into maturity by the CCP. The video campaign's official slogan is: “The Communist Party of China is with you along the way.”
This video is only the second of its kind, which appears to be part of Xi's promised revamped soft power agenda. The first video, which has received just over 100,000 views, was uploaded on Oct. 14, 2013. It makes humorous jabs at the western election process and totes the superiority of China's meritocratic leadership selection.
As a cartoon Barack Obama line-dances with Katy Perry, Oprah Winfrey, among others, and slugs Mitt Romney who dons superman tights and cape, a voiceover explains that becoming the U.S. president involves a “glib tongue” and “an unending flow of greenbacks.” The circus music that had been playing in the background until that point gives way to a more neutral tune as the video illuminates the process of ascending to the CCP's ruling Politburo (a process that the Wall Street Journal notes has confounded China scholars for some time now): while any Chinese -- whether college student, factory hand, technician, journalist or teacher -- can try to join the 85 million member CCP, it requires decades of examinations and becoming a high-level leader is like “the making of a Kung Fu master.” By the time that Xi made it to the presidency, he had served for over four decades in government, starting as a local community leader and moving slowly to provincial levels until he reached the penultimate step of becoming, as the video inconsistently alternates between slang and over formal language, the "veep." And all together, as the video claims, the current Politburo has had decades of experience ruling over half of China's territories, which consist of provinces as large as mid-sized countries.
Interestingly, the first video acknowledges that Chinese netizens – using that exact term – are a legitimate force for accountability in China. While the video claims that there are a number of methods in which officials are monitored and checked, such as performance evaluations by other CCP members, the voiceover says that netizens also play a large role: “Today, the 538 million netizens of China show no mercy to officials with misconducts.” It ends with a Spark Notes version of how to evaluate the legitimacy of a political system: so long as people are happy and the country is developing, the system is working.
According to the Wall Street Journal, netizens have been fairly pleased with the videos, exclaiming that the humor and light hearted tone are a change from CCP's normal in-your-face propaganda style. In the past, the CCP has used “red” T.V. shows, among other vehicles, full of clichéd homage to the CCP, to spread its messages but the shows have grown increasingly unpopular, particularly among the youth.
These videos are coming to light at a time when the CCP has cracked down more fervently on online content, and as Global Voices notes, currently has the upper hand in controlling ideological battles on the Internet.
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