Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Is there a cherry tree in the script?

In the effort to canonize George Washington as a historical hero, many books were written in the years after his death. A guy named Parson Weems included a couple moral lessons in a children's book that survived into the second half of the 20th century. One of the stories was that a very young Washington cut down a cherry tree, but fessed up to the "crime" when asked because he was an honest person.

Now the purveyors of civic wisdom will have 45 chances to teach Chinese citizens about the virtue of their president. Makes Parson Weems' efforts look puny. Will the lessons last as long?

China burnishes Xi Jinping’s legend with TV drama of his years in rural hamlet
China’s larger-than-life leader, Xi Jinping, is set to appear in his first television series, a 45-part drama depicting the time he spent in rural China during the Cultural Revolution.

Xi visited Liangjiahe in 2014
The drama, called "Liangjiahe" after the deprived hamlet in Shaanxi province where a young Xi lived from 1968 to 1975, was recently approved by China’s television regulator…

“It will tell the stories of ordinary people and their struggles,” the Shaanxi Daily newspaper reported, noting that Xi’s seven years in the community had shaped his “determined” character…

Chinese bloggers quickly identified the drama as the latest homage to a man Beijing promotes as an omnipotent ruler called “Xi Dada” or “Big Daddy Xi”…

Anne-Marie Brady.. a professor at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury… said period dramas about historical Communist party heroes had been made before. But since Xi became leader in November 2012 there has been an unusually intense focus placed on his past by Chinese television producers.

“There has actually been quite a deluge of stuff about Xi and his family and it is a bit like this programme. It is not specifically about them but you know it is about them,” Brady said.

Part of the reason for the high volume of programmes is that the official narrative of Xi’s countryside years sidesteps the horrific violence of the Red Guard era, instead telling a compelling tale of how a young man overcame rural hardship…

“He arrived at the village as a slightly lost teenager and left as a 22-year-old man determined to do something for the people,” an official profile of the Chinese president claims…

Brady said the dramatisation of Xi’s Liangjiahe years would probably boost the president’s desired image as an approachable, likable, handsome man of the people.

Western audiences are constantly bombarded with information about politicians even before they take power, Brady added. But China knew almost nothing about its top leaders. “I think the Chinese population will be interested and intrigued for any glimpse of who is this man and his family history.”

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