Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, July 07, 2014

Reviving a cultural hero (again)

Lei Feng was the perfect Chinese citizen during the Cultural Revolution. At least that's what the Communist Party would have everyone believe. Since then, Party propagandists have used Lei Feng several times when they thought patriotism and general enthusiasm for China required more enthusiasm.
Lei Feng
Once more, the peasant soldier is back in the news, this time at the hand of one of China's successful entrepreneurs. Oh, what would Lei Feng say about this? (BTW, I found that "There are 25 professionals named Lei Feng, who use LinkedIn… ")
Chinese Tycoon Pays Homage to a Fading Martyr
The Chinese Communist Party has not had an easy time reviving interest in Lei Feng, the most famous martyr of the People’s Liberation Army. Most Chinese learn about his ill­-fated but supposedly heroic life while in school: that he donated to the poor while a common soldier in northeastern China, devoted himself to learning the teachings of Mao Zedong and was killed at age 22 by a tumbling telephone pole knocked over by a soldier driving a truck at an army base.

Following that accident in 1962, propaganda officials quickly seized on his story to create an icon of party loyalty. The halo has faded, though. An official propaganda campaign in 2012, on the 50th anniversary of his death, was met with skepticism by many Chinese.

But leaders in Zhongnanhai may need not fear that Lei Feng will will end up in history’s dustbin, because Chen Guangbiao has taken up the banner.

Mr. Chen, the Chinese tycoon known for outrageous public philanthropy stunts, visited the gravesite of Lei Feng in the northeastern town of Fushun this week…
Chen at Lei Feng's grave
On Tuesday, Mr. Chen kneeled at the grave… and laid down flowers and a copy of the June 16 edition of The New York Times, in which he had taken out a full-page advertisement announcing… his “Tour of Love and Gratitude.”

On the ad was a well­-known image of Lei Feng…

“Lei Feng’s spirit has had a huge influence on me ever since I was little,” Mr. Chen said in a telephone interview after his trip to the gravesite, where there is also a Lei Feng museum. “When I was 14 and a film projectionist, the first film I showed was one about Lei Feng. If there had been no Lei Feng, there wouldn’t have been me. I owe all my philanthropy work to Lei Feng.”…

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