Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, July 23, 2018

Cosplay as political education

In China, the Long March was a crucial episode in the civil war of the 1930s. Beginning in Jiangxi Province, it was an epic retreat of the Communist army as the Kuomintang (Nationalists) tried to follow them. Mao Zedong became the leader of the Communist forces during the retreat.

Now, educational tourism is a growing business in Jiangxi.

China’s ‘red education’ history tours and the rise of communist cosplay
If anyone can best tell the scale and intensity of China’s “red education” drive to promote loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, it’s businessman Yu Meng.

The 36-year-old runs the largest Red Army uniform rental business in Jinggangshan, a city dubbed the “cradle of the communist revolution” deep in the mountains of Jiangxi. Last year alone, his company rented uniforms to 256,000 people taking part in red ideology study tours.
Political tourists in rented uniforms
Yu started the Xiangganbian Red Army uniform company 10 years ago. But it’s only in the last three years that the business has really taken off, thanks to the relentless push of patriotic education by President Xi Jinping. Xi has said he wants “faith” in communist rule to be passed down to a new generation as “red DNA”…

Most of the visitors to Jinggangshan now are civil servants, employees of state and private enterprises, and students. They are sent by their employers or schools as part of their work or study requirements.

The number of people going to the city for study tours jumped by more than 50 per cent every year from 2015 to 2017, according to the Jinggangshan government…

Many, though not all, government ministries, companies and schools make it mandatory for their employees or students to wear period uniforms for the four or five days of site visits and classes during a Jinggangshan study tour.

Yu said donning a Red Army suit – the uniform of Communist guerillas in the late 1920s and early ’30s during the civil war against the Nationalists – while visiting the city had become a phenomenon.

With the trend taking hold, Jinggangshan’s historical sites now look like they are hosting mass cosplay gatherings. Busloads of uniformed visitors swarm the city’s museum, Mao’s two former residences, and the mountaintop where Communist forces fended off the Nationalist army…

Xi has promoted red education since he came to power that year. Under his aegis, the party has intensified its clampdown on dissidents and internet censorship. The government has also used red education to promote party loyalty as a “faith”, or xinyang in Chinese, a term that can also be translated as “religion”…

But Beijing appears concerned that its message is being lost amid the uniforms and tourism. An article in party newspaper Guangming Daily last month warned that many of the study tours had become “sightseeing paid for by the government”. Another, in a magazine affiliated with state-run Xinhua, said many participants cared only about taking pictures of themselves in uniform outside historic sites and were not serious about studying the ideology the party “wants to put into their hearts”…

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