China’s morality campaign hits the streets

One of the casualties of my site crash a couple weeks ago was a long post on Hu’s maudlin new list of Lei Fungesque “virtues.” Apparently the new morality campaign kicked into gear this past week, and Beijing’s moralty meter is presumably soaring.

China’s new “eight socialist honours” are unambiguous and fiercely patriotic: Love the Motherland. Serve the People. Be united. Struggle hard. Work hard. Advocate science. Be honest. Obey the law. The eight principles are part of President Hu Jintao’s efforts to combat eight pernicious “disgraces” he sees creeping into Chinese society. The only way to stop the rot is for the masses to learn a “socialist sense of honour and shame”.

This weekend, the campaign hit the streets of China’s cities and towns, and cadres were out in force, offering tutorials in virtue – obeying the law, protecting trees and cleaning up dog faeces. There were volunteers offering free health check-ups and giving advice on traffic etiquette.

In Beijing, the Wangfujing shopping thoroughfare became a venue for an award ceremony for those truly infused with a “socialist sense of honour”. To the tune of the theme from The Magnificent Seven (obviously including the sequel), cadres honoured 10 model residents, among them Li Zhenhuan, who has been giving free haircuts to residents for more than 35 years.

Okay, friends in Beijing, is anyone taking this morality crap seriously? Anyone at all? (Aside from Hu.) Whatever; the article is a hoot and well worth a read. One more snippet:

In the old days, these campaigns would have been trumpeted on luridly coloured posters, replete with apple-cheeked farm girls and muscled steel workers facing into the sun. Mr Hu’s aphorisms, however, were printed on a plain poster with Chinese characters above a photo of the Great Wall, and displayed in offices and shops since the campaign began.

China may be embracing socialism with Chinese characteristics, which to the untrained eye looks an awful lot like straightforward capitalism, but the rhetoric of the latest morality campaign will be familiar to many in still-Communist China who remember the Five Standards, the Four Virtues and the Three Loves…Mr Hu’s statements all have the ring of good, old-fashioned Cold-War era Communism, but the message is still a far cry from the more belligerent tone of the founding father, Mao Zedong: “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun.”

It was all going to be so different under Hu. Remember?

The Discussion: One Comment

Well, there is already one billboard displaying the poster of socialist shames and virtues in downtown Beijing, on East Chang’an Ave. So far that’s the only one I’ve seen.

A quick appraisal of my colleagues suggests that the entire program is being greeted with the complete indifference that it deserves. But, then, the targets of the campaign are probably more salt-of-the-earth types, and not the cosmopolitan effetes I work with. As far as socialist virtues go, they’re clearly already ruined.

And so, for that matter, am I.

March 28, 2006 @ 8:09 pm | Comment

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