“It is important to mould the image of our country,” wrote Xi Jinping in his best-seller, ‘The Governance Of China‘. “We should create the image of a great civilised country with a long history; of a united multiethnic state, in which different cultures live side by side in harmony; of a great Asian power with an upright and honest policy, a relatively developed economy, a thriving culture, a stable society, a people living in harmony, and beautiful landscapes; of a great responsible country that defends international justice and fairness and gives its contribution to the development of humanity; and of a great socialist country full of charm, hopes and vitality, which continues to open itself up to the world.”
Papa Xi (习大大), as he is now called by the subservient state media that glorify him like no other Communist leader after Mao Zedong, describes this strategy as “raising China’s cultural soft power”. Upon taking over from his predecessors in 2013, Xi Jinping tried to put this strategy into practice in various ways. One of them was a video released by the PRC authorities that aimed at both foreigners and Chinese, a video that presents exactly the image of China Xi Jinping has in mind: a harmonious, vital and youthful country that completely identifies itself with the Chinese Communist Party, a country where Communism, old Chinese culture, and economic development are perfectly blended and form a coherent and well balanced whole.
The video is titled “The Communist Party Stands Beside You” (中国共产党与你一起在路上, literally: “The Chinese Communist Party Stands By You Along the Way”). This is the somewhat naive text of the video, composed in the style of ostentatious, state-sanctioned optimism:
This is an ancient
and youthful country
It is growing fast
yet with development disparities
It’s full of opportunities
along with untold challenges
But its 1.3 billion people
all have their own dreams
I want a good harvest next year
I want to start a diner
I want some more pensions
I want a pretty wife
I want azurer sky and cleaner water
I want a world free of wars
Our people’s dreams
are our goals
The 80 million CPC members
together with the entire population
are working for everyone’s dream
For every dreamer to have a stage
This text is interesting for several reasons. First of all, it does mention the challenges that China faces, but it portrays them only as temporary difficulties on the correct path pursued by the country (in this respect it reflects traditional Communist narratives); by mentioning the existing problems, the Party aims at sounding realistic about the hardships of the people, yet at the same time minimises them by stating that the Party and the whole nation are working to overcome them.
Second, the people’s ‘dreams’ are simple, material needs: a meal, a pretty wife, clean air and water. ‘Every dreamer’ is not the free-thinking individual, but the little citizen and the worker who wants to fill his stomach, marry a good-looking wife, and have more money.
Third, there is an interesting duality between the 80 million members of the Communist Party and the rest of the population. This duality derives from early Communist doctrines that see the party as the avant-garde of society, its most progressive element.
What Xi Jinping seems not to understand is that his new government style will soon backfire. Instead of improving China’s image in the world, these naive and unnatural idealisations will – in the long run – damage it.