Ideological struggle, long-term infiltration and hostile forces all sound more like sound bites from Cold War propaganda than the statements of the usually amiable Chinese Premier, Hu Jintao. Yet in an essay released earlier this week, the PRC’s Paramount Leader launched a vitriolic attack upon the apparently detrimental effects of westernisation, citing their cancerous influence over traditional Chinese culture and thereby underlining the very real desire to maintain a policy of ideological isolation.
Such evident disdain for Western popular culture also comes with news of the PRC’s new wave of censorship legislation, thus demonstrating that such words are far from political rhetoric, but actually come with a genuine purpose. Statistics indicate that entertainment television has been drastically cut by over 60% in recent days, therefore mitigating the once burgeoning popularity of reality TV and X-Factor styled programmes in favour of heightened news coverage and factual broadcasts. But what does such blatant censorship actually achieve in the age of globalisation?
…control over cultural expression is akin to a metaphorical castration…
According to novelist Murong Xuecun, the PRC’s unbridled control over cultural expression is akin to a metaphorical castration, whereby the desire for self-determination has been repeatedly crushed by the powers that be. Such restrictions upon freedom of speech, however, are habitually broken by the growing droves of an intellectually, economically and politically aware middle class; a bourgeois tinge to the PRC’s formerly one-dimensional social strata, who feel with some justice, that the state-run malaise over Chinese culture has persisted long enough.
Yet it is this very vice grip over daily life that fuels the strength of Maoist socio-political thought. Without these constraints, the CPC would be unable to construct their vision of a harmonious and sinophilic society, in which individualism is second to conformity. On the other hand, such desire for control can have disastrous consequences, as highlighted by the religiously fuelled rioting earlier this week.
… ethnic tensions, civil disobedience and general antagonism…
Amidst anger over the state-backed closing of a mosque, Beijing’s Muslims population took to the streets in protest against restrictions regarding freedom of worship. With two killed and fifty injured, such demonstrable examples of discontent will have most certainly alerted Hu Jintao’s cabinet to the dangers of citizen uprisings. This kind of alienation between state and citizen, however, has been far from uncommon over the last twelve months; a tumultuous period in which ethnic tensions, civil disobedience and general antagonism has pervaded the streets of China’s various urbanised areas.
The question begs, therefore, as to what 2012 will look like. Will Hu Jintao’s new reforms prompt a return to the cultural values of previous years, or further aggravate the PRC’s already aggrieved population? It would be difficult to shake the infallible control of communist rule in China, yet the future remains disquietingly uncertain for a country with such economic and political potential. Whatever the case, the coming year will most certainly prove to be highly interesting in examining whether or not the CPC can intensify a legacy of rampant censorship that stretches back to the 1940s.