It can be hard to remember that China – who produces all of my placemats and fine thermal underwear – remains, on paper, a Communist republic. So just recently, Chinese President Xi Jingping decided to flex the country’s old Leninist muscles with a campaign to send movie and television producers to the country “to do field study and experience life.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, each trip will be organized by the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPFRT) and include thirty-day visits to grassroots communities, military barracks, and mining sites. Thrilling.
The program is eerily reminiscent of programs undertaken during the Cultural Revolution days, a period of time from 1966-1976 when people were forcibly relocated from cities to the countryside, all in the name of communism. Although Mao’s Revolution was slightly more problematic (featuring torture, arbitrary imprisonment, mass death, blablabla), both campaigns connected rural life to national power to national art. “This will be a boost in helping artists form a correct view of and create more masterpieces,” SAPPFRT said on its website, “The program will be long-term.”
China is the world’s second largest movie market, and an aggressively capitalist one. Recently, China’s Dalian Wanda Group, who controls AMC entertainment, initiated conversations to buy Lionsgate, producers of the Hunger Games. But under the hand of current Chinese President Xi Jingping, movie and television producers have seen a return to old-school communist authoritarianism and censorship. From The Hollywood Reporter:
Any artists seen as challenging the role of the Communist Party are muzzled – filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin was banned, and others, such as Ning Hao’s No Man’s Land was only released years after its launch with heavy editing, and the dissident artist Ai Weiwei remains under house arrest in Beijing.
To be fair, China isn’t the only country that locates national strength and cultural power in the rural countryside. Americans have their fair share of pop-country music, Southern Gothic fiction, and Nicholas Sparks romances. We’re all suffering.