Happy Mao-mas!

24 Dec

maoAs you’re all tucking into your turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day, there’ll be a celebration of a slightly different kind up Beijing way. Yup, December 26th will mark the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong, the man who launched 1,000 ironic t-shirts as well as being the founding father of modern Communist China.

Considering he managed to bump off an estimated 50 million of his own people thanks to a fateful combination of woeful economic mismanagement and egomaniacal hubris it’s a wonder the old chairman has managed to retain such iconic status in the Middle Kingdom. Well, I say it’s a wonder but it’s not really, considering the party he founded and swept to victory over Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang nationalists has always put self-preservation and media control above all else.

So it is 120 years after he was born that the man who now sits in his throne at the apex of state and party, Xi Jinping, is turning the screws even more on the country’s media. You’ve got to hand it to the Party, this time last year it was difficult to see how media controls could even get any tighter.

New guidelines released this week urge the industry: “Strengthen the management of the media, do not provide channels for the propagation of the wrong points of view”. Ostensibly this is a request to self-regulate, but we all know what the alternative is: sack-cloth, unmarked van, detention.

As if that weren’t enough there are plans to put local propaganda officials in charge of the journalism programmes at 10 of China’s top universities. This takes care of the next batch of freshly pressed, brainwashed reporters, but what about those who may still harbour some desire to dig for the truth in modern China? Well, Xi’s thought of that too. Back in August the Party announced that China’s 300,000+ hacks would be sent back to school to study Marxism classes.

“I’ve studied Marxism for so many years, the more I study it, the less I understand it,” a Beijing-based journo told the SCMP.

You know what? I think that’s exactly the point.

Happy Mao-mas everyone!

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