China’s Artists to Be Taught ‘Correct View’ in New Plan
The announcement on Monday came less than two months after President Xi Jinping delivered a major speech on the arts, widely called one of the most important statements on art and literature by a Chinese leader since the Yan’an Talks in 1942 by Mao Zedong.
In his October speech, Mr. Xi implored artists not to be “slaves” of the market or to “lose themselves in the tide of market economy or go astray while answering the question of whom to serve.” Since then, many in China’s creative industries have been waiting to see how Mr. Xi’s ideas would be implemented.
The announcement by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television appears to be an attempt to rehabilitate artists who in Mr. Xi’s view have gone “astray.” One part of the program, the announcement said, will embed film and television production teams in rural areas for at least 30 days to experience local life.
With this program, artists can “unearth new subjects, find their market and promote fine works within the passionate lives of the people,” the announcement said.
In a separate provision, the scriptwriters, directors, actors and others working on 10 designated films and television shows will also be sent to live among local communities, the announcement said. And every year, 100 staff members from central and local arts programs will travel to border and ethnic minority regions, as well as areas that are significant to China’s revolutionary past.
Teams from television stations in the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, for example, are planning to visit the site of the September 1945 Taixing Campaign to find inspiration for an animated film series. That campaign saw Communist forces defeat Nationalist fighters during the Chinese Civil War.
Sending artists to the countryside to learn from locals was also recommended by Mao.
“China’s revolutionary writers and artists, writers and artists of promise, must go among the masses,” Mao said in his Yan’an Talks. “They must for a long period of time unreservedly and wholeheartedly go among the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers, go into the heat of the struggle, go to the only source, the broadest and richest source, in order to observe, experience, study and analyze all the different kinds of people, all the classes, all the masses, all the vivid patterns of life and struggle, all the raw materials of literature and art.”
“Only then can they proceed to creative work,” he said.
The practice of sending people to the countryside to learn socialist values from the masses was notably employed by Mao during the Cultural Revolution, in the 1960s and 70s, when he ordered 17 million urban youth to go to rural communities. Mr. Xi himself was among this generation of so-called sent-down youth. The seven years Mr. Xi spent in rural Shaanxi Province are often painted as a transformative time in which he learned to serve the people.
In recent years, the revolutionary-era idea of fostering closer ties with the people via a “mass line” rectification campaign was revived by the now-disgraced former politician Bo Xilai and later by Mr. Xi. At a meeting last month, Liu Qibao, head of the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department, hinted at the new program, stating that artists should focus on a Marxist approach to the arts and create more works with “touching scenarios and virtues.”
The announcement from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television comes as the government regulator continues to assert its presence in China’s media and broadcast industries. Last week, it issued a separate notice banning puns in television broadcasts and advertisements to preserve linguistic purity. The improper use of language, the notice said, is “contradictory in spirit to the continuation and enhancement of outstanding traditional Chinese culture.”