Drama off the air as 'red' TV takes over

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 January, 2011, 12:00am

The latest political manoeuvring by maverick Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai has seen prime-time dramas taken off the air on one of the municipality's television networks and replaced by 'red culture' programmes celebrating the Communist Party's revolutionary legacy.

As of yesterday, Chongqing Cable TV will no longer broadcast drama series between 7pm and 11pm - prime time for mainland TV - and will instead be beaming red culture programmes into millions of homes.

The Chongqing Morning Post said the revamp would make Chongqing the only big city on the mainland where prime-time television on a major local network did not feature any entertainment programming.

Bo's latest attempt to promote red culture - a campaign he launched in mid-2008 - is widely seen as part of an intensified push for a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee at next year's party congress. Previously, Bo organised tens of thousands of people to join him in singing 'red culture' songs, telling revolutionary stories and circulating Maoist mottos.

In another campaign likened to the policies promoted by Mao Zedong in the Cultural Revolution, Bo earlier called on 750,000 university students in the nation's biggest municipality to work with workers, farmers and soldiers for at least four months of their four years at university. Bo said scheme participants would gain social experience.

He has also embraced new media, launching a microblog last year and using it to promote his revolutionary image and political views.

To the surprise of observers at home and abroad, Vice-President Xi Jinping praised Bo for his red culture campaign and a clampdown on triad bosses and their friends in government in a high-profile, three-day visit to Chongqing early last month. Xi and Bo are considered dominant members of the 'princelings', a group of descendants of high-ranking party officials.

Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University, said yesterday that Bo's actions reflected his ambitions for a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee, the party's most powerful grouping, when it is restructured next year.

'There are two types of top leaders jockeying for places on the committee,' Cheng said. 'One type, such as Xi Jinping and [Vice-Premier] Li Keqiang , are, for the time being, assured of playing a role in the ultimate decision-making body.

'Therefore, they will adopt a relatively low profile and avoid controversy to ensure their advancement in the political struggle. But the other type of leaders, who have less chance of promotion at the moment, will certainly engage in more political posturing and fight very hard for a place on the committee.

'Bo is an outstanding example of the second type of leader.'

Cheng said Bo had spotted an ideological vacuum before rolling out the red culture campaigns. 'By doing so, Bo can, at least to a certain degree, please a considerable number of veterans in the party,' he said.