Xi Jinping

Does Chinese leaders' animation debut signal a revamped propaganda strategy?

The professionally-produced animation has drawn over one million views since its release on Monday

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 1:34pm

Chinese state leaders who are known for their poker faces and uncharismatic demeanours have finally received a facelift in the form of a viral animation clip in which they appear as amicable cartoon figures. 

The professionally-produced animation movie that calls the country’s leadership selection a “meritocratic screening that requires years of hard work like the making of a kung fu master” has drawn over one millions views since its release on Monday.

Yet despite the light-hearted presentation, which is nothing like the party’s usual blatant and tedious propaganda stunts, the impeccable production of the movie, which is available in both Chinese and English with subtitles and narratives, has given rise to speculation that the country’s ideology department is quickly adapting to the Web 2.0 era by employing new and more sophisticated methods of communication favoured by a younger generation.

The movie, posted by a Beijing-based studio named "On the Way to Revivification", opens by introducing the presidential running process in the US as a “super complex business” that requires a good team, a glib tongue, extraordinary stamina, and an unending flow of greenbacks". In fact, becoming the US president is even “more difficult than winning American idol,” it says.

To become the prime minister in the UK is no easy task either, suggests the movie, since your chances of success are "lower than Susan Boyle's of winning Britain’s Got Talent".

The movie then goes into great depths elaborating on the fiercely competitive path to leadership in China, where a candidate has to “go through decades of selection processes and tests”.

The hard work involved in the climb to China's presidency is like "the training of a kung fu master", it says.

"As long as people are satisfied and the country develops and progresses as a result, it's working," the narrator states.

In the US, according to the video, becoming president is tougher than winning "American Idol", involving "a super-complex business" in which candidates must put together a campaign team, deliver speeches and raise money.

"Without a glib tongue, extraordinary stamina and, most importantly, an unending flow of greenbacks, no one can ever pull through it," notes the narrator, over an image of Obama and his vanquished rival Mitt Romney sitting on piles of dollar bills.

The promotion map is charted of China’s current president Xi Jinping, who “went through 16 major transfers” and “governed an accumulative population of more than 150 million people” over more than 40 years.

The six other members of the politburo committee have travelled a similar journey, “taking one step at a time,” it argues.

This method, which makes sure candidates go through “all rapids and shoals” before taking the helm of the country, is the secret of the “China Miracle”, it says. Many roads lead to national leadership, and every country has its own selection process, it concludes.

Interestingly, the Chinese netizens who have been adamant supporters of political reform have been given a cameo in the movie.

They are mentioned towards the end of the clip as a monitoring force who “show no mercy to officials guilty of misconduct.”

While questions sent to the production studio by SCMP.com went unanswered on Thursday, the identity of the producer has puzzled mainland newspapers whose attempts to reach him have failed.

Since "revivification" (Fuxing) is also a name of a street in Beijing where a number of government offices are located, including the General Administration of Press and Publication, some newspapers have speculated that the studio must belong to a department located in the vicinity.

Reviews of the clip seemed mostly positive on Weibo on Thursday.

"Xi Jinping looks cute," wrote one microblogger.

"We need more animations like this one," said another.

Others pointed out that the clip is evasive about certain facts about leaders and thus "hypocritical".

"Why does it not say why some leaders are sacked?" said a Weibo commentator.