• Wed
  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 3:12pm

Highly political Lunar New Year TV gala divides opinion

Four-hour Lunar New Year show regarded by some critics as most ideological in years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 February, 2014, 4:27am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 February, 2014, 4:27am

The mainland public was split yesterday over the staging of Cultural Revolution classics during the official Lunar New Year gala broadcast by CCTV.

Some said the heavy political messages were out of place in what should be a joyful celebration. Others said the "red" pieces were an unsettling reminder of Bo Xilai, who ran Chongqing as Communist Party boss with a heavy hand and extolled the virtues of Maoist culture before being sentenced to life in jail for corruption and abuse of power.

More than 700 million people watched the four-hour show, which featured songs, dance, magic routines and comedy acts, on Thursday night.

The most controversial segment was a section from the ballet opera, The Red Detachment of Women, one of the "eight model plays" endorsed by the wife of Mao Zedong, Jiang Qing, during the Cultural Revolution. Host Zhu Jun came out wearing a Maoist jacket to introduce it. Two revolutionary songs were also performed.

Some leftists said the content was a signal from top leaders about the "right path". Others ridiculed the works as echoing Bo's propaganda campaign.

"That man is in Qincheng," one person wrote on Sina's Weibo, referring to the prison in Beijing where Bo is serving his sentence, "but his red songs are now being staged in Chunwan", the gala's name in Putonghua.

Others took to referring to the gala's director, Feng Xiaogang, one of the most commercially successful directors on the mainland, as Feng Xilai.

Qiao Mu, an associate professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the inclusion of the revolutionary material was meant to emphasis the importance of the military rather than a simple gesture about upholding the leftist path.

"The arrangement of military elements throughout the show was political, and in line with the prevalent conservatism over the past year - to silence public discontent and to appease the army," Qiao said.

But he queried why Zhu wore a Mao suit and spoke in an "obsolete" manner. "The gala is a joyful occasion where people gather for celebrating. These shows with such strong ideological colours simply do not fit in," Qiao said.

Others were more surprised to see the red classics soon followed by French actress Sophie Marceau singing La Vie en Rose. "The most romantic and the most violent on the same stage. This is a bizarre world," one person commented online.

The prominent political cartoonist known by his pseudonym Rebel Pepper said this year's show had the most political preaching in recent years.

"Some comments said we should not bring political discussion to an entertainment TV show, but isn't that what the Communist Party is best at - mixing politics into entertainment?"

The night also featured the patriotic song My Chinese Dream that echoes President Xi Jinping's campaign to promote hard work and collective effort.


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Those who don't learnt from history are doomed to repeat it. We all know that cultural revolution is a great disaster in Chinese history.
mind control media is always as is, boring!!!

Calm down guys (and esp SCMP....)...I found these timeless revolutionary classics of good entertainment value and those who don't like them can just turn a blind eye to them...the gala may not be up to your good taste but I will not accept you guys politicizing a simple attempt to entertain China's hundreds of millions who still remember Mr. Mao (and Mrs. Mao) with passion...the Chinese people have now come to the realization they are being punished for having treated the Mao family poorly in the past 35 years (their karma may now be beyond repair)...Mr. Feng is simply doing what he can to respond to the sentiment.
The gala was boring as usual. It will always be dull and boring.
The national talent shows with Li Yong as host, which the government canceled, were the only displays of real entertainment in China.
I try watching every year and this gala was the worst ever. The beginning was still OK but then it got terribly boring, so much I missed Sophie Marceau and the Red Brigade. Thumbs down. As one friend said "more interesting is watching the commercials". I had more fun watching the fireworks through my window while drinking a very much capitalist champagne.
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Coming from a family with grandparents who nearly died because of Mao Zedong's rule, I think the last thing the Mao family needs more of is more adulation. The man who still has his portrait on the Forbidden Palace in Beijing caused the death of millions, and to be frank he deserves the majority of the criticism that's thrown at him.
He may have formed the PRC, but then Qin Shi Huang was also the first to unify China. For all his accomplishments, the blood (and there is a LOT of blood) and destruction from his rule cannot be ignored.

Thank you mate. Unfortunately just because you had relatives who died during Mr. Mao's rule does not automatically qualify you to close your mind on Mr. Mao on a permanent basis. For example, Mr. Mao Jr. also died during his rule. He was a great leader who had to make many tough decisions for China (e.g., splitting with our Soviet friends in the 60s and making friends with our American friends who killed Mr. Mao Jr.). Unfortunately the Chinese didn't have enough wizards to execute all his brilliant ideas; also, Asian people let's not forget (perhaps including you per the hatred you display above) are very cruel people (look at our Japanese friends 100 years ago); it is time some Chinese people learned to come to terms with histoy, accept our forefathers as they were, and stop blaming them for all our own faults (e.g., stop blaming the cultural revolution after almost 40 years for all our own moral failures in the 80s and onwards...).. Happy Year of the Horse!
I'm not exactly sure which Mao Jr. you're talking about, as Mao had around 10 kids.
I do believe that countries should look forward to the future more often than to its past, but that doesn't mean that the past should be disregarded. History is preserved because it provides a window to how previous societies functioned, and perhaps from looking upon previous events that people can either continue producing successes or avoid repeat mistakes. Coming to terms with history does not involve forgetting, it involves remembering and putting aside things for reference.
And that's my biggest gripe with China's current government: it hasn't accepted its own past, and it hasn't fully learned from it. Just as how the Japanese government currently denies its country's own war atrocities, the Chinese government has yet to accept the reality of Mao's rule, and worse than Japan it actively prevents any discourse of the matter from ever happening. If that weren't true, you could find books or movies about Mao's Cultural Revolution that aren't fully censored, schools would be teaching about the destruction of culture caused by the C.R, and stating that 'Mao Zedong was despicable' wouldn't be a criminalized offense.
I don't deny that Mao Zedong was a complex human being, and like I said he had his accomplishments. The reason I dislike him is because of his actions, not because of blind hatred.
But of course, that's my opinion, just as you have yours. Kung Hei Fat Choi to you too.


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