Friday, October 5, 2018

In China, a Quiz Show Is an Ode to Xi Jinping

HONG KONG — The Chinese game show begins like many others, with flashing lights, a heroic soundtrack and rapturous applause from a studio audience.
But on this show, one topic dominates: President Xi Jinping, the man, the leader, the Communist Party chief. Contestants face a daunting array of questions about his favorite books, the meaning of his speeches, and his formative years in a rural village.
The five-part show, “Studying Xi in the New Era,” airing on Chinese state television this week, aims to inspire interest in Mr. Xi’s life and ideas among a younger generation. It is the latest sign of the predominance of Mr. Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, in the daily life of citizens.
The show — which does not appear to offer cash or other prizes — poses a series of multiple-choice questions, many of them focused on Mr. Xi. There is also a smattering of questions about figures like Marx, Mao and Deng Xiaoping.

But the show often feels like an ode to Mr. Xi, whom the party has elevated to a status on par with Mao. Mr. Xi’s words dominate propaganda postersacross China, and the party routinely promotes his nationalistic ideology, known as Xi Jinping Thought, in schools, newspapers and across government offices.
Over the summer, critics in Beijing questioned the adulatory promotion and Mr. Xi’s sweeping control over the government. But the game show is another sign that Mr. Xi is not going away — and that party leaders see him as a transformative figure in Chinese history.
Jane Duckett, a professor of politics at the University of Glasgow, said the game show is an extension of the news media’s intense focus on Mr. Xi in recent years. She said the show appeared to be an attempt “to situate Xi and his ideas in historical Marxist context,” lending legitimacy to his agenda.
One segment, a contestant says that Mr. Xi’s ideology “brims with vigor.” Another describes his leadership as “infinitely powerful.”
At another moment, a moderator plays a clip of a speech and asks what Mr. Xi meant when he said that the profundity of Marxism could be traced to one sentence.
Tang Xuwang, a graduate student in Marxism at the University of South China, chimes in with the correct answer: “To seek liberation for the human race.”
University professors specializing in the ideology of Mr. Xi and of other Communist leaders act as judges and commentators.
The show, which airs in prime time on Hunan Television, one of China’s most popular channels, was developed with the advice of Communist Party officials in Hunan Province. The state media describes the show as a response to Mr. Xi’s call for “a thorough study session among the whole party.”
Quizzes are an established part of political indoctrination classes for officials and students in China, and often participants are given the answers beforehand so that the tests become exercises in memorization.
While there were some wrong answers in “Studying Xi in the New Era,” for the most part the contestants seemed well rehearsed and appeared to have memorized important lines from Mr. Xi’s speeches.
“Studying Xi in the New Era,” follows the debut of another ideology-themed show, “Marx Got It Right,” in the spring as part of an effort to better explain Marxist ideals to Chinese millennials.
Party leaders have expressed concern that young Chinese are too far removed from the ideals of Communist revolution, and officials have expanded ideological education to try to counter Western influences.
“Studying Xi in the New Era” uses a variety of stunts seemingly aimed at a younger audience. A robot asks questions. Animations of spaceships and galaxies appear in the background. A Chinese-speaking cartoon version of Marx delivers mini-lectures.
“They want to show that the party is close to the people,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political-science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University. “But it’s very difficult to convince the youth.”

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