Something is definitely afoot here in China. A few years ago I gained the distinct sense that China was at a crossroads. Many possible paths were open, which people discussed endlessly. Such times are both dangerous and potentially creative. Now there is a greater sense of purpose and the path seems to be clarifying. More later, but let me note a few points here.
First, the anti-corruption campaign has been invoking Mao’s directives for cadres and leaders to live simple lives, without seeking personal gain. Yesterday, the government adopted a revised version of the guidelines against bureaucracy and extravagance. These include travelling ‘without pomp’, education and management of staff, guidelines on vacations, and so on. They are based on the core values of loyalty, honesty and frugality. The purpose: ‘To forge an iron, one must be strong oneself‘. In other words, a main focus of the campaign is to build a strong, united party, for the sake of a major move forward.
Second, in a direct echo of Mao’s famous lecture at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art, Chairman Xi called on artists and writers to create great works of art, both distinctly original and beating with the heart of the people. This follows his earlier statement to let philosophy and the social sciences flourish, and guidelines for journalists in promoting public life and socialism with Chinese characteristics. I personally prefer these two statements:
Promoting socialist core values should be fundamental to artists and writers, who should firmly resort to Chinese people’s thoughts, emotions and aesthetics to create works catering to the times, featuring notable Chinese elements.
Literary and artistic work should be people-focused, and artists and writers should serve the people and socialism.
This of course directly invokes Mao’s directive that literature and art should serve the people.