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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Outside Edge: No one is watching but Big Brother

August 31, 2010

By Jamil Anderlini
Financial Post (Canada)
August 27, 2010 22:35

China produces more television dramas than any
other country and is home to one in three of the
world’s viewers. But has anyone outside ever
heard of shows such as Older Lady Getting
Married, a drama about a 34-year-old career woman
who is a burden to all of her friends and family
because she hasn’t found a husband yet?

Or what about The Road To Happiness, a sappy
romance series about noble Chinese soldiers
stationed in Tibet that is directed by the
Propaganda Chief of the People’s Armed Police Transport Command Headquarters?

To be fair, not many people in China would ever
watch these shows either. Step forward the
doughty officials of the Chinese Communist
party’s Central Propaganda Department, who have
put forward a series of "new thoughts, views and
theses on deepening the reform of the cultural
system and strengthening the building of
culture”. Apparently this will produce “more
excellent works with a unification of proper ideological and artistic content."

Phew! So at last Chinese art is going to have a
bit of sparkle and creativity and to think that
western artists thought they had a problem with
the state as governments start slashing budgets in the age of austerity.

With their dark suits and sombre demeanour, the
apparatchiks behind the initiative did not
exactly encourage the idea that a Chinese
renaissance is at hand. As for evidence that
China’s cultural influence is spreading abroad,
they proudly announced that a company called
China Heaven Creation International Performing
Arts had bought the property rights to the White
House Theatre in Branson, Missouri, USA. This
purchase apparently "set a new example in
encouraging the export of performing arts products."

Few would dispute the success of the Chinese
state in steering the economy, but the arts? It’s
hard to see Chinese artists producing anything
worthwhile when one of the government’s
overriding objectives is forcing "cultural
workers to follow core socialist values." What
does seem clear is that as long as the party
insists on strict censorship and sets numerical
targets for its cultural industries, the country
will never regain its position as a global centre of culture.

Maybe it’s time for the party to listen to its
rhetoric and "let a hundred flowers bloom and a
hundred schools of thought contend." If not,
Chinese viewers will just have to keep tuning in
as the lads of the Tibet Paramilitary Transport
Unit decide whether to prepare dumplings or
sticky rice balls to give as gifts to grateful, happy Tibetan farmers.

The writer is working part-time on a TV drama
about a Beijing-based foreign correspondent who
falls in love with a Communist party official and
helps spread Chinese propaganda around the world.
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