The China path or the Western model? – China’s latest top news

Jeremy Goldkorn’s selection of the top stories from China on October 9, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

The hardware for ideological dominance, but not the software?

The Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) has published detailed results of a research project and survey of online opinion that assesses the Chinese Communist Party’s “endeavor to promote China’s political system as an alternative to ‘Western values.’” Their conclusions are mixed:

  • The study identifies a number of ideological clusters that define online debates in China ranging from “Party Warriors” and “Traditionalists” to “Market Lovers” and “Mao Lovers.” As one might expect, the authors identify “Democratizers,” “Humanists,” and “U.S. Lovers” as “furthest removed from the party-state.”
  • The study concludes that “the party-state has set up the hardware for its ideological dominance,” but has not yet succeeded in “fostering broad-based societal acceptance nor in eliminating competing ideologies from the online public sphere.”

MERICS says that it is crucial for China if it is the “China path” or the “Western model” that “can attract and inspire the younger generation in the medium to long term,” but that this “looming ideological competition” will “also become a defining factor in global development choices of other countries.

Getting ready for the Party Congress

As China gets back to work after an eight-day holiday — which started with National Day on October 1 — Beijing is locked down in preparation for the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the twice-a-decade gathering of Party bigwigs to announce the leadership team for the next five years. Here are a few things to read:

  • The New York Times has an article (paywall) on Liangjiahe, a village in Shaanxi Province where President Xi Jinping of China lived and worked during the Cultural Revolution, which has now “been converted into a tourist attraction that attempts to show how the village helped forge his strongman style.”
  • On the BBC, Cheng Li 李成 says that the biggest question about the 19th Party Congress is “whether or not Xi Jinping unites the Party establishment by forming a team of rivals and deepening China’s political institutionalization.” Will Xi use his power to pack the Politburo with allies and yes-men, or will he abide “by established rules and norms” and respect “the peaceful transition of power?”
  • The Guardian reviews an exhibition titled Five Years On, a celebration of the progress China has made since Xi took over Party leadership in 2012. The show includes “guides in burgundy flight attendant uniforms” who tell stories about Xi’s travails on his road to Party leadership, and photos of Xi meeting Queen Elizabeth II, brandishing “a Chinese assault rifle while touring a People’s Liberation Army garrison in Macau,” and caressing “a baby elephant at a Zimbabwean wildlife sanctuary.”
  • Bloomberg Businessweek has a useful explainer (paywall) about the 19th Party Congress if you need another one.

China gives up on Oscars

Variety reports that China has selected patriotic blockbuster Wolf Warriors II (战狼二 zhànláng èr) as its 2017 entry for the Academy Awards foreign-language section. The film has broken Chinese box office records and pulled in more than $851 million since its July 25 release, but most observers see an Oscar win as unlikely. As the South China Morning Post put it, “the movie’s nationalistic tone has struck a chord with mainland Chinese audiences but makes it a turnoff for Western filmgoers.” The selection of Wolf Warriors II certainly reflects what was popular in China this year, but it’s certain to mean another year without an Oscar-winning Chinese film.  

Meanwhile, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences released a list of foreign submissions, but Variety says that “authorities in China appear to have failed to make the announcement themselves.”