Beijing goes pop to engage millennials

Govt, Communist Party using social media, cartoons and rap music to explain policies

Souvenir plates bearing the images of President Xi on sale at a shop near the Great Hall of the People.
Souvenir plates bearing the images of President Xi on sale at a shop near the Great Hall of the People.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • The Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party are using pop culture and social media to reach out to the country's millennial generation.

Catchy jingles, cartoons featuring President Xi Jinping, animations with his sound bites and a rap video on China's latest development plans are some new ways the Chinese authorities have adopted to get their message across.

Just last month, state news agency Xinhua released a multi-language version of an animated video that explains the so-called Four Comprehensives, four political goals advocated by President Xi.

It explains how China will comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society, deepen reform, advance the rule of law and strictly govern the Communist Party of China.

Since late 2013, China's state media has released a series of animated videos, patriotic pop songs and micro films on China's popular social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat, reported the Global Times on Wednesday.

Musicians have also penned modern versions of revolutionary "red songs" to promote the country's policies and its national ideology.

The Central Committee of the China Communist Youth League, for example, has invited boy band TFboys to become its ambassadors. All three members are born in 1999 and 2000.

Last June, the committee invited the boy band and popular singer Han Geng to sing We Are The Successors Of Communism, a song written in 1961 and which later became the anthem of the youth league.

The music video was posted on the committee's Weibo account and was shared over 465,000 times, making it the committee's most popular Weibo post.

"China's millennial generation grew up with the Internet. Youngsters born after 2000 have an even greater dependence on the Internet," said Professor He Hui of the School of International Journalism and Communication in the Beijing Foreign Studies University.

"The party and the central government are hoping to reach out and influence these younger generations using their favourite forms, such as animation," he was quoted as saying by the Global Times.

The first time China's top leader made his debut in cartoon images was in October 2013, when a video titled The Makings Of A Chinese Leader went viral online via popular video website Youku. The five-minute animation compares how the leaders of the United States, Britain and China are selected.

The Chinese government is also using more videos to explain its policies and governance. A three- minute video was released last October, coinciding with the Communist Party's fifth plenum, explaining how China's five-year plans are formulated and implemented and why the new 13th Five-Year Plan matters.

On music streaming site QQ Music, for example, there are over 10 songs with President Xi's nickname, "Xi Dada", in their titles.

The latest song to have gone viral is titled If You Want To Marry, Marry Someone Like Xi Dada.

This, according to the South China Morning Post, demonstrates the growing cult of personality surrounding Mr Xi.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing goes pop to engage millennials'. Print Edition | Subscribe