China sending artists to countryside to “form correct view of art"

China sending artists to countryside to “form correct view of art"
A statue of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong is seen at an art complex in Shanghai, 07 September 2006. China will mark 09 September, 2006 the 30th anniversary of the death of the great Chairman Mao, who despite being the architect of the Cultural Revolution that killed millions and took China to the brink of collapse, is still revered by many across China as a god-like figure.

BEIJING - China will send artists, film-makers and TV personnel to live among the masses in rural areas in order to "form a correct view of art", according to a state media watchdog notice.

The move is the latest by the ruling Communist Party to echo the Mao Zedong era, when intellectuals and others were "sent down" to labour among peasants in the countryside.

It comes weeks after President Xi Jinping told a group of artists not to chase popularity with "vulgar" works but promote socialism instead, with state media comparing his remarks to a speech by Mao.

Chinese Internet users reacted to the latest news with derision on Tuesday, with some calling the decision the beginning of a "new Cultural Revolution".

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) announced that it "will organise film and TV series production staff on a quarterly basis to go to grassroots communities, villages and mining sites to do field study and experience life".

Scriptwriters, directors, broadcasters and anchors will also be sent to work and live for at least 30 days "in ethnic minority and border areas, and areas that made major contributions to the country's victory in the revolutionary war", the notice said.

The move "will be a boost in helping artists form a correct view of art and create more masterpieces", it added in the notice, published Monday.

Beijing imposes tight controls over culture, and ideological restrictions have tightened under Xi, with authorities censoring Ai Weiwei and other artists they perceive as challenging its right to rule.

Joseph Cheng, professor of political science at the City University of Hong Kong, described the move as a Mao-style "rectification campaign" aimed at silencing potential critics as Xi leads a far-reaching anti-graft sweep.

"Xi Jinping is under considerable pressure, because his anti-corruption campaign certainly has hurt a lot of vested interests," Cheng said. "This is again a time of pressure tactics on the intelligentsia and on the critics."

'Slaves to the market'

The new edict harkens back to the era of Communist China's founder, when popular art was little more than propaganda, but Cheng said that whereas Mao's Cultural Revolution was aimed at the entire intelligentsia, the current move was more targeted.

"This campaign is a bit different in the sense that as long as you don't challenge the authorities - as long as you keep quiet - you are safe to keep making money," he said.

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