China's Xi echoes Mao on the arts: State media

China's Xi echoes Mao on the arts: State media

BEIJING - China's President Xi Jinping has told artists to serve the people and create works promoting "socialist values", with state media on Thursday comparing his remarks to a speech by Mao Zedong.

Beijing imposes tight controls over art and culture, which critics say hampers China's efforts to upgrade its economy from lower-end manufacturing into more profitable creative sectors.

In a high-minded broadside against market forces, Xi told a group of artists on Wednesday that they should not become "slaves to the market", the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"Pure sensual entertainment does not equate to spiritual elation," Xinhua cited Xi as saying, adding: "Popularity should not necessitate vulgarity."

Xi described common citizens as "the connoisseurs and critics" of art, added the agency, which paraphrased him as saying: "Serving the people and the socialist cause is a requirement of the Communist Party of China, and it is essential to the future development of the country's cultural and artistic sectors."

China relaxed some cultural controls from the 1970s, when popular art consisted of little more than propaganda, in accordance with the doctrines of the country's first Communist leader Mao Zedong.

The state-run China Daily on Thursday likened Xi's remarks to a well-known speech by Mao in the 1940s which outlined his view that the arts should serve politics.

"Art and culture cannot develop without political guidance," the paper said, congratulating Xi for "emphasising the integration of ideology and artistic values."

Beijing is keen to increase exports of cultural products, a process analysts say will be difficult without more market-oriented incentives for artists.

But the Communist party continues to censor artists who it perceives as challenging its right to rule, such as Ai Weiwei, and ideological restrictions have tightened under Xi.

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