Cultural Revolution echoes in anti-graft campaign

Cultural Revolution echoes in anti-graft campaign
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - The days of the Cultural Revolution seem to be back again in China. Or so it has been repeatedly said in the recent past and does not seem like much of an exaggeration when looking at ongoing developments in the country. Just as Mao Zedong brought down his political enemies, branding them as "counterrevolutionary," Chinese President Xi Jinping is taking advantage of an anti-graft campaign to crack down on his opponents. Meanwhile, Xi's wife, Peng Liyuan, is trying to stoke revolutionary fervour among the populace by staging "The White-Haired Girl," a propaganda play once promoted by Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, during the turbulent times of the mid-1960s to mid-1970s.

The White-Haired Girl

"The White-Haired Girl" will evoke profound memories to people who have followed China with interest for a long time. The drama dates back to 1942 when Mao issued a statement, in which he said cultural activities and arts should serve the good of the working class, including workers, farmers and soldiers. This inspired the creation of an opera titled "The White-Haired Girl."

It is a story about a poor farmer's daughter who has been taken away from her fiance by an evil landlord. The girl runs away into the mountains and while on the run, her looks are transformed as her hair turns completely white. Her fiance, who joins the Communist Party, leads the Eighth Route Army, the army of the Communist Party, and defeats the landlord. He manages to rescue the girl, after which her hair turns black again.

The message of the play is that landlords and other magnates of the old society turn people into ghosts, but the new society of the working class turns ghosts into human beings. The play is said to have reduced Mao to tears. As the Communist Party expanded its control of China, the play was staged in various parts of the country and was turned into films, classic Chinese opera and ballet. This year marks the 70th anniversary since the first staging of the play. To commemorate the anniversary, the play was put on first in Yanan, the former stronghold of the Communist Party in Shaanxi Province, on Nov. 6 and will continue to be staged in major cities until Dec. 17.


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