`Red channel` stirs new debate in China

In China,a television station`s choice to air programmes about "red culture" propagated by chairman Mao Zedong is being seen as a sign of emerging discord in the ruling clique.

Last Updated: Jan 05, 2011, 18:35 PM IST

Beijing: In China where the Communist
Party has hurtled on to a capitalistic path over the past
three decades, a television station`s choice to air programmes
about "red culture" propagated by chairman Mao Zedong is being
seen as a sign of emerging discord in the ruling clique.

The satellite TV channel based in Chongqing has
dedicated its prime time to programmes featuring the Communist
Party of China`s revolutionary past when most other
televisions channels focus on entertainment.

The programmes were being aired at the behest of a
local party unit.

"In a controversial move that is generating heated
debate, a satellite television channel based in Chongqing is
dedicating its prime time slots to programmes featuring red
culture, as part of an official campaign meant to remind
people of the revolutionary past of the CPC," state-run Global
Times reported today.

Mao, who established the People`s Republic of China in
1949, kept China on a path of communist ideology for almost
three decades, but under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping the
CPC initiated sweeping economic reforms, effectively
abandoning the party founder`s ideology.

The telecast of the new programmes whipping up
revolutionary nostalgia of Mao era started on Monday.

"It is the first such broadcast decision in the
country, where most stations have embraced entertainment
programming during prime time," the daily said.

Chen Xiushen, director of the editors-in-chief office
at the station, said the Chongqing Municipal Broadcasting and
Television Station is striving to build China`s first "red"
satellite channel - one that honours the CPC and highlights
the legitimacy of socialism.

The idea to launch the red channel was inspired by
local party chief Bo Xilai, who advocated that the station
build a `red culture` brand to counter the entertainment
culture being promoted by most of the TV channels, he said.

According to Chen, the programmes feature the "singing
of revolutionary songs and reading of classics" in the
morning, and showing classic films and documentaries from the
afternoon until midnight.

Chongqing is the fourth big city after Beijing,
Shanghai and Tianjin.

The "red theme" refers to "positive, healthy" content,
in the form of songs, speeches and films that praise the CPC
and were written after the May Fourth Movement of 1919.

That includes those remembering and hailing the Red
Army, the war against Japanese aggression and the re-form and
opening-up policy, according to the Chongqing publicity
department. While the news of the new TV programmes was carried
by official media networks, which are the only sources of the
media in the country, it is not known how the central
leadership of the party viewed it.

Mao though still admired and loved after his death in
1976, much of his hardline ideological dogmas were abandoned
by the CPC which was subsequently led by the moderate Deng.

Deng reoriented the party`s ideology to open up for
economic reforms in the name of `Socialism with Chinese
characteristics`.

Subsequently, some of Mao`s mass movements like the
Cultural Revolution during which thousands were killed in
purges were denounced as "calamity" by official historians.

In this background the return of "red culture" is a
disquieting thought for some in modern China which opened up
its economy in the 1980s and now has a huge property owning
middle classes and a vibrant private sector.

PTI