Newspaper article International New York Times

Communists in China Ask, 'Who Am I?'

Newspaper article International New York Times

Communists in China Ask, 'Who Am I?'

Article excerpt

The slick 90-second spot marking 95 years since the party was founded promotes it as a community of humble do-gooders who quietly hold China together.

"Who am I?" It's a question people sometimes ask in moments of self-doubt, or after a wild night out.

Now the Chinese Communist Party has its own heart-tugging answer.

In a slick, new television ad marking 95 years since the party was founded, the question is used to promote it as a community of humble do-gooders who quietly hold China together.

"Who am I? What kind of person?" a gravelly, brooding voice asks at the start of the ad, as a man stands on a beach watching the sun rise.

Piano music swells. "Perhaps you've never thought about it," the voice says. It might seem like the start of a drama, or a moody romance.

The who-am-I question is then answered with a series of vignettes that show Communist Party members as the hardworking backbone of Chinese society. "I'm the one who leaves latest," the voice says as a teacher tidies an empty classroom. "I'm the one who starts work earliest," it says as a street sweeper starts the day. "I'm the one who thinks least about himself," the voice says as an exhausted surgeon falls asleep on the floor after finishing another operation.

Other scenes of selfless dedication in everyday life follow. "I'm the Chinese Communist Party, always together with you," the voice concludes.

Anyone unaware of the pervasive role of the Communist Party in controlling Chinese society might be left thinking of it as a charity or community service group, rather than a top-down organization that achieved power through revolutionary war. The ad makes no mention of Marx, Mao or even President Xi Jinping, the party's leader, who has been prominent in many of its other recent efforts at outreach by video. Rather, it is a kind of update of the myth of Lei Feng, the selfless model soldier who was an icon of Mao- era propaganda.

Since the ad appeared on Chinese television last week, many news outlets here in China -- the party's own -- have praised the 90- second spot as a polished, humanizing makeover for an organization that many ordinary Chinese have come to see as a vehicle for self- advancement. …

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