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China Is Releasing A Cartoon About The Life And Times Of Karl Marx To Popularize Communist Ideology


On Monday Chinese video sharing website Bilibi (哔哩哔哩) will be releasing a cartoon about the life and times of the founder of Communism, Karl Marx. The Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCPPD) and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences have partnered to create the cartoon, whose aim is to popularize Marxism.

The cartoon, entitled The Leader (领风者), has been realized in a style reminiscent of Japanese anime and consists of 7 episodes of 25 minutes each.  The story focuses on the young Karl Marx' friendship with Friedrich Engels and his relationship with his wife, Jenny von Westphalen. A trailer released in December shows Marx portrayed as a young, handsome and energetic leader. 

The cartoon aims at making Karl Marx more accessible the common Chinese people, who may not be familiar with his theories.

Marx has experienced a revival in China after Xi Jinping took office in 2012 and began emphasizing the importance of Marxist ideology.   

Marxism-Leninism is enshrined in the constitution of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as its ideological foundation. But when Deng Xiaoping launched his reform and opening up policy in the late 1970s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) created the theory of the "primary stage of socialism" to justify market reforms as an intermediate stage towards the ultimate goal of socialism (Sujian Guo, Post-Mao China: From Totalitarianism to Authoritarianism?, p. 40).

The CCP continued to staunchly proclaim the "universal truth" of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. In practice, however, the government focused on economic development and allowed a relative degree of freedom as long as the citizens followed the regime's basic line. 

Most crucially, the CCP retreated from the workplace in order to promote economic development. Chinese citizens could now choose the profession they wanted and partake in the new consumerist society (Ching Kwan Lee, Working in China, p. 2).

The internet, too, became a vehicle of self-expression. As late as 2010, China observers noted that Chinese bloggers stated their opinions online and often departed from the government's position on various topics, although they were careful to avoid challenging the legitimacy of one-party rule itself (Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, 2010, p. 84). While the state clung to Communist rhetoric, the common people lost faith and interest in Marxist ideology.

However, Xi Jinping recentralized power in the hands of the Party and made ideology more pervasive. He turned journalism into pure regime propaganda, cracked down on dissent, and stifled all hope that China might develop an independent judiciary.

In spite of the state promotion of Marxism, the CCP fears grassroots activism inspired by it. In 2018 dozens of students of major Chinese universities were detained, including the head of the Marxist Society at Beijing University. The students described themselves as Marxists and Maoists and publicly supported the right of workers to establish independent trade unions. 

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