China Figures Out How to Produce Must-See Propaganda TV
Gone are the long propaganda documentaries featuring 3-hour speeches from Dear Leader Mao.
Now the media is proclaiming the Communist Chinese Party is making âmust-see TV.â
CNN really is the Communist News Network.
âMining Townâ is a new23-episode propaganda series from Red China, which was produced as part of the 100th anniversary of Chinaâs Communist Party.
You better believe that everyone â and I mean, everyone â will be participating in this centennial celebration, OR ELSE!
You will party! What does that mean? Anything the Chinese Communist Party says it does that given moment.
The propaganda reel âMining Townâ resisted the temptation to lard the TV series with long party conference scenes where the hero demonstrates of the heroine their memorization of Chairman Maoâs Little Red Book.
The result is a popular social drama.
âMining Townâ scored a 9.4 out of 10 on Chinese review site Douban.com, and the rating was by no means totally not rigged.
Chinese propaganda officials are shocked by their sudden success and are now attempting to dissect their surprise hit.
Since the Death, the Chinese Communist Party has struggled to win audiences when competing with commercial TV and film, whether domestic Chinese productions or godless Hollywood imports.
The domestic movie product from China has been so lackluster that the Chinese Communist Party juices the numbers to save face â even though, under the threat of violent punishment, financial sabotage, and/or imprisonment, the Chinese Communist bosses can compel the countryâs top directors and stars to participate.
As part of their public relations scheme, the Chinese Communist Party makes state-owned companies buy tickets for their employees.
All of this makes Chinese leader Xi Jinping a sad man. Because all though he has commanded Chinaâs communications apparatuses to âtell Chinaâs story well.â
Rather than lone, droning speeches, now Chinaâs dictator Xi Jinping says it is imperative to âencourage the creation of artistic content about party history, especially film and TV.â
âMining Townâ is state-funded propaganda series, which is directed at the domestic Chinese audience and specifically depicts the grand purported success of a program Xi Jinping helped to create that is focused on poverty alleviation.
The 23-episode TV series never mentions the Chinese Communist Party Chairmanâs name once, which is a detour from the old hammer and tongs approach of communist Chinaâs party messaging.
Communist China is now in the business of the âsoft sell,â which brutal dictatorships always find is hard to balance when theyâre running detention camps and committing genocide of the Uighurs, such as in Chinaâs western providence of Xinjiang.
âThe palatability of propaganda has always been a challenge for the party,â said David Bandurski, co-director of the University of Hong Kongâs China Media Project. âShows like âMinning Townâ show how sophisticated the media environment has now become, certainly against past failures, in commercializing this party history and quite literally selling it.â
âA lot of these types of TV dramas donât do a great job of looking for a story,â said Kong Sheng, director of âMinning Town.â âYou shouldnât be so fixated on the message that you donât know how to deliver it.â
Chinaâs National Radio and Television Administration are promoting âMining Townâ as part of the partyâs 100th anniversary under the theme âfaith makes China great.â
In meetings with TV regulators, the director Kong Sheng said he had to push for the party hacks that he needed believable characters and genuine conflict if the Chinese Communist Party was to have any hope of reaching young viewers. The director hired local officials and actors to perform in the local dialect instead of standard Mandarin.
Chinaâs National Radio and Television Administration refused to answer questions about the show.
Instead of trumpeting a model of bureaucratic virtue, officials appear scheming and focused on using the âpoverty alleviationâ program to boost their careers. At one point, the party hacks pay agricultural experts to come to teach the town how to grow mushrooms, but then realize they donât know how to sell them.
âIt confronts the problem that government-engineered initiatives to help the poor, such as growing mushrooms in this case, often fail,â said Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago.
âThe scenes are authentic, the costume designs are sincere, the dialect version is also very rustic and the cast is strong,â said popular comment on a rating site.
Can you believe anything that comes out of China when the Chinese Communist Party is intent on manipulating every aspect of society? The answer is no.
A TV drama produced by the Chinese Communist Party last year about fighting the COVID-19 pandemic earned an average score of 2.4 out of 10 before the Chinese Communist Party tried to bury it by pulling it from the public rating system.
The main protagonist was among the group of Chinese celebrities who protested and cut ties with Western clothing brands that spoke out about Chinaâs genocide and enslavement of the Uighurs.
In January of 2021, Chinaâs TV regulators brought the showâs production team in along with other industry experts and local party officials to crack the secret behind the showâs success and try to replicate it.
The results since are mixed: in March, state Chinese television released âClassics of China,â which adapted ancient Chinese texts into short stage plays and has garnered 250 million views on YouTube.
The Chinese Communist Party promises you that no clicks were farmed.
China is now editing an international version of âMining Town.â If you are a masochist and force yourself to watch the entire series, just know that the version youâre watching is very different from the version broadcast in China.
âThis is about reshaping the narrative about China both domestically and internationally,â said one the observer.