Written by Anne-Marie Brady.

A few days before Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping arrived in the USA last week, People’s Daily released a nauseating new clip called “Who is Xi Dada”, part of a series of video items about Xi on their Youtube page as well as other sites.

“Who is Xi Dada” features interviews with foreign students living in China who make sycophantic comments in praise of Xi. Chinese and foreign youth are the key focus of China’s contemporary propaganda message, as it is believed they’re easier to influence than the older generation. Foreign students are featuring in a lot of reality tv programmes in China these days. The images of young, photogenic, foreigners saying nice things about China make good tv—though the clip goes much further than that. One young woman says she wishes she had a husband like Xi Jinping, one says Xi is like a “father”, while another student says Xi is really “cute”.

The CCP believe that China has a negative international image. Multiple surveys back them up on this view, and since 2009 the Chinese government has made a massive investment in foreign propaganda (外宣) activities to shift negative perceptions. The clip is the latest variation of a longstanding practice by the CCP to utilize foreigners in China’s foreign and domestic propaganda, called “using foreign strength to promote China” (利用外力为我宣传).

The People’s Daily clip brings to mind Mao Zedong’s statement in his speech on the founding of the PRC on October 1, 1949 “The Chinese People Have Stood Up”:

“From now on our nation will belong to the community of the peace-loving and freedom-loving nations of the world and work courageously and industriously to foster its own civilization and well-being and at the same time to promote world peace and freedom. Ours will no longer be a nation subject to insult and humiliation. We have stood up. Our revolution has won the sympathy and acclaim of the people of all countries. We have friends all over the world.

Although it is common for the CCP to use foreigners in its domestic and foreign propaganda activities, only Mao, and now Xi, have been individually singled out for such adulation by foreigners. After the Cultural Revolution this was disparaged as the “cult of the individual” (个人崇拜).

Youtube viewers don’t like the clip; a typical comment describes it as “obscene”. Isn’t this a variation of what Mao used to call “lifting a stone to drop it on your foot” (搬起石头砸自己的脚)?

Dr Anne-Marie Brady, Professor in Political Science, University of Canterbury, New Zealand/Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, DC/Senior Fellow, China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham/Editor-in-chief of The Polar Journal and author of Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China (2008) and China’s Thought Management (2012) along with many other publications on China’s domestic and foreign policy and polar politics.

Image credit: CC by Global Panorama/Flickr