By Marco Fumian
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 28, no.1 (Spring 2016), pp. 78-128
This essays analyzes the 2007 popular novel, Chronicle of Du Lala’s Promotion. A bestseller followed by three sequels, a film, a TV series, a stage adaption and so on, it narrates the success story of a young Chinese woman who paves a dazzling career in a multinational corporation. While the novel appears, at first sight, as a purely commercial product which is created by the market and simply talks about (life in) the market, I argue instead that the novel serves the function of educating its readers to the dominant ideological values and goals promoted by the Communist Party in this period, which are precisely those necessary to the construction of the “socialist market economy”. By highlighting how the novel draws from exemplary narratives of self-transformation of the Mao era, and how it reproduces many official ideological discourses of its time, especially those centered around the notion of “middle class”, I will show that the character of Du Lala in fact can be considered an exemplary model akin to those of the Maoist period, even though the type of personality she is intended to exemplify is completely different. Viewing the novel as part of a widespread phenomenon of popular literature and culture that ultimately aims at popularizing the teachings that the higher education system wants to transmit to the Chinese students and future professionals, this article also attempts to make some reflections on the modes of ideological dissemination and the evolution of exemplary literature in China during the age of the socialist market.