Core socialist values in song and dance

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (9/1/16)
China’s ‘Core Socialist Values,’ the Song-and-Dance Version

BEIJING — The 12 “core socialist values” are memorized by schoolchildren, featured in college entrance exams, printed on stamps and lanterns, and splashed on walls across China. Now they have made their way into 20 song-and-dance routines that the authorities in Hunan Province plan to promote to the country’s millions of “square dancers,” the mostly middle-aged and older women who gather in public squares to perform in unison.

At a news conference kicking off the campaign on Tuesday, a dozen women in white pants and yellow tunics bounced and twirled to the lyrics of one of the songs: “Freedom, equality, helping one another! Patriotism, dedication, everyone loves it!”

Freedom, equality, patriotism and dedication are four of the values enshrined in 2012 at the 18th Communist Party Congress. The other values in the set of 12, which are written using 24 Chinese characters, are prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, justice, rule of law, integrity and friendship.

“This is to spread our core socialist values in a way that the public loves to see and hear,” said Li Hui, director of the Hunan Culture Department, according to local television. “In this happy melody, the 24 characters are memorized.”

The department has trained 15,000 teachers who will instruct people in schools, factories, businesses and both urban and rural communities on how to perform the routines, collectively titled “Let’s All Dance.” The Hunan authorities also plan to invite teachers from other provinces to learn the dances.

Tang Zuobin, an official at the Hunan Culture Department, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the province was preparing 10,000 textbooks accompanied with videos of the dances for distribution across China. He said the department had undertaken the project under the direction of the Ministry of Culture.

Mr. Tang said that the popularity of square dancing made it an ideal vehicle for the propagation of the core socialist values.

In Hunan, he said: “As long as there’s a square, there are square dances. Lots of people participate in square dances, and we want to give them more opportunities to dance.”

Lei Tao, manager of the Hunan Dama Club (“dama” means “aunties”), said in an interview that his group, which has about 20,000 members, overwhelmingly women ages 45 to 70, had heard about the project and planned to start practicing the routines soon.

But not everyone in China has embraced the idea of either square dancing or the core socialist values.

There have long been complaints in China about square-dance music blaring near people’s homes. In 2014, residents in Wenzhou, in Zhejiang Province, bought their own sound system to broadcast warnings to square dancers about violating noise pollution laws.

“It’s so tiring to be a Chinese, when a dance has to demonstrate core socialist values,” a person going by the name of Shanapu wrote on Weibo. “Do we need to demonstrate these when we go to the toilet, too?”

Many other online commenters have mocked the routines as a form of “loyalty dance,” performed during the Cultural Revolution to show fealty to Mao Zedong.

At a high-level meeting in early 2014, President Xi Jinping called on officials to take every opportunity to propagate the core socialist values in culture, education and other aspects of society. “Make them all-pervasive, just like the air,” Mr. Xi said.

Some critics have seen a contradiction in promoting values such as democracy and rule of law at a time when journalists, rights advocates and lawyers have been detained and, in some cases, forced to make televised confessions without trial.

But such concerns do not seem to have intruded on the square-dance campaign.

“Let’s sing. Let’s jump,” go the lyrics of another of the songs. “We all enjoy prosperity and democracy! This is a good time with justice and the rule of law!”

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