In a move channeling the Mao Zedong era, the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and TV [SARFT] announced that artists, filmmakers and TV personalities will be sent to the countryside to learn from the masses.
Some of the chosen ones will live in rural villages for at least a month to experience local life, while others will be shipped off to areas considered significant to China’s revolutionary past. One TV crew has already been drafted to visit a famous battle site to seek inspiration for an animated series, according to the BBC.
The announcement came after President Xi Jinping (a man of the masses) lectured a group of artists about promoting socialist values within their work rather than using “vulgar” means for commercial gain, AFP reports.
China’s media watchdog “will organise film and TV series production staff on a quarterly basis to go to grassroots communities, villages and mining sites to do field study and experience life”, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing a statement by the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.
Scriptwriters, directors, broadcasters and anchors will also be sent to work and live for at least 30 days “in ethnic minority and border areas, and areas that made major contributions to the country’s victory in the revolutionary war”, Xinhua added.
The move “will be a boost in helping artists form a correct view of art and create more masterpieces,” Xinhua said, citing the media administration.
Joseph Cheng, professor of political science at the City University of Hong Kong, described it as “rectification campaign” echoing Mao’s Cultural Revolution, only more targeted.
“This campaign is a bit different in the sense that as long as you don’t challenge the authorities – as long as you keep quiet – you are safe to keep making money,” he was quoted as saying in the AFP report.
In Xi’s October speech, likened to a famous one made by Mao in the 40s, the president told artists not to become “slaves to the market”.
“Fine art works should be like sunshine from blue sky and breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles,” he said.
Dissident artists like Ai Weiwei have long struggled with censorship more so than the understanding of everyday people in China. Ai has been banned from leaving the country since his passport was confiscated by authorities three years ago.