China struggles to impress its young with "red" TV propaganda

Thu Nov 8, 2012 4:05pm EST
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By Melanie Lee

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - For the next few days, 26-year-old Joy Zhang will be watching her favorite American shows like "Prison Break" on a computer, since China's TV channels will be devoted to state-approved fare for the duration of the Communist Party's once-in-five-years congress.

Shanghai-based Zhang, who works for a manufacturing company, is part of a growing number of young people unimpressed by patriotic period pieces known as "red" dramas that swamp the airwaves at times of major political events.

"As a post-80s child I guess I want to see different cultures, thoughts, ideas and interesting things in this world," Zhang said.

The red dramas, once an effective propaganda tool of the ruling Communist Party and which Zhang had to watch in school, "have nothing new to say", she said.

But with the 18th Party Congress now under way in Beijing, the shows - which glorify the army, the party and ordinary villagers living hardscrabble lives during the early days of the communism - are unavoidable.

"If it's not (family) dramas on TV, then it is all kinds of red dramas, don't tell me I have to watch the news!" complained one microblogger in her twenties.

"I am going to sleep earlier today, there are no interesting TV programs. Red dramas everywhere," said another.

With their effectiveness as a tool to propagate communist thought waning, experts say the government must re-invent the shows if they are to retain any relevance for young viewers.   Continued...

People watch a TV showing of a huge screen shows a news broadcast of China's Vice President Xi Jinping at the 18th Communist Party Congress at a crossroads in Shanghai November 8, 2012. REUTER/Aly Song