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China ready to cut out ‘tumours’ of celebrity and capitalism

Wang Dan said Beijing was waging a “revolution in the cultural realm” PICHI CHUANG/REUTERS

China has vowed to cut out the “tumours” of celebrity and capitalism and return the country to its socialist principles.

“From the economic realm, the financial sector to the cultural circle, and to the political field, a profound transformation, or a profound revolution, is taking place,” Li Guangman, a nationalistic blogger, wrote in an article widely republished by state media.

“This is a political transformation . . . returning to the original mission of the Communist Party of China, returning to the people centralism and returning to the essence of socialism.”

Beijing wants to curb the influence of celebrities such as the actress Zheng Shuang, who has been fined for tax evasion IMAGINE CHINA/SIPA USA/ALAMY

Li’s article, which described celebrities embroiled in scandals as “social tumours”, was picked up by the People’s Daily, the official Xinhua news agency, PLA Daily, China Youth Daily, the China News Service and China Central Television.

The commentary and the unusual orchestrated support from all party mouthpieces came after moves by Beijing to rein in the influence of celebrities and tech giants. Regulators have vowed to take more control over tech companies for a fair and just market while censors have silenced celebrities embroiled in tax evasion and sex scandals.

Yesterday the party’s top discipline inspection commission heard that profit-chasing capitalism was to blame for the chaos in celebrity culture.

Capitalism was seeking “to manipulate” young people, “to plunder economic benefits and even to influence the society’s thoughts and cultures,” Jiang Yu, a researcher for the Development Research Centre of the State Council, told the commission.

Young people study Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book in the 1970s STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Now was the time to end it, Jiang said, adding: “If capitalism should be allowed to expand unchecked in the cultural realm, art and culture will lose the function of serving the people and serving socialism and the Chinese nation will lose its spiritual home.”

Such rhetoric has raised fears among liberal intellectuals that China could be at the beginning of a new Cultural Revolution — the decade of social and political turbulence between 1966 and 1976 that led the country into chaos.

Mao Zedong, China’s founding revolutionary, launched that campaign to cement his rule. Cai Xia, a former professor at the Central Party School and now a vocal critic of President Xi, told Radio Free Asia that she was seeing a repeat of the 1960s. “The party is certain to launch a political movement when it is in a crisis,” she said.

Wang Dan, a former student leader of the 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen movement, said Beijing now wanted to “transform people in a soul-touching way and wage a revolution in the cultural realm”. However, he questioned Xi’s ability to deliver a revolution, writing: “In today’s China, how many people truly admire and follow Xi Jinping?”

In addition to its campaigns against celebrities, Beijing has outlawed private tutoring and ordered public schools to ease burdens on parents. Yesterday Beijing vowed to stabilise housing prices and make homes more affordable, especially for young people. All are part of Xi’s goal of “common prosperity”, by which he envisions a more equitable society and a truly socialist country.

Li wrote: “This transformation will sweep away all dust. The capital market won’t be the paradise where capitalists get rich overnight, the cultural market won’t be the paradise of sissy celebrities and the public opinion won’t be worshipping western cultures.”

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