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China checks culture

President Hu Jintao warns against Westernization

China’s President Hu Jintao is urging the country to resist what he calls hostile forces in the West that are using culture — apparatchik-speak for Hollywood movies, among other things — to sow division.

He called on authorities to expand China’s cultural influence in a speech to Communist Party leaders in October, made public in the Party magazine Qiushi (Seeking Truth) this week.

“We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of Westernizing and dividing China, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their longterm infiltration,” Hu told the annual policy meeting of the Party’s Central Committee, effectively the 365 most powerful people in China.

Clearly the most hostile international force is the U.S., or more specifically Hollywood, and Hu’s comments are in line with the Party’s recent decision to boost the local culture industries, such as movies, books and art, while reinforcing socialist principles.

The article in Seeking Truth, founded in 1958 by Mao Tse-tung, is most likely a sign that Hu is hammering home the policy of boosting China’s cultural influence at the start of a new year.

The Communist Party often characterizes efforts to push socialist values as an ideological struggle with the West, especially the U.S.

The Party is trying to shore up support for its socialist principles at a time when there are mounting calls for greater representation from China’s growing middle class plus rising anger at corruption and land grabs by property developers.

The most popular films in China in recent years have been overwhelmingly Hollywood blockbusters, including “Avatar” plus the “Harry Potter” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises, although there have been some local exceptions.

The Party has tried its hand at its own blockbusters: 2009’s “The Founding of a Republic” marking 60 years of Communist rule, was popular but last year’s “Beginning of the Great Revival” was not a success.

The Party keeps a tight grip on cultural output through censorship, and building up a cultural bulwark against calls for reform is crucial.

Recently it rolled back freedoms for reality TV skeins, gameshows and talent programs on satellite TV.

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