“These cultural products have their own artistic value,” said Denise Ho, assistant professor of history at Yale University who studies 20th century history in China. “For many Chinese, there is a nostalgia for certain aspects of the Mao era.”
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By reviving older works, Mr. Xi appears eager to remind the public of the party’s glory days. His government has redoubled efforts to fortify ideological loyalty among artists. This year, a government-backed industry association released a moral code for performing artists — dancers, musicians and acrobats included — calling on them to be faithful to the party and help advance the socialist cause.
Mr. Xi, in a ceremony this week at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, handed out centennial medals to 29 party cadres, including Lan Tianye, an actor often described as a “red artist,” and Lu Qiming, a patriotic composer known for the piece “Ode to the Red Flag.”
“For Xi, as for Mao, art is first and foremost a political instrument,” Professor Ho said.
The Chinese government has tried to use music, dance, television and movies in recent years to improve its image, especially among young people, many of whom have no direct connection to the Communist revolution of 1949.
A rap song celebrating the centennial, titled “100 Percent,” has been widely shared on the Chinese internet in recent days. But the 15-minute track, featuring 100 artists, has been mocked for its wooden propaganda slogans.
“Our spaceships are flying in the sky,” says one lyric. “The new China must get lit.”
Performers say they hope the high caliber of the centennial productions, including elaborate costumes, sets and visual effects, will appeal to younger audiences.