Why Xi Jinping’s (Airbrushed) Face Is Plastered All Over China

作者:change?  于 2017-11-10 11:55 发表于 最热闹的华人社交网络--贝壳村


Mao Zedong, c. 1950

Xi Jinping, 2017

Why Xi Jinping’s (Airbrushed)
Face Is Plastered All Over China


President Xi Jinping is China’s most powerful leader in decades. Not since the days of Mao Zedong has one figure so dominated Chinese life. Mr. Xi, who welcomed President Trump to China on Wednesday, cannot yet match Mao’s grandeur. But he has inspired a devout following that some critics describe as the early stages of a personality cult.

Here’s how Mr. Xi has used the tried-and-true strategies of autocrats to present himself as a transformative figure.

Putting Himself on a Pedestal

Perhaps the most telling sign of Mr. Xi’s dominance came last month, when he was awarded a second five-year term as China’s leader.

The layouts of Communist Party newspapers are carefully designed to signal the relative power of top officials after leadership reshuffles every five years. For decades, the front page of People’s Daily embodied a “collective leadership” model as the party sought to spread power more evenly after Mao's death in 1976.









But Mr. Xi was awarded a different layout. His beaming face evoked the days of one-man rule and unmistakably placed him on a pedestal with Mao.


The faces of the other six members of China’s most powerful body are barely visible.

During his decades in power, Mao exerted virtually unchecked authority over the government. Even as Mao’s decisions led to violence across China during the Cultural Revolution, splitting families and engulfing the country in chaos, the media depicted him as a generous leader motivated only by his love of country.

This poster of Mao, circa 1968, calls for unity against “class enemies.”Chinese Posters Foundation

Mr. Xi is far from cultivating Mao’s sort of following. And historians said creating and maintaining the image of a cult figure is trickier than it was in the days of Mao, when the novelty of loudspeakers and television were able to reach a more receptive and captive audience.

“Nowadays, there’s a certain cynicism,” said Daniel Leese, a professor of Chinese history at the University of Freiburg. “At the time, it was brand new.”

But Mr. Xi has consolidated power at a remarkable pace for a man who was virtually unknown outside China when he rose to power in 2012.

By elevating himself to the status of Mao, Mr. Xi is sending a message that he is not to be challenged, and that now is the time for China to unite behind a singular force to push forward an ambitious agenda. He has so far avoided designating a successor, prompting speculation that he will seek to extend his power beyond the end of his term in 2023.

The Making of an Icon

In the front-page version of Mr. Xi’s portrait, the color and saturation were adjusted, hiding gray hairs and skin imperfections and giving the photo the feel of a painting, said Hany Farid, a professor at Dartmouth College and an expert on photo forensics.

The processed image evokes the same visual style as portraits of Mao, said Jan Plamper, professor of history at Goldsmiths, University of London. “It’d be like depicting Trump more like George Washington.”

At the height of the Mao era, people displayed his image in their homes and wore it as a badge on their clothing. The ubiquity of the image in the most private spaces of Chinese life helped to give him a deified status, said Pang Laikwan, a professor of cultural studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“Loving Mao was in the air and part of people’s everyday life,” Ms. Pang said. “There was no alternative.”

Mr. Xi’s slogans are splashed across front pages, and his speeches dominate the evening news. His voice booms from giant television screens in busy plazas and his image hangs inside homes, restaurants and taxi cabs – often alongside Mao’s.

Adam Dean for The New York Times
Aly Song/Reuters

Mr. Xi, the son of revolutionaries, has tapped into Communist Party lore in a way that hearkens back to the era of Mao. By becoming a symbol of the Communist cause, Mr. Xi has sought to bring the party and its values back to the center of everyday life at a time when many Chinese are focused on material wealth.

A Warm, Paternal Figure

Mr. Xi’s predecessors were criticized as wooden and aloof. Former President Hu Jintao, for example, appeared rigid while visiting the countryside in the eastern province of Anhui in 2008.


By contrast, the current president has cultivated a warm, paternalistic image. During a 2016 visit to the southern province of Jiangxi, Mr. Xi came across as personable and down to earth.


Mr. Xi is known popularly as “Xi Dada,” or “Uncle Xi.” He has made the sorts of casual visits that were rare for modern Chinese leaders – for example, visiting a steamed bun shopfor lunch in 2013, where he paid his own bill and bussed his own tray.

The avuncular nickname echoes other autocratic leaders. Joseph Stalin, the “father of the peoples,” often surrounded himself with children, conveying absolute authority and benevolence. Ho Chi Minh, known as “Uncle Ho,” did the same in Vietnam.

Joseph Stalin depicted in 1947, and Ho Chi Minh posing with children in 1954.Russian State Library (Joseph Stalin), Getty Images (Ho Chi Minh)

Mr. Xi’s fatherly persona helps maintain unity behind the Communist Party by crafting a narrative that everyone can understand. “Images have to be legible by the entire society,” said Mr. Plamper.

The state-run media has experimented with other strategies for playing up Mr. Xi’s lighter side as well, sometimes portraying him as an animated character. Here is his avatar in a People’s Daily feature promoting China’s dream of developing a leading soccer team by vanquishing corruption in the sports industry. (The ball is labeled “fake.”)


Mr. Xi has deployed his personal story to inspire zeal and adulation. While recent Chinese leaders published tired volumes of speeches, Mr. Xi has released a book about his experiences as a young man sent to the countryside under Mao. The book, based on interviews with farmers and people who served alongside Mr. Xi, recounts his days shoveling manure and sleeping in flea-infested caves.

A book about Mr. Xi, left, alongside a book about his predecessor.

Mr. Xi’s writings are mostly aimed at a domestic audience, helping to create a heroic aura and to place him in the same revered ranks of Mao and Deng Xiaoping. His books are often featured in lavish displays with stars and ribbons, a break with the more restrained exhibits afforded many of his predecessors.

Increasingly, party officials see Mr. Xi’s writings as a tool to introduce Mr. Xi on the global stage, and his books have been translated into dozens of languages.

As the United States enters a period of retreat, many Chinese see Mr. Xi as their best chance at getting ahead globally and weathering storms of the economy and corruption at home. And the party is making sure that everyone in China and abroad knows it.









发表评论 评论 (15 个评论)

12 回复 change? 2017-11-10 11:56
The United States does not take the Chinese threat seriously enough. Americans are far too naive about China and China's plans to dominate Asia. They are as big of a threat to us as Germany was to Britain in the 1930s.

This naivete is in part due to the pro-China lobbying done by American businesses who want access to the Chinese market. Trump is probably not the man to do it, but someone needs to bring these oligarchs under control and to remind the that they work for the United States, not for China.
8 回复 change? 2017-11-10 11:57
I see Xi's actions as rather hollow. The Chinese, from what I can tell, no longer revere leaders. They tolerate them and their obvious corruption and elitism. They know that China changed long ago from communism to fascism.

What they now revere instead of leaders is capitalism: Range Rovers, Tiffany,
Steinway, Hermes, Apple, etc
12 回复 change? 2017-11-10 11:58
Let us know when he opens the first of a dozen XI Towers, hosts a reality show, and tweets from the loo. We've got our own wannabe oligarch who'd give us the same foul air China struggles to breathe, a new shuffle of funds heading via tax legislation to his corporate friends (and even a few billionaires abroad), and our own great wall planned. For U.S.A. there is no good excuse. Americans have the option to ingest factual 'news' that China's citizens obtain at risk. We swallowed pizzagate, 'lock her up, and burped out Donald.
13 回复 change? 2017-11-10 11:58
Give him respect? He's trying to establish a personality cult, similiar to Mao....remember how that worked out for the Chinese people?
9 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:00
If Trump could, I have no doubt that he'd follow the exact steps that Mr. Xi did to become a public God in the US. This is why he admires authoritarian leaders so much, and why his frustration erupts when he feels he doesn't get the adulation he believes he deserves here at home. No doubt Trump is overwhelmed with envy at the power he sees Mr. Xi has over his people and his country. I only hope our democratic systems are strong enough to contain Trump and to keep his God-complex in check.
8 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:00
Plastering your name and portrait everywhere doesn't make you legitimate, or populist, or Communist, but it sure shows your authoritarian insecurity to all.
10 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:01
Chinese dictator Xi is the Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party just as Mao was.

Calling Xi "president" legitimizes his dictatorial rule.

Why not call Kim the "president" of North Korea?
8 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:02
How much respect is really owed to aspiring dictators? Propaganda and the ill effects of leadership purposefully distorting reality have become hot issues in the U.S. -- it is unsurprising that the propaganda efforts of the leader of another country would be viewed through a skeptical lens.
8 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:03
Any leader of a government that "firewalls" their people's internet to stifle free speech about their greatest legacy (Tank Man) deserves exactly "no respect".

May his reign be short, and his life under a new legitimate government of China be behind bars!
9 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:04
It's called brain washing. And the Chinese are masters of the art.
10 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:06
Indeed it is quite important to note that Xi's photos are airbrushed. Certainly none of our politicians or celebrities would ever stoop to such a level of vanity.
9 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:06
Wow, China's president uses media for positive image. I am shocked!
Please,somebody, tell me why this is news.
10 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:08
This has been the standard practice of leaders with no legitimate, direct mandate from their subjects for thousands of years, starting with Mesopotamia. As soon as a leader so much as has their face put on a coin, you can be sure there is major insecurity about that leaders lack of legitimacy.

Not to say that direct democracy is the right recipe for every nation at every stage of development, but if Xi tries to install his son or daughter to replace him, it may spell an end to China's development as a successful modern nation. As is, they may be only one charismatic general away from revolution should their economy falter.
13 回复 change? 2017-11-10 12:09
Above are comments by some readers.
9 回复 琴瑟 2017-11-10 17:00

facelist doodle 涂鸦板

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