BEIJING — He held up stalks of wheat and made small speak with farmers. He stood aspect by aspect with employees at an oil plant and spoke of constructing an “invincible” China. He referred to as for China to change into extra “self-reliant” within the face of a commerce dispute with america.
President Xi Jinping of China this week visited the northeast for what the state-run media referred to as a three-day inspection tour. However the journey was far more than that. It was an opportunity for Mr. Xi to place himself on a pedestal with Mao Zedong, to rekindle a populist picture and to fireside again at President Trump and “protectionist” insurance policies.
Man in Cost
Mao was a grasp of propaganda in rural settings, utilizing photographs and songs to spotlight his concern for the frequent employee and to domesticate a paternalistic, caring picture.
Mr. Xi, who has been criticized for inspiring a character cult with parallels to the Mao period, has taken observe. In a single picture from his tour of a farm in Heilongjiang Province, Mr. Xi is proven underneath an idyllic blue sky, confidently stepping ahead whereas an adoring crowd of farmers seems on.
The picture is acquainted. Its association mimics the feel and appear of painted propaganda posters from the 1950s, which regularly featured Mao mingling in bucolic settings.
“It is a visible signal not simply of Xi’s present predominance, however of his declare to historic greatness,” stated David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Mission, a analysis program affiliated with the College of Hong Kong. He stated that Mr. Xi added a contemporary twist to the agricultural imagery, with a row of mix harvesters looming within the background to showcase China’s technological developments.
Pang Laikwan, a professor on the Chinese language College of Hong Kong, stated Mr. Xi, who grew up throughout the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, appeared to have discovered a lot from Mao’s character cult, together with his populist enchantment.
“Mao himself additionally has this real curiosity in speaking with bizarre folks, which constitutes a part of his charisma,” she stated.
On this video, Mr. Xi, his palms folded behind his again, strikes up a dialog with a employee at an gear producer in Qiqihar, a northeastern metropolis.
“Are these uncooked supplies domestically made?” he asks.
“Sure, all of them,” the employee responds. Mr. Xi nods approvingly.
Mr. Xi used his go to to reiterate requires China to maneuver extra rapidly to construct its personal applied sciences, in order that it’s much less depending on america. With commerce tensions rising between the 2 nations and threatening provide chains, Mr. Xi has spoken incessantly concerning the want for China to develop its personal microchips, software program and different applied sciences, a part of its technique to change into a number one superpower of the 21st century.
All through the tour, Mr. Xi referred to as for “zili gengsheng,” or self-reliance. At one level, he picked up a rice bowl and stated, “Chinese language rice, Chinese language rice bowl,” emphasizing his name for domestically made merchandise.
“The good rejuvenation of the Chinese language nation is dependent upon our financial competitiveness,” he stated, utilizing a favourite phrase to explain China’s rise, as a crowd of employees applauded feverishly. “Solely then can China be perpetually invincible.”
Buddy of the State
Since coming to energy in 2012, Mr. Xi has confronted criticism for doing too little to shake up bloated state-owned firms, which dominate sectors like telecommunications and metal.
Mr. Xi made it clear throughout his go to to the northeast, which was nearly solely dominated by state-owned firms, that he was not about to vary course. “Any ideas and opinions that doubt or sully the title of state-owned enterprises are fallacious,” he stated, talking to a crowd of employees at Liaoyang Petrochemical in Liaoning Province on Thursday.
State-owned companies are sometimes criticized for focusing an excessive amount of on sustaining employment for employees as an alternative of making modern enterprise fashions.
Whereas Mr. Xi stated the non-public sector would have “unwavering assist,” he stated that state-owned companies “ought to proceed to change into stronger, higher and bigger.”
Zoe Mou contributed analysis.