In Taiwan it is common for politicians to use cartoon images of themselves in election campaigns.
These friendly-looking avatars are then emblazoned on billboards and keys rings in an attempt to win public support.
Politicians in mainland China have resisted such gimmicks, partly because elections are limited affairs but also because the practice wouldn’t fit with the serious and sober image that the ruling Communist Party likes to project.
But there are signs that this is beginning to change as Chinese leaders recognise the appeal of animation, even for adult audiences.
As the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth approaches – which will falls in December –a 3D cartoon on the Great Helmsman’s early years is now being prepared (at a budgeted cost of Rmb30 million, or almost $5 million). The idea is to have the animation in cinemas by the time celebrations of the anniversary start to reach a crescendo at year-end.
Posters for the film show the young Mao, who was born in 1893, as a slim, wide-eyed boy, sporting a traditional Qing Dynasty hairstyle – shaved at the front, with a long braid at the back.
“Children like to watch cartoons. The old and stereotypical style [of presenting leaders] can’t engage them anymore. This is the 21st century. We can’t be stuck in the old ways. We need to be innovative,” Lu Huasheng, art director at Qiushi (or Seeking Truth) – a Party journal – told the South China Morning Post.
Another politically-orientated animation even went viral this week.
The cartoon is about how to get elected as president or prime minster in the US, the UK and China and was posted on the video sharing site Youku by little known studio, Road to Rejuvenation. Featuring an animated Barack Obama, David Cameron and Xi Jinping, it has been watched by upwards of 1.5 million people and fairly accurately describes the democratic processes of the US and the UK.
None-too-subtly, it then makes the case that the route to the top in China, while not exactly democratic, is meritocratic – requiring hard work and the accumulation of valuable experience.
The five-minute clip traces Xi Jinping’s path to power from county to city and then provincial leadership, eventually rising to Communist Party general secretary and president, a process in which Xi “experienced 16 major job transfers and governed a cumulative population of over 150 million in 40-plus years”.
All this hard work means that ascending to China’s presidency is like the “training of a kung-fu master”, the narrator points out, which is to say, there is no quick way to the top.
While it doesn’t claim explicitly that the Chinese method is superior, the video does cast an occasionally critical eye at leadership elections elsewhere. What are the key qualities needed to win the race for the White House, for instance? The narrator tells us they are “a glib tongue, extraordinary stamina and, most importantly, an unending flow of greenbacks.”
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