torsdag 18. april 2019

The odd reality of life under China's Orwellian propaganda app

Labelling China Orwellian is often a blunt attack, one that misses the diversity and dissent of its 1.4 billion population. But when the state compels you to play video games designed by the government’s propaganda department, Orwellian is appropriate.

China’s Study the Great Nation app, launched earlier this year, does what the name suggests: it helps you to study, via news articles, videos and quizzes, the People’s Republic of China. The app is more dystopian, though. Party cadres and students are mandated to play the game, and have their points – earned by reading articles to the end and watching a video for at least five minutes – monitored by their bosses and teachers.

So what is inside this digital version of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book? For starters, rather than Mao being the subject of scholarship, this time round it’s Xi Jinping, the Chinese president who has hoarded power like no other since the revolutionary zealot. Many observers have noted that Xi also seeks to build a Mao-like cult of personality; the Chinese name of the app is Xuexi Qiangguo – a pun on Xi’s name.