Published on December 13, 2019 by Ralf Ostner
The CPC’s cultural struggle through its panda diplomacy, Chinese state circus, shaolin acrobatics, Zhang Yi Mous’s few historical films and other state directors, as well as Confucius institutes offering language and calligraphy courses as well as short Chinese history courses narrating the history version of CP China, is on the side challenged the Chinese opposition only by the leader-centered, authoritarian, religious-fundamentalist organization of the Falungong through their cultural program “Shen Yun”, which is available worldwide as multimedia and cultural events and is currently touring through the USA and Europe, including Germany. Like the CP China, the Falungong emphasizes the 5000-year-old Chinese high culture, in which even minorities are assimilated and incorporated into the Chinese culture as colorful folklore and mixture of 5000 years of Chinese history. Shenyun offers legends and myths compactly in one, while the CP China offers only small more acrobatic facets such as state circus and Shaolin monks.
With its Chinese state circus, the CP China wants to present to western viewers such as the Falungong the precision and harmony of the uniform movements and interplay of the artists, who perform extreme physical accomplishments in an aesthetic collective and embody their collectivism and efficiency and present them as superior to western individualism. Both appeal to simple, authority-minded minds, which allow themselves to be lulled by pompous, clichéd and stereotypical mannerist mass kitsch, in which the individual disappears in the collective and in the masses and is drown in a sea of colors and sounds like in the best Leni Riefenstahl aesthetics in “Triumph of the will” and the 1936 Olympics, military parades or North Korean propaganda mass productions. Yes, if these people had been Red Guardians, they would have understood the kitschy revolutionary operas by Mao widow Jiang Qing as cultural-revolutionary performances purely culturally, aesthetically and athletically and not politically.
Of course, there are differences between KP China and the Falungong. As the Shenyun advertising brochure states:
“A lost culture returns when Shenyun takes the stage. The culture of ancient China was inspired divinely. Shen Yun shows this heritage with its rich spiritual elements. Shen Yun can not perform in China today. Based in New York, Shen Yun will give you an idea of Chinese culture which remains unaffected by communist rule “.
The Falungong declares itself the actual owner of Chinese ancient culture, concentrating on spirituality and ancient deities, legends, fairy tales, fantasy worlds,
superstition, in which it also believes and which it also wants to re-establish in China with its own religion. Shen Yun creates a colorful fairy tale world for all the senses, classical music, harmony that comes close to extreme kitsch, only shows the positive sides of a Chinese fairy tale history, but is only perceived as positive by most viewers who like a different spiritual fairy tale and dream China as Xi Jinping’s atheistic, materialistic, neotatlitarian China, which apart from being a super-market, is no longer liked, or its centuries-long Asian despotism. Shen Yun promises a fairy-tale dream China, immaculate from concentration camps for Uigirs and poisonous toys or poisoned milk powder, raw materialism and greed, without divine inspiration and redeeming power of a spiritual force like the Falungong.
It is remarkable how naively Western viewers fall for this cultural-political program and praise it because they consider it a pure cultural program and want to keep politics out of culture, even though the CP China and the Falungong subtly bring it into it. Falungong leader Li Hongzhi was formerly the trumpeter of the People’s Liberation Army and knows how mass propaganda works, but this is mostly hidden from western viewers. The spectator remains the kitsch spectacle in his mind that Chinese culture is very fairytale, colorful and sensual, harmonious culture and in no way hanchauvinistic and despotic as it was and is. Fir the audience of Shen Yun it is incomprehensible why the CP China does not let Shen Yun tour through China, as it would only be about Chinese culture and China is a cultural nation in its own own self-image. Li Hongzhi’s cultural struggle and cultural policy have already achieved an essential goal. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese Communist Party, as its counterpart, will launch its own Shen Yun and send it on tour through China and the West.