Movie theaters across China debuted a star-studded epic film Wednesday that promises to be a blockbuster with Chinese audiences but hardly the kind of entertainment fare Americans might flock to see.
Beginning of a Great Revival is a wet birthday kiss to the world's largest political organization the Chinese Communist Party to mark the 90th anniversary of its founding on July 1, 1921.
The film is the main draw among 28 films the government is promoting for the occasion.
Numerous TV shows also mark the occasion, while a nationwide campaign of "Red songs" has revived revolutionary classics on concert stages and at parks, state-owned companies and universities.
The propaganda barrage highlights the party's media and social controls but also its desire to be loved, analysts say.
" The Communist Party wants an almighty slap on the back," says China analyst Kerry Brown of Chatham House, a London think tank. "The Party is in charge of a country with a massive economy and it wants to celebrate that and get the message across that it's a benign force, a good thing. But when it opens its mouth, the world doesn't understand, and wonders, 'Is it being assertive?'"
The domestic audience naturally matters far more for the rulers of a country experiencing growing economic inequality and violent incidents, such as rioting in recent weeks by migrant workers in southern China over low pay and a lack of jobs.
Sixty-two years since the party assumed power, it shows no signs of relaxing its iron grip. In recent months, authorities have detained scores of dissidents and human rights lawyers to prevent any protests inspired by uprisings in the Arab world, Human Rights in China says.
By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY
Gulmira Kurax, 21, is applying to become a member of China's ruling party.
"The Communist Party has built China to what it is today," Li Zhongjie, one of the party's top official historians, told a Beijing press conference this month. "Many countries in the world are extremely envious. So why can't we carry on? It's a very simple question," he said.
At a movie theater inside a central Beijing shopping mall, artist Jin Rui says he enjoyed the film and hoped it draws many Chinese, especially the younger generation. "Today, too many people care only about making money, but as Chinese, we all need some belief, not just materialism," he says.
"I've lived through many revolutions," says Jin, 58, whose father, a party member, was punished as a "rightist" in the late 1950s. "I don't care which party rules as long as they deliver a good social environment. The Communist Party is doing better and better these days," says Jin, who has never joined the party.