Understanding the Lei Feng Revival: Evidence from a Survey of Chinese Students

Publication Type:
Journal Article
China Media Research, 2017, 13 (2), pp. 54 - 66
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In March 2012, the Central Committee of China's ruling Communist Party issued the "Suggestions on Strengthening Activities to Learn from Lei Feng" - a peace-time soldier who died in an accident in 1962. Lei Feng became a model of socialist citizenship in 1963, when his alleged diary, which celebrates selflessness, class struggle and the inspiring effects of Mao Zedong Thought, was upheld during a national campaign to "Learn from Lei Feng". Today, China's government is promoting Lei Feng to encourage volunteering. Numerous reports suggest that public reactions to the revived use of Lei Feng are cynical and disbelieving, highlighting the Party-state's recourse to anachronistic propaganda. The paper explores the history and altered nature of Lei Feng's fame and the responses of 415 university students to survey questions about him. Contrary to received wisdom, these responses indicate that he is viewed as a relevant symbol of helping others. The findings call into question the adequacy of the term "propaganda" to describe either the multiple content that comprises the contemporary figure of Lei Feng, or the nature of public service communication campaigns in present-day China
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