China state TV show on Deng creates a buzz

Portrait of Chinese Leader Deng XiaopingChinese state television CCTV is airing a show on late leader Deng Xiaoping, which is creating much buzz about the Communist Party of China (CPC) easing its grip on sensitive historical legacies.

The 48-part drama series chronicles the period between 1976 and 1984 when Deng began pushing China towards market reforms and transformed China’s economy that paved the way for double-digit growth over the next two decades. Commissioned for the 110th birth anniversary of Deng Xiaoping, this new series titled “Deng Xiaoping at History’s Crossroad” is one of the first officially sanctioned dramatisation of Deng’s life who led the nation to economic development after Mao’s death. However, he was also responsible for the crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989.

This groundbreaking series has gone beyond the treatment of history as a sensitive business in China and features “sensitive” figures for the first time, including the former controversial leader Hu Yaobang. Hu supported political and economic reforms and was later forced to resign by party elders for his pro-reform attitude. Hu’s death in 1989 brought thousands of students to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, leading to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Considering that any public discussion on the pro-democracy movement during the Tiananmen Square protests is still forbidden in China, outside producers are watching to see how much censorship is taking place or if the series herald a new type of political thinking in China. Analysts also believe that this series is linked to Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaigns and his commitment to continue economic reforms.

“In recent years, China’s restricted areas of speech have obviously decreased. This series marks significant progress,” the Global Times, said the influential Chinese daily.

Though the series does refer to sensitive issues, the series will be making no deviations from the official Party line. Observers point out that in the first episode itself, Mao was absolved of all responsibility for Cultural Revolution and most controversial aspects are likely to be airbrushed from the series. Moreover, around 10,000 preview copies have been sent to government leaders, researchers, film critics and those with close connections to Deng to get their opinions before the airing of the series. Some film critics indicated that the series does not go too far from the current political thinking about former Chinese leaders.

In China, every film and TV show is first seen by censors to ensure content is acceptable. Politically sensitive material has been banned in the past and is quick to attract the wrath of official censors.

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