Move over Marx and Mao, China’s five-year plans are going all "Schoolhouse Rock." In a new animated video promoted by Chinese state media, viewers are given a groovy three-minute crash course in Chinese economic planning -- complete with hipster aesthetics, a catchy song and poo jokes.
The video is dedicated to China’s “shisan wu” -- or “thirteen-five,” an abbreviation for the country’s thirteenth five-year plan.
Every five years in China, man
They make a new development plan
If you wanna know what China’s gonna do
Best pay attention to the shisan wu
The shisan wu, the shisan wu
China’s five-year plans are the country’s blueprints for economic development -- they set goals for everything from economic growth to China’s energy mix and carbon emissions. And how does China come up with said blueprint?
There’s government leadership and think tank minds
And party leadership contributing finds
There’s doctors, bankers and farmers, too
And even engineers who deal with poo!
The video is a slick hybrid of pseudo-psychedelic imagery and catchy guitar riffs, all topped off with a refreshing dose of self-deprecation that's alien to old-school Chinese. Though China’s main state news agency promoted the video on Twitter, the film is actually credited to On Fuxing Road Studios.
Almost nothing is known about the studio, except for the videos it has produced. Those have included a Chinese-language comparison of what it takes to get be president in China and the U.S., and a short documentary called "When China Met Carolina" that praises how Chinese investment helped revive one South Carolina company. The Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily recently tried its hand at a similar genre, welcoming President Xi Jinping's trip to the U.S. with a bizarre video featuring foreign students in China praising Xi as "a little bit cute."
In terms of content, the videos avoid brow-beating propagandizing or overt nationalism. China has been pushing state media outlets to go global in an effort to win hearts and minds abroad. But many Chinese state media outlets in other countries, like China Daily USA, remain burdened by the stodgy ideology and rigid bureaucracies of China's government propaganda apparatus. The new video, in contrast, offers a catchy and positive spin on complex events connecting China and the U.S., all in a snackable, social media-ready package.
It may take that packaging and more to get Americans excited about the 13th five-year plan. Modeled on Soviet economic planning methods, five-year plans were introduced after the Chinese Communist Party took power in the country 1949. The plans have been hit or miss over the years. While the 2nd five-year plan (1958-1962) helped plunge the Chinese countryside into a famine that killed tens of millions, the 11th five-year plan (2006-2010) yielded warp-speed economic growth despite the global financial crisis.
As China’s economy has moved from central planning to hybrid state capitalism, the plans have somewhat decreased in importance. But in areas heavily controlled by the government, such as energy and infrastructure, the five-year plans remain a huge deal.
Like, how huge?
Like, China huge?
Yea, China huge.
Wow, that’s really big!