The Spirit of Model Soldier Lei Feng in Postmodernity
Since Mao Zedong initiated the campaign “Learn from Lei Feng” in 1963, the young soldier has turned into China’s most famous model hero, whose virtues are still officially promoted. After fifty years, however, his image and “spirit” are criticized and ‘floating’ between politics and morality, nostalgia, education and commerce. The article explores the fate of “Lei Feng” since the early nineties by looking into the interaction between promotional strategies and audience/consumer response. Strategies to officially popularize the hero, corruption scandals and widespread information about cases of moral decline inspire debates about the “Lei Feng Spirit”, its absence as well as its need. It is argued that the original “spirit” may still find support, while the majority of young people seem to reduce it to the more international notion of simply “helping others”. In this context, officially promoted tools such as computer games and films hardly survive in China’s competitive cultural market. Irony and entertainment promote the message – the popularity of Lei Feng as a revolutionary myth and icon boosts sales of memorabilia, souvenirs, hats and shoes, though probably without much effect on spreading his virtues.
Changing Landscape of China’s Consumerism, 2014, p. 151-176