A big hit on the Internet in China right now is a professionally produced cartoon called How to Make Leaders, which satirizes the American and U.K. election systems and shows how China's six most important leaders rose from grassroots politics to the apogee of power in the country.
It's a cartoon that is extremely rare in China, as even gentle satire is not tolerated, but its positive spin on the process of appointing China's leaders has prompted some commentators to suspect it may be a clever piece of propaganda in disguise.
The high production values, combined with the release in Chinese and English with subtitles, suggests that the Propaganda Ministry may be getting wise to disruptive marketing and more sophisticated on-message content.
The five-minute cartoon compares the systems of the U.S. and Britain, saying that you can rise to power either by "a single vote that gets the whole nation out to vote" or alternatively endure "a meritocratic screening that requires years of hard work like the tempering of a kung fu master."
The process of appointing leaders in China is an arcane, secretive process that takes place behind closed doors before the outcome is revealed at one of a number of Communist Party congresses.
The cartoon's message is that the system is actually extremely representative.
"As long as the people are satisfied, and the country progresses and develops as a result, it's working," is the conclusion.
The cartoon shows how current President Xi Jinping took more than 40 years to get to the top, passing through various community-level offices before jumping up the ladder of provinces and finally to the top office, in a scene like a video game.
"He has comprehensively understood the actual conditions of the country before being elected as the president," according to Chinese state media reports about the video, which again feeds into the theory that it might be a propaganda piece.
The video also features other top current political leaders, as well as late chairman and founding father of the Communist revolution in 1949, Mao Zedong, the architect of reform Deng Xiaoping and former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
In an amusing tableau, the cartoon shows President Barack Obama donning boxing gloves to fight his way to the top, gathering large amounts of funding en route, and concludes that becoming president in the U.S. is harder than winning American Idol.
Intriguingly, the cartoon comes out just days after the Xinhua news agency carried a commentary calling for a "de-Americanized" world.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron, his head similarly oversized, has to juggle various interest groups to make his way in the Houses of Parliament and says that the ordinary person's chances are slimmer than "Susan Boyle's chance of winning Britain's Got Talent."
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