Twelve-year-old Chen Le is a typical Chinese kid. He loves flying paper airplanes, plays Ping-Pong and dreams of becoming a scientist. And he aims one day to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) so, as Chen puts it, “I can puff out my chest and say I am a party member.” The public school that Chen attends in China’s southwestern metropolis of Chongqing was renamed the Red Army School earlier this year to pay tribute to the soldiers who gave their lives to the People’s Republic. “I’m very proud of my school’s new name because the Red Army soldiers were tough and had a strong spirit,” says Chen, a little crimson kerchief tied around his neck. “I want to be as red as they were.”
This summer, China is awash in red. As the nation commemorated the 90th anniversary of the CCP on July 1, hundreds of millions of schoolchildren, officials, retirees and even top Internet executives joined voices to sing “red songs” praising the motherland. Cinemas have rolled out the red carpet for a blockbuster propaganda film about the creation of the party. Local governments have sent out text messages with pithy quotes from Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic, whose Little Red Book of sayings has for years been mere flea-market kitsch.
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