A Headless and Empty Politics


This cartoon, posted by artist Kuang Biao (邝飚) to his blog at QQ.com, is a nuanced criticism of China’s current politics. The red carpet represents the red road of China’s current politics, essentially market economics welded to political autocracy, encompassed by the political buzzword “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The name of Kuang’s cartoon is “The Special Road” (特色之路). Marching along in front along this road is an official wearing a long gown, a symbol of China’s old feudal society, and a suggestion by Kuang that China’s leaders still behave in a feudal manner in an essentially feudal system. Servants walking behind the official hold up empty symbols that bolster legitimacy and create unity. The first holds up an airily empty umbrella torso of Mao Zedong (representing Maoist ideology) as a shelter for the official — protecting the official from ideological challenges. This is also a reference to China’s imperial past as emperors walked under massive umbrellas while on outside tours. The official (and his servants — other officials too?) are headless, suggesting the lack of real political acumen behind the show and triumphalism. The red flag might represent Chinese nationalism, a unifying force. The portrait held at the back of the procession is presumably that of former president Jiang Zemin (江泽民), whose own political formula, the “Three Represents”, has been written formally into the Party Constitution.

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