China's annual Congress: seen one, seen 'em all

For six years, the ruling party's propagandists have run virtually identical photos – and headlines – of the annual gathering.

BEIJING – For an immediate, and hilarious, insight into just how wooden and unimaginative the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda apparatchiks are, take a look at this website.

Don’t worry about the Chinese characters, just scroll down through the pictures. They show you the (nearly identical) front pages of the People’s Daily, the ruling party’s official organ, on the opening days of the "National People’s Congress" for the past six years, beginning with this year's session, which took place this month.

No wonder these pictures have been circulating on the Chinese blogosphere under the title, “How hard is it to be pictures editor at the People’s Daily?”

What is astonishing is that China as a country is in constant motion: Everything about this place, from its economy to its social mores, is changing with extraordinary speed. Yet the men and women in charge of inspiring the masses seem to be stuck in a time warp somewhere circa 1955.

In one sense, perhaps, the cookie-cutter front pages are an accurate reflection of the “news” they are covering: the “National People’s Congress” is a fake-democratic rubber stamp parliament.

How little real news it generates is clear from the banner headlines in red, running down each page: they are identical, for six years in a row, except that the number of the parliamentary session changes with time, as do the names of the Politburo Standing Committee members on the podium.

All the headlines say “Wu Bangguo hosts (he’s the individual in the left hand photo), Wen Jiabao gives the government work report (he’s the one in the right hand photo, behind identical banks of pink lilies, year after year.)

If China’s leaders want to brush up their image through new media projects, as the Monitor reported last month, they might start by livening up their communications operation.

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