This week, the Central Committee of China’s Communist Party meets to hammer out economic reforms as part of its 13th five-year plan. And if you think that sounds boring, you obviously haven’t heard the catchy — some say cringe-inducing — English music video dedicated to the five-year plan.
After China’s state-run news agency Xinhua posted the music video online overnight, it’s gone viral. A quick listen to the lyrics makes Communist centralized economic planning seem cheery:
Hey have you guys heard about what’s going on in China? / President Xi Jinping’s new style? / Yes! And there’s more! / The Shi San Wu! / The what? / China’s 13th five-year plan! / Yeah! The Shi San Wu! / Oh! / Every five years in China, man, they make a new development plan…
The video raises a lot of questions, like: Why are hippies with guitars and bongo drums atop a VW bus singing about China’s 13th five-year plan?
Or: Why did Xinhua think this would appeal to foreigners?
Or, simply: Why?
“I think for the last few years, the Chinese government has tried to master the language of the meme culture of the Internet and new media,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of Danwei, a firm that tracks Chinese media and the Internet, “and they’ve perhaps done it more successfully in the Chinese Internet. But this is one of the more interesting examples of them trying to do it in English to a foreign audience.”
Besides being, quite possibly, the catchiest song ever sung about centralized planning, it also aims to educate. It harkens back to the 1980s “Schoolhouse Rock” songs from ABC, except here, it’s teaching foreigners about the challenges of governing the world’s second-largest economy.
“As the plan goes down from high to low, the government’s experience continues to grow. They have to work hard and deliberate, because a billion lives are all at stake,” the song goes.
Danwei’s Goldkorn doesn’t think the song will have the intended impact on its target audience.
“You can’t really make what the current Chinese government is doing into some kind of folk song that will appeal to people who think a VW bus is cool. It just doesn’t quite work,” he said.
But the video, he says, has certainly made a lot of people pay attention to China’s 13th five-year plan.