Marxist-Leninist Mao Zedong Ultraman to the rescue!

Who will dominate the ideological information technology battle of the future. The U.S.? China? Or is the game already over?


Andrew Leonard
December 4, 2008 11:29PM (UTC)

A message from General Xu Tianliang, director of the political department of China's National Defense University, published in the People's Daily on November 10, and translated by the Chinese Media Project, under the title "The most uplifting leftist harangue in recent memory."

We must persist in the unshakable position of Marxism in the ideological sphere, promoting the popularity of contemporary Chinese Marxism, firmly establishing the basic theoretical foundation of socialist ideology; we must unshakably persist in the great ideals of communism and the common ideals of socialism with Chinese characteristics, holding high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics... We must unshakably persist in the central task of building civic morals, so that the socialist view of honor and shame becomes the guiding principle of the behavior of all citizens.

And so on. CMP's David Bandurski warns us not to over-titter; he contends that General Xu's op-ed is "an an open challenge to pro-reform leaders on the eve of a critical anniversary" -- the 30th anniversary of "Deng Xiaoping's re-emergence and the onset of economic, social and political reforms."

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Maybe so, although I will require more edification in what precisely is meant by the "socialist view of honor and shame" before I am convinced. But I agree with Bandurski, General Xu's call for building "a modern transmission system with Chinese characteristics" is worth taking seriously.

Numerous facts have revealed that in this age of rapid development of information technologies, whoever has mastery of cutting-edge transmission methods, and whoever's transmission capabilities are strongest, can achieve more widespread transfer of their thinking, culture and value concepts, and thereby more effectively influence the world.

Of course, as anyone who has watched a 13-year-old put a new cellphone through its paces, the implications of the above paragraphs are that teenagers will rule the world (if they are not already its tyrants.) No one masters cutting-edge transmission methods better than a teenager. And on that note, we must segue effortlessly, if unexpectedly to what looks to be a student composition written in answer to a Chinese essay question: What would Ultraman do if he succeeded in wiping out all the monsters in the world? (Ultraman is the hero of a long-running series of Japanese children's TV shows).

The composition, translated by Danwei must be presented in full:

If I were Ultraman, the best would be Ultraman Ace. I'd keep peace in the universe. I wouldn't be like my brothers, fighting monsters in Japan all day. I'd universalize "peace-keeping." I'd set up hotlines in all the major countries of all the continents in the world, so that I'd be able to make it there whenever something happened. And I'd fight the aliens who invaded Earth, and I'd also take the initiative and defeat the strongest Baltans who have their eye on Earth. And I'd patrol all throughout the galaxy, rooting out everything that would harm Earth. Of course, I couldn't simply rely on myself, a single Ultraman, to accomplish such a large-scale monster destruction. I'd have to unite the world of Ultra and start up a military service, and then bring the fine suggestions of Earth's Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and Jiang Zemin Theory to the world of Ultra so that they can excel at both thought and combat. And build a harmonious universe, which needs to start from the very young. So bring up good "little Ultras."

To be able to unite the universe and keep peace is my greatest desire.

Italics mine. I just want everyone to stop and think about what the consequences would be of a generation of Chinese teenagers transmitting and proselytizing Mao Zedong Thought and Jiang Zemin Theory on the Internet of the future. Where's Ultraman when you really need him?

Incidentally, I once gave an Ultraman action figure to a friend for his birthday and discovered that he'd been a big fan of Ultraman as a kid growing up in Hawaii. But I did not realize until today just how incredibly voluminous Wikipedia's online Ultra resources are. (You can start here.)

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I think, for example, that Borges would have found the following paragraph delightful:

At present, Tsuburaya Prod. accepts 36 Ultramen as official (counting Ultraman Legend, the combined form of Ultramen Cosmos and Justice, as a separate entity). This figure does not account for Thai-produced Ultramen. (The figure is 38 if you count Next, Noa, and Nexus as separate entities -- it has been revealed in Nexus that all three are a single being with various modes used by different hosts.) In 2001, the Ultra Series was cited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the record-holder for the most number of spin-off shows.

This figure does not account for Thai-produced Ultramen! Color me, impressed. Clearly, we need not worry about Mao Zedong Thought-spouting teenagers with Chinese characteristics. Ultraman otaku have already conquered the commanding heights of the Internet. Deng Xiaoping can rest content. No matte what challenge is mounted by the likes of General Xu, the battle is already over.

For further edification, I leave you now with the theme song to 1972's "Ultraman Ace," as sung by the Misuzu Children's Choir, which oddly sounds something like the Red Army Choir, although higher pitched.

But even more charming, I think, is the theme song to 1997's "Ultraman Dyna."

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Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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