Xi’s ‘Little Red App’ and the face of contemporary propaganda

2841_538745_130670

A contemporary oil painting of Xi Jinping surrounded by students at Beijing University. The image was released on the Ministry of Defence’s website in January, 2015.

There have been many articles written recently on what has been described as Xi Jinping’s ‘Cult of Personality’. In this post I would like to examine how this ‘cult’ is being manifested visually, the role of ‘image management’ in constructing Xi’s personal brand and the resultant intensification in propaganda and diversification of media- particularly digital media and new communications technologies that are being harnessed in this process.

In many ways, Xi has been described as the model of a modern multimedia leader. Over the last two years, he has made numerous appearances across a broad spectrum of digital platforms. His image has been rendered in cartoon form, visual tributes in the more traditional medium of oil painting have been plastered across government websites, songs have been written (and parodied) in his honour, there is a dedicated weibo account that provides daily updates on his activities and his writings have now been translated into at least nine languages. A recently released app combining many of these features is now available for download via the iTunes store (more about this later in the post). Clearly the importance of Xi’s image and the prominence of digital platforms in disseminating it cannot be underestimated, prompting an examination of why Xi’s leadership has chosen to prioritise visual media on a scale previously unprecedented in recent government history. Continue reading