China develops market for heroes: The party is reviving an old cult in an attempt to combat the new materialism of the Nineties, writes Teresa Poole in Peking
Tuesday 08 March 1994
Since then, his 'revolutionary tradition and national moral excellence' have been lauded in the official media by senior cadres fearful that China's establishment of a socialist market economy has gone hand in hand with society's complete moral disintegration. The market economy being the force it is these days, however, the whole hero experience is proving increasingly profitable for Mr Xu.
The front page of yesterday's People's Daily featured the party chief, Jiang Zemin, and the Prime Minister, Li Peng, both applauding young Mr Xu - a 'heroic soldier who defies brutal force and takes up the cudgels for a just cause', according to the Prime Minister.
In the highest accolade, Mr Xu is being heralded as China's new Lei Feng. Mr Lei was a young soldier who died in 1962 at the age of 22 when a wooden pole fell on his head. It was not until the following year that his 'found' diary conveniently revealed that his earlier life had been considerably more politically correct than the manner of his death.
His overwhelming desire had been to be 'a rustless screw in the machine of the revolution', something he was deemed to have achieved by a blameless life helping the poor, doing menial jobs and devoting himself to the revolutionary cause.
In 1963 Mao Tse-tung launched the 'Learn from Lei Feng' campaign that dogged the upbringing of a generation of Chinese. In 1990, in the wake of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the party tried to revive the Lei Feng myth, but after a decade of economic reform it proved rather a flop.
So now it is 'Learn from Xu Honggang'. Mr Xu, by happy coincidence also 22 and also a People's Liberation Army soldier, has now taken up the job of preaching social responsibility. Amid rising corruption, crime and an apparent moral vacuum in contemporary China, serving the people has gone out of fashion. 'People just want to make money and only think of themselves,' said one old man.
The media campaign is rather like a Chinese version of 'back to basics'. The public hero status of Mr Xu was apparently sanctioned at as high a level as Mr Zemin. Television features, newspaper profiles, public lectures now all focus on Xu Honggang.
It was last August that Mr Xu was on a bus in Sichan province when four men demanded money from a woman and assaulted her. According to an official version, her husband was too timid to take on the 'rascals'. Mr Xu, not in uniform, went to her rescue and was stabbed 14 times. But he still chased the men 50 yards and was then rushed to hospital. The robbers were caught and one later executed.
Even heroes need some incentives in modern China, however. Last June the Chinese government set up a fund to encourage and reward brave citizens. Last August, honorary titles were awarded to 119 brave people in Peking. All over the country, provinces are setting up bravery funds so that heroes know there is hard cash at the end of the day.
Mr Xu is not doing too badly. He reportedly received on average 180 visitors a day during his month in hospital. And, by the beginning of this year, well-wishers had given him more than pounds 1,000 - about two and a half years of his soldier's salary.
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
US blames Russia after rocket attacks in Ukraine kill at least 30
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...