Leisure, Hobbies, and the State in Socialist China
4: A Happy New World: The Communist Takeover of Leisure
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
East China Normal University, China (People's Republic)
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), leisure was important in several ways. Theoretically, Marxist doctrine placed leisure (free time) in a key position in its program of cultivating all-round developed new people. In practice, as reflected by the attack on the “American way of life” and the praise of the “Soviet way of life” from the Party’s propaganda machine, diverse state-sponsored leisure activities symbolized the supremacy of socialism over capitalism. Moreover, the CCP hoped that young people under its regime would have vigorous and lively personalities. Thus, the Party wanted young people to voluntarily take part in state-organized collective and participatory leisure activities, as it believed that instead of being a passive member of society, young people could “liberate” themselves culturally by participating in leisure activities in person. To take over Beijing’s leisure landscape, instead of thorough control and transformation, the CCP adopted a “decentralized” approach to people’s leisure choices. Private ball game clubs were downplayed by the Party, and they gradually declined. Self-organized dancing was redirected into officially organized group dancing. Radio entertainment and popular games that contradicted the Party’s policies or tastes were banned and replaced by government-offered versions. The Party also offered new leisure in the newly established Beijing Youth Service Department. This decentralized approach towards leisure changed people’s way of spending their leisure time without engendering noticeable complaints about losing freedom in their private time.