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Adam Minter

Xi Jinping's Dreaming of a Red Christmas

Western holidays are extremely popular in China. That's a problem for the Communist Party.
Santa vs. Mao

Santa vs. Mao

Photograper: WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

At Northwest University in Xi’an, China, they’re having themselves a red Christmas. According to the Beijing News, somebody has strung a banner on campus that reads: “Be good sons and daughters of your country, stand against Western holidays.” And on Christmas Eve the university required all students to watch “Confucius-themed” documentaries, with teachers guarding the doors and punishing “anyone trying to leave the room.”

Welcome to a new type of merry-making in China, where a Western holiday -- even one drained of religious content, as it has been for most Chinese -- can no longer be viewed simply as an opportunity to have a good time, but rather must be evaluated as one more parry in a “global competition of culture” that China’s Communist Party badly wants to win. The war has been ongoing (with China on the losing end) for decades. But it’s been renewed in recent years by China’s top leaders, who believe that China’s global cultural standing doesn’t match its economic and (increasingly) military standing.