Huang Wenxiu, who is a selfless patriot who worked tirelessly for the motherland became a martyr for the Communist cause this summer. The Communist Party is making her into a modern-day hero for an increasing anachronistic China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, last month while praising Huang as a “national outstanding Communist Party member,” said, “Learn from Huang Wenxiu. … Be brave enough to shoulder responsibilities and willing to show dedications, so as to make new and greater contributions in the Long March of the new era.”

Since Xi has taken the party leadership, he has made morality and traditional virtue a tenet of his rule, which he has propagated through the Orwellian-sounding “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”

Last week, on the evening of an important party the authorities published “civic virtue” guidelines that could easily have been formed on Huang. The meeting of Forth Plenum ended with a broad statement about the “important progress” made under Xi and an endorsement of his leadership.

David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project said that heroes have a special place in the Communist Party’s mythmaking around its construction of legitimacy. 

“The point is to have figures that point people toward the need to sacrifice oneself to the interests and priorities of the party. The life well-lived is the life of devotion to the party and the nation,” he said.

To protect the aura around its heroes, the party has made additional efforts under Xi along with enacting a law that makes it legal to defame heroes and martyrs. Xi could hardly hope for a better incarnation of his ideology than the smiling young Huang whom the party is admiring as a  21st-century incarnation of Lei Feng, the possibly fabricated cultural icon of Mao Zedong’s times.

“Under Xi Jinping, as the party has sought to reconsolidate its power and argue for its legitimacy, we have seen something of a return of the hero after the Lei Feng mold, the hero who sacrifices for the good of the party, which of course is equated with the greater good,” Bandurski said.

For his new era, Xi needed a new hero, someone who had shown steadfast allegiance to the party during his tenure, and Huang perfectly fit the bill.

Huang basically belongs to Baise and she was born on the mountainous border with Vietnam in 1989 into a poor family. But she achieved a master’s degree from Beijing Normal University in 2016.

A commentator wrote in the People’s Daily, the party mouthpiece, “She could have earned big money in a white-collar (job) in the big city, yet she chose to return to Baise and volunteered to work in a remote and difficult village.”

She “did not think about her own dignity and affluence but the greater matter of changing the backwardness of her hometown.” She became party secretary in a remote village with a stated mission of helping at least 100 households emerge from poverty. 

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