China is celebrating Karl Marx’s 200th birthday with an animated series

Cute communists.
Cute communists.
Image: Bilibili/YouTube
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If you’ve ever wanted to read Das Kapital but found it too daunting, the Chinese Communist Party has you covered.

A Chinese animation company in cooperation with the party’s propaganda department is set to release an animated series on Karl Marx, the German founder of communism. Entitled The Leader, the program will be broadcasted on Chinese live-streaming platform Bilibili.

Though it is unclear when The Leader will be fully released, Bilibili has made available a 2-minute trailer.

The anime depicts Marx as a handsome and youthful leader, and will tell the story of his friendship with Friedrich Engels, co-author of The Communist Manifesto. The animation will also give glimpses into his relationship with his wife, Jenny von Westphalen, allowing the viewer to know Marx on a more intimate level beyond his ideology and philosophy, according to state-backed tabloid Global Times.

The release of the animation comes amid a resurgence in Marxism in China that is being fueled by the Communist Party and president Xi Jinping himself, on the 200th anniversary of the philosopher’s birth. On May 4, the day before Marx’s birthday, Xi delivered a speech (link in Chinese) and declared Marx to be the “greatest thinker in human history,” and vowed that Marxism will always be the guiding theory of both China and the Communist Party. China also paid for and designed a bronze statue of Karl Marx in Trier, Germany, his birthplace.

Most people would be hard-pressed to call China a Marxist country in 2018, but Xi has increasingly turned to communist ideology and doctrine (paywall) as a way to foster loyalty to the party, and to cement his own authority in the party.

The Communist Party is also increasingly using cartoons as a propaganda tool. For example, in an effort to “safeguard state secrets,” the education ministry last year launched a 10-minute-long animation teaching children how to detect whether someone in their family is working for a foreign spy. In 2016, the ministry of state security produced a series of cartoon videos featuring Western characters such as Mr. Bean and Spongebob Squarepants to promote the importance of protecting state secrets.

Other Marxist television shows have also aired in China this year, including a five-episode program entitled Marx Got It Right (paywall), and Imperishable Marx, a two-part documentary on the philosopher’s experience writing The Communist Manifesto.