13WHAT?

China’s craziest English-language propaganda videos are made by one mysterious studio

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

“Hey have you guys heard what’s going on in China?” the narrator begins, in English, with an American accent, in this strangely propagandistic music video. “The shisanwu!”

The three-minute animated music video was posted across official Chinese media today (Oct. 27), including the Twitter account of Xinhua, the state-run news agency, and on the website of a Communist Party news site. It is just the latest in a series of videos produced by the mysterious Fuxing Road Studio, and featuring native English speakers spouting a strong pro-China message.

The new video has American-accented performers—represented by a cast of animated characters—gleefully singing and chitchatting about the most boring of topics: China’s 13th five-year plan, or shisanwu, a jargon-heavy document laying out the country’s future economic strategy. The newest plan is expected to be announced when the four-day meeting of more than 200 of the Party’s top leaders, known as fifth plenum, ends this Thursday (Oct. 29).

Watch the full video for yourself:

The video ostensibly explains how the Chinese Communist Party develops its regular five-year plans, and how the policies within them are implemented, but it is really just a shallow endorsement for these plans and their quality. “It’s a huge deal!” the video proclaims. The lyrics continue:

As the plan goes from high to low,
The government’s experience continues to grow,
They have to work hard and deliberate,
Because a billion of lives are all at stake!

Even if you’ve never heard a word of Mandarin, watching the video will bake into your memory the words “十三五,” or shisanwu—literally the numbers “thirteen” and “five,” an abbreviation for the 13th five-year plan. It repeats these words over and over:

If you wanna know what China’s gonna do,
Best pay attention to the shisanwu!
The shisanwu
The shisan what? The shisanwu!

Fuxing Road Studio, the production company behind the video, is evasive. It has never introduced itself as a state- or Party-backed production company, or provided credits for its filmmaking crew, but its message in unambiguously pro-Party. It does not deal with English-language media directly, hiring foreign PR agencies to do so instead. Olivia Rogers, a representative from one such PR firm, told Quartz that her company had been hired by the studio to promote the video “When China met Carolina” (link below). And Fuxing often keeps its identity secret even from these PR firms. One British agency that it hired to promote the video “Britain Meets China” did not know that the contract came from Fuxing.

The studio’s videos have covered numerous major China-related events, like state leaders’ overseas visits or Party policy announcements. The videos also appear to go to great lengths to appeal to Western audiences, using fluent English speakers and slick production. Each time, Chinese state media promote the videos heavily, indicating some degree of official support.

Here is a list of Fuxing Road videos released since 2013. They are almost all in English and carry a pro-Party message.

  • How Leaders Are Made” (Oct. 2013). Explains how Xi Jinping became president of China, and suggests that the Chinese system for picking leaders is better than that of the democratic US and UK.
  • The Communist Party of China is with you along the way” (Jan. 2014). Spells out the “Chinese Dream,” a concept put forward by Xi and often compared to the American dream.
  • Follow Xi Dada to Boao,” (March 2015, Chinese). Timed for the Boao Forum for Asia, held in China’s southern Hainan province, which is modeled after the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos. Companion were released when Xi visited Indonesia, Pakistan, and Russia.
  • When China met Carolina,” (Sept. 2015). Released before Xi’s state visit to the US, featuring ordinary Americans saying how much they enjoy working for a Chinese boss.
  • Britain meets China,” (Oct. 2015). Released before Xi’s state visit to the UK, explaining the two countries’ close ties in education, soccer, and business.

Be sure to go through the full lyrics for the song, the political message is a lot clearer without all the music:

Hey, have you guys heard what’s going on in China?
President Xijinping’s new style?
Yes! And there’s more.

The 十三五!
The what?
China’s 13th Five Year Plan? Yeah, the 十三五.

Every 5 years in China, man,
They make a new development plan!
The time has come for number 13.
The 十三五, that’s what it means!

It’s a huge deal!
Like, how huge?
Huge!
Like, China huge?
Wow, that’s really big!

If you wanna know what China’s gonna do,
Best pay attention to the 十三五!
The 十三五!
The 十三 what? the 十三五!

But who makes all the plans?

There’s government ministers and think tank minds,
And party leadership contributing finds.
There’s doctors, bankers, farmer, too,
And even engineers who deal with poo!

Eww. Umm did I hear that right?
Yeah. it’s true!

(Chorus)

But how do they make all the plans?

First there’s research, views collected,
Then discussion and views projected,
Reports get written and passed along.

Then there’s actually more research
And more discussion…
And more research…
And more discussion…
Like, at every level!
Over and over
Through hundreds of rounds!

Okay! We got it! Hundreds of rounds!
Oh my god!
Crazy, right?

(Chorus)

When the plans come out, the works’s not done.
In fact, it’s really just begun!
Because every province, county, city, too,
Have gotta to figure out what they’re gonna do.

(Chorus)

Then the plans keeping getting even better!
As the plan goes from high to low,
The government’s experience continues to grow,
They have to work hard and deliberate,
Because a billion of lives are all at stake!

Like every Zhao, Qian, Sun, Li, Zhou, Wu, Zheng, Wang… [Chinese surnames]

(Chorus)

So that’s it?
That’s it!
Now it’s time to get ready for the 14th Five Year Plan?
The 十四五
The 十四 what?

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