7. Ideology: The unbearable lightness of the Yellow River Spirit

Have you heard of the Yellow River Spirit? Neither had the tens of thousands of aspiring Chinese civil servants who stared blankly at the final essay question of the 2011 civil service exam on the subject of “Carry Forward the Yellow River Spirit,” to be exposited from an angle of their choice.1 The test takers had studied Chinese Communist Party (CCP) history and ideology since childhood and could reflexively recite dozens of its slogans and dogmas. And yet writing a précis on the Yellow River Spirit had stumped them. Their bewilderment was no accident. Yellow River Spirit sounds indistinguishable in form or content from any number of CCP slogans—Harmonious Society, Scientific ...

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