Chinese punks

August 9, 2006

How do you play Revolution Rock in a totalitarian society? The Washington Post looks into the phenomenon of Chinese punk:

At a recent concert, a Chinese punk rocker was “just following the script for punkness” and attacking President Bush, said Michael Pettis, owner of the club where P.K. 14 performed. “Chinese punks should be attacking Hu Jintao, but that’s not the way it works in China. That’s dangerous.”

Cui Jian, an icon for some punks in China, said cooperating with government censors doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change the meaning of a song. “Chinese punks want to show they’re angry. That’s enough. They don’t have to make a big statement,” he said in an interview. “The most important thing is don’t lose yourself.”

So how do you protest while fitting into the requirements of a society ready to jail you for any criticism? The subtlety that must emerge from the literati-inclined section of the underground must be fascinating. It reminds me of some of the hidden criticism of royalty in Chaucer, et al. I’m expecting the Chinese version of the Clash to surpass them in literary prowess.

Unfortuanately, most youth don’t get that. The masses listen to and appreciate protest rock when it’s most transparent and straightforward. So a burgeoning punk scene would probably have about zero impact in China.

And don’t get me started on the whole “I’m punk so I want to dress and look different than everyone else so I’ll be a cookie cutter of all my friends” syndrome. Guess that one’s pretty universal.

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