China promotes late altruism icon to bring hope

Updated: 2012-02-29 09:23


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BEIJING - As Chinese battle their way through a drastic social transition process, their government is promoting the lofty values characteristic of Lei Feng, the late altruism icon, to give them hope, according to an article carried by the People's Daily newspaper Tuesday.

In rapidly developing China, "how to curb the erosion of money worship, hedonism and extreme individualism, properly define their relations with others within a society, and seek the meaning of life, are increasingly severe challenges facing every individual," read the article under the byline of Ren Zhongping.

The lengthy article carried by the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) came a day after the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee called for a national campaign of "learning from Lei Feng."

China needs to seek a "spiritual impetus" for the changing society based on the essence of Lei Feng's spirit, said the article.

The CPC Central Committee in a plenary meeting late last year called for a campaign to learn from Lei Feng in a deep manner, noted the article, terming the move part of China's efforts to build a strong nation in terms of cultural influence.

Every individual should draw motivation from Lei Feng, carry forward the traditional virtues of the Chinese nation, act on socialist morals and develop good social customs, the article said.

It added that every Party member and official, in particular, is obligated to follow in Lei's footsteps and set a good example in practicing socialist core values at a time of conflicting interests and plural values.


"If you were a water drop, would you like to provide any moisture for the fields; If you were a ray of sunshine, would you like to light up a portion of the dark; If you were a grain of rice, would you like to feed a life?" wrote Lei Feng, the late Chinese icon of altruism.

Known for devoting almost all of his spare time and money to selflessly helping the needy, the common soldier who died at the age of 22 in 1962, has become a memory shared by generations of Chinese.

Born in late 1940 in central China's Hunan province, Lei was orphaned at the age of seven. He started working in a steel mill in 1958, and became an army recruit in 1960.

Lei Feng died from injuries sustained from being hit on the head by a pole while helping a fellow soldier direct a truck on August 15, 1962.

In a diary dated just five days before his death, he wrote, "From now on, I will love and respect people more, always learn from the masses with a humble heart like a primary student, and be a servant of the people."

A year later, late chairman Mao Zedong called on the entire nation to follow Lei's example, and March 5 of every year is designated "Lei Feng's Day."

"The past decades have seen numerous people who, inspired by the spirits of Lei Feng, embraced an inner pursuit of following his example and thus became excellent and model figures in their specific fields," Luo Shugang, executive deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, told a press conference Monday.


Altruism, which was characteristic of Lei's short life, has offered ordinary Chinese a continuous and great spiritual stimulus at that time when the 1949-founded new China was striving to cope with natural disasters-generated famine and external pressure from foreign nations.

However, Lei Feng's spirit will never become out-of-date in China, according to analysts.

"The Lei Feng spirit was and is of great significance to the nation and the society," the People's Daily article said, citing President Hu Jintao.

Each time when people were saddened by undesirable social phenomena they would say "There was no Lei Feng anymore." In many people's eyes, Lei Feng has become an alternative word to a person with warm hearts.

China now is in a period of social transition with moral conditions among people differed sharply. While some people volunteer to teach in remote villages, some take pleasure in pursuing and flaunting wealth. While some broke their arms to catch a falling kid, some did nothing but watch a baby was killed alive under vehicle wheels.

That means "learning from Lei Feng" is increasingly important for modern China in terms of cultivating lofty morals among the people.

The Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee held a press conference Monday calling for starting a national campaign of "learning from Lei Feng" in a regular manner.

The campaign will help to stimulate public enthusiasm for improving own moral levels, encourage people to promote traditional morals and socialist ethics, Luo said, addressing the press conference.

Luo added that the move will also help direct Party members to cultivate their Party spirit and thus keep vanguard character and purity of the CPC, according to Luo.