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China's Rock Music Academy May Be The Least Punk Rock Thing Ever

In China, apparently rock and roll's clash with authority is all about harmony.

Posted on March 8, 2016, at 5:31 p.m. ET

You think rock music is about rebellion, freedom, and passion? Well, shows what you know. China is here to challenge that and show you just how conformist rock music can be.

Last Thursday, a seminar in Beijing — titled "Review and Outlook on the 30 Years of Chinese Rock Music" — revealed a plan to set up China's first Rock Music Academy, Xinhua reported.

Beijing Federation of Literary and Art Circles / Via

The deputy secretary-general of the musicians association

Sipping tea across a typical drab Chinese conference room were some of China's famous rock musicians including Liu Yijun, a heavy metal guitarist from the legendary band Tang Dynasty, and various party officials.

Beijing Federation of Literary and Art Circles / Via

Representatives from college rock bands and music websites were also invited.

"This meeting," said the deputy party secretary of the Beijing Federation of Literary and Art Circles, "aims to create a distinctive phenomenon of Chinese rock, a symbol of Oriental rock music, and a splendid chapter in the history of rock music."

Grace Liang / Reuters

Just so we are clear: This meeting was serious AF. The attendees talked about the history, development, and future of Chinese rock as well as current issues. "All generations agree upon the values of capturing the spirit of rock," the rock star said.

Beijing Federation of Literary and Art Circles / Via

The aura of obedience that came from the meeting shocked Chinese rock fans, as the genre has always served as a spiritual relief under the emptiness of political discussions – moreover, as a symbol of revolution.

Jianan Yu / Reuters

Particularly weird was that "Nothing to My Name," a song by Chinese rock pioneer Cui Jian in 1986, was credited by the meeting as "the song that teaches Chinese people what rock and roll is."

View this video on YouTube

The song's title sang to students' hearts when it was released and quickly became the unofficial anthem of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

I want to give you my hope
I want to help make you free
But you always laugh at me
For I have nothing to my name

Cui sang the song on Tiananmen Square during the protests, which largely encouraged the morale of the students. But for a decade following the protests, Cui wasn't allowed to perform in front of large audiences in Beijing, the geographic base of Chinese rock music.

A Weibo user posted a screenshot during the meeting captioned as "this mysterious country." More than 3,000 users have commented on the post and 17,000 more have retweeted.


Many of the commenters agree on the Kafka-esque nature of the state getting involved in rock music. "I like the ridiculous black humor of it," one said. And many commenters suggested sarcastically that the national grading system in place on other forms of art can be adapted to rock music, so that everybody needs to have a certificate to play punk or heavy metal.

The irony appeared lost on party officials. "The establishment of Beijing Rock Music Academy answers the strong wish and calls of the rock musicians and fans," party official Gang Jie said at the end of the meeting.

Afp / Getty Images

"It's also the strategic objective to improve China's 'soft power' by broadening China's cultural industry and optimizing the upgrading of industrial structure," Gang concluded.

So yeah. Rock on, we guess.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.