Cui In China’s Good Graces?

Chinese media is reporting that rock godfather Cui Jian has been invited to perform at the big Chinese New Year gala, which is broadcast every year on state TV. 

Photo: AP Photo / Ng Han Guan, File
in 2006. 

Cui’s manager confirmed the invitation and initially declined to say anything more due to a confidentiality agreement she signed with CCTV.

Cui has been out of government favor since 1989, when he expressed solidarity with demonstrating students during the famous Tiananmen protests by playing in the square itself several days before the government broke up the demonstrations with tanks.

There seem to be several explanations for the invitation. It could mean that the government has finally forgiven the veteran rocker, or it could also point to a desperate attempt on the part of CCTV to boost ratings for the New Year’s gala, which has been flagging in recent years and criticized for the poor quality of performances.

This year’s show will be staged by popular film director Feng Xiaogang.

Jian’s manager, You You, said, “There was no specific ban on Cui Jian performing, though sometimes he might have problems with local authorities in giving performances. But the problems have gradually gone away with time.”

However, in an email sent to the New York Times and published on its China blog Jan. 15, You You wrote that she believed it was unlikely Cui would end up performing at the gala.

“In the end Mr. Cui Jian can’t participate in this performance,” she said. Asked why, she responded, “Because we cannot change the song lyrics.”

The only possibility, she implied, is if no changes to his songs were required.

In particular, some wonder if Cui would be able to perform one of his most well-known songs, “Nothing to My Name,” a 1986 ballad that is closely associated with Tiananmen Square.

In the past, some performers who have been invited to appear on the New Year’s show have complained of the censorship process, which one Taiwanese magician described as “truly frightening.”