"Conquer English to make China stronger!!" is the slogan of Li Yang's Crazy English course in Beijing, part of the country's program to teach itself as much English as possible before the start of the Olympics this August.
Li's classes - held often in large arenas and auditoriums in a way analogous to American megachurches - attract large followings, making him a sort of "Elvis of English" for many Chinese. Some followers even go so far as to donate blood just to be able to attend his lectures, while others faint in the crowds as if at a Beatles concert. Whether these ardent fans are actually learning English remains unclear.
What is clear, however, is that this "crazy English" program is one of the few instances of visible populism in China since the Cultural Revolution. Having taught himself English - and in China, no less - Li exemplifies the possibilities available to common Chinese citizens and, perhaps even more the the CCP itself, is a mobilizing agent for the country's move towards modernization.
Whether Li's courses have anything to do with the CCP is unknown (at least to this writer), though I'd be surprised if some links didn't exist. Li does not claim to love the West, and instead describes it as an imperialist power set on infiltrating China with its customs and culture. His insistence on English is thus derived from a recognized need to close the gap between English-speaking and non-English speaking countries, rather than from any particular affinity towards all things Western.
More than an English course, Crazy English appears to be a way of liberating millions of Chinese from centuries of cultural indoctrination and making available to them a world beyond their own. As noted in a post on Ampontan:
"Calling the program Crazy English is a stroke of genius. It provides the students with the justification for liberating themselves from centuries of cultural conditioning that expected people to be reserved and act within a group context instead of being openly assertive as individuals. Crazy people get to do anything they want."
And what many Chinese want, it seems, is to be modern citizens in a modern-day world. Luckily for the CCP, this is what it wants of its citizens, too.