Propaganda in the People's Republic of China

Propaganda in the People's Republic of China

Propaganda in the People's Republic of China refers to the PRC's use of messages designed to influence public opinion.


The history of communist propaganda in China predates the establishment of the PRC, and it has since manifested itself in various forms, such as songs, paintings, posters, and films. Propaganda produced by the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has been disseminated through state-controlled print and electronic media, and the CPC has made prolific use of the Internet as a means of distributing propaganda to both Chinese citizens and foreigners in the modern age. China Central Television has traditionally served as a major national conduit for televised propaganda, while the "People's Daily" newspaper has served as a medium for print propaganda.

Political scientists believe that propaganda in the PRC is being utilized by the CPC to nurture the development of Chinese nationalism and of loyalty to the PRC, the CPC, and the Beijing government in general. Many also believe that the PRC government, having embarked on a program of capitalist-style economic reform and modernization in the late 1970s, is keen to use propaganda to portray the CPC as a nationalistic and patriotic party, rather than simply as a party that builds socialism or implements Marxism-Leninism in China, since these have largely been abandoned in practice and thus can no longer serve as effective bases for loyalty to the regime. Common themes in the new nationalistic propaganda of the PRC include the lionizing of the CPC's People's Liberation Army and its individual soldiers for their exploits and sacrifices during the 1937-1945 Second Sino-Japanese War and the allegedly seamless unity of the nation's 56 officially recognized ethnic groups.

In previous decades, PRC propaganda was crucial to the formation and promotion of the cult of personality centered around Chairman Mao Zedong. It also served as a useful tool for mobilizing popular participation in national campaigns such as the 1958 Great Leap Forward and the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. Following the death of Mao in 1976, propaganda was used to blacken the character of the notorious Gang of Four, which was seen as responsible for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Past propaganda also encouraged the Chinese people to emulate selfless model workers and soldiers such as the famous Comrade Lei Feng, suicidal Chinese Civil War hero Dong Cunrui, self-sacrificing Korean War hero Yang Gensi, and Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who assisted the Communist Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It also praised Third World revolutionaries and close foreign allies such as Albania and North Korea while vilifying both the United States "imperialists" and the Soviet "revisionists" (the latter of whom was seen as having betrayed Marxism-Leninism). One of the most famous propagandist who went sidetracked was Zhang Zhixin. Her loyalty to the party as well as opposition to the ultra-left, singled her out to severe punishment. But her story provide a good example of how propaganda are delivered.

During the era of economic reform and modernization that was initiated by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, propaganda promoting "socialism with Chinese characteristics" was distributed. The later reign of President Jiang Zemin saw the creation of propaganda demonizing Falun Gong as a cult and promoting his "Three Represents" theory. One of the most controversial event was the Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident of 2001.

Chinese connotations of the term

While in the Western world the word "propaganda" bears negative connotations, the Chinese word "xuanchuan" (Chinese characters: 宣传), which is liberally translated as "propaganda", actually means "to broadcast" or "to spread (information)", with no negative connotations that would imply bias or untruthfulness. This explains why many English speakers would consider the use of such a term as an outright acknowledgment of the biased nature of Chinese propaganda, although the term can in fact be used in politically neutral contexts. This is congruent with the pre-WW1 usage of the term in Western Europe, which also does not connotate deception. For example, Chinese "propaganda" has also served to raise public awareness about the law, the need for common courtesy, the importance of embracing science and technology, the need to take preventive measures against SARS and AIDS.

For example:

(pinyin: xuān chuán ān quán zhī shi) would, in accordance with the literal dictionary definition of "宣传", be translated as "propagating public safety awareness". There are absolutely no political connotations surrounding the use of this word, as might be present in
(pinyin: xuānchuán Máo Zédōng sīxiǎng) or "propagating Mao Zedong Thought".This can be likened to the use of "Agitprop" specifically as political propaganda, and the Spanish word "propaganda", which simply means advertising.

Ideological background

In the realm of the arts, the theory of socialist realism that was adopted by the USSR and the PRC of Mao Zedong explicitly states as its goal the education of the people in the objectives and the meaning of the ideology of communism. One of the official goals of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution in the PRC was "to transform literature and art."

The CPC Central Propaganda Department (pinyin: Zhonggong Zhongyang Xuanchuan Bu, Chinese characters: 中共中央宣传部), together with the state censorship organizations, which include the General Administration of Press and Publication (pinyin: Xinwen Chuban Zongshu, Chinese characters: 新闻出版总署), the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (pinyin: Guangbo Dianying Dianshi Zongju, Chinese characters: 广播电影电视总局), and the State Council Information Office (pinyin: Guowuyuan Xinxi Bangongshi, Chinese characters: 国务院信息办公室), oversee all printing for consistency with official political doctrines under detailed regulations, such as the "Regulations Regarding Strengthening the Administration of Publications Describing Major Party and National Leaders" (1990), which states in part:

The publication and distribution of these types of books and essays must be solemn and discreet. The description of historical facts must be accurate, and the point of view must conform with the spirit of the Party's "Decision Regarding Certain Historical Problems," "Decision Regarding Certain Historical Problems Since the Establishment of the Party" and related Party documents. All responsible agencies and publishing units must strictly guard against violations, and anything that does not conform to the above mentioned requirements may not be published and distributed.

Taiwan terminology

Because the Republic of China on Taiwan previously claimed to be the legal government of all of China and because the PRC accepts neither that the ROC government is a legitimate sovereign entity nor that Taiwan is a separate country, the PRC uses a special set of terminology to describe Taiwan. For example, as a result of the fact that both the ROC and the PRC adhered to the One-China policy, the PRC is commonly referred to in both Taiwan and the PRC as "dalu" (zh-tsp|t=大陸|s=大陆|p=dàlù) meaning "mainland", or the continent; sometimes, as in Hong Kong, it is also referred to as "neidi" (zh-tsp|t=內地|s=內地|p=nèidì) meaning "interior territory". In both cases, the terms are used to avoid describing the PRC as "China" and the ROC as "Taiwan", as is commonly done in English. When Taiwan joins international organizations, China forces Taiwan to participate under names other than "Republic of China" or "Taiwan", such as Chinese Taipei or " Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Kinmen and Matsu", in order to avoid describing Taiwan as a country.

:"See also: Political status of Taiwan"

PRC propaganda films

*"Red Detachment of Women", a Cultural Revolution-era play about the women of Hainan Island who rose up in resistance on behalf of the CPC
*"Two Stage Sisters"
*"Grenade War

Famous propaganda songs

Propaganda songs and music have a long and storied history in the PRC and also in Nepal and Pakistan, and they figured prominently in the popular culture of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Many of these songs were collected and performed as modern rock adaptations for several albums that were released during the 1990s, including "Red Rock" and "Red Sun: Mao Zedong Praise Songs New Revolutionary Medley". The latter sold 6-10 million copies in China (see the external link on "Rethinking Cultural Revolution Culture"). Most of the older songs praise Mao, the CPC, the 1949 revolution, the Chinese Red Army and the People's Liberation Army, the unity of the ethnic groups of China, and the various ethnic groups' devotion to Mao and the CPC.

The titles of some of the more well-known propaganda songs are as follows:

*"Nanniwan" (a 1943 revolutionary song)
*"The East is Red" (the "de facto" national anthem of the PRC during the Cultural Revolution)
*"Socialism is Good" (pinyin: Shehuizhuyi Hao, Chinese:社会主义好), a modern rock adaptation of which was performed by Zhang Qu and featured on the 1990s album "Red Rock" (pinyin: Hongse Yaogun, Chinese characters: 红色摇滚).
*"Song of the People's Liberation Army" (pinyin: Zhongguo Renmin Jiefangjun Junge)
*"Battle Hymn of the Chinese People's Volunteers" (pinyin: Zhongguo Renmin Zhiyuanjun Zhange"; Chinese: 中国人民志愿军战歌; a well-known song from the Korean War period)
*"Red Sun Shining Over the Border" (pinyin: Hong Taiyang Zhao Bianjiang; a song from the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province)
*"A Wa People Sing New Songs" (pinyin: A Wa Chang Xin Ge; a song attributed to the Wa ethnic minority of Yunnan Province)
*"Laundry Song" (pinyin: Xiyi Ge; a song celebrating the "liberation" of Tibet)
*"Liuyang River" (pinyin: Liuyang He; Chinese: 浏阳河; a song about a river near Mao Zedong's hometown of Shaoshan in Hunan Province)
*"Saliha Most Listens to Chairman Mao's Words" (pinyin: Saliha Zui Ting Mao Zhuxi De Hua; a song attributed to the Kazakh minority of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region)
*"The Never-Setting Sun Rises Over the Grassland" (pinyin: Caoyuan Shang Sheng Qi Bu Luo De Taiyang; from Inner Mongolia)
*"Xinjiang is Good" (pinyin: Xinjiang Hao; attributed to the ethnic Uyghurs of Xinjiang)
*"I Love Beijing Tiananmen" (pinyin: Wo Ai Beijing Tiananmen, Chinese characters: 我爱北京天安门; claimed to have been translated into over 50 languages, this song is frequently taught to schoolchildren in the PRC)
*"Zhuang Brocade Dedicated to Chairman Mao" (pinyin: Zhuang Jin Xiangei Mao Zhuxi; a song attributed to the Zhuang ethnic minority of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region)
*"Sweet-Scented Osmanthus Blooms With the Arrival of Happiness" (attributed to the Miao, or Chinese Hmong, ethnic minority group)
*"Generations Remember Chairman Mao's Kindness" (a song celebrating the "liberation" of the ethnic Xibe people)
*"Salaam Chairman Mao" (pinyin: Salamu Mao Zhuxi; a Xinjiang song praising Mao, a modern version of which was performed by Chinese rock singer Dao Lang)
*"Song of Mount Erlangshan" (pinyin: Gechang Erlangshan; a 1950s song celebrating the development of Tibet, which made Mount Erlangshan in western Sichuan Province famous)
*"Story of the Spring" (pinyin: Chuntian De Gushi, Chinese characters: 春天的故事; a song performed by Dong Wenhua, initially at the 1997 CCTV New Year's Gala, days before his death, dedicated to late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping)
*"The Cultural Revolution is Just Great" (pinyin: Wuchan Jieji Wenhua Da Geming Jiushi Hao, Chinese characters: 无产阶级文化大革命就是好; a song praising the Cultural Revolution)
*"On the Golden Mountains of Beijing" (pinyin: Beijing De Jinshan Shang, Chinese characters: 北京的金山上; a song attributed to the Tibetan people praising Mao as the shining sun)
*"Sing a Song of Praise to the Motherland" (pinyin:Gēchàng Zǔguó; Chinese: 歌唱祖国) This general patriotic song continues to be sung at national and regional celebrations and galas.

Most of the songs listed above are no longer used as propaganda by the CPC, but are exhibited in mainland China as a means of reviving popular nostalgia for the "old times" and sentiments of nationalism/patriotism.

ee also

*Media in the People's Republic of China
*Censorship in the People's Republic of China
*Persecution of Falun Gong
*Propaganda in the Republic of China
*Propaganda Poster Art Centre, Shanghai, China
*Western propaganda
*Jin Jing


*Min, Anchee, Duo, Duo, Landsberger, Stefan R., "Chinese Propaganda Posters", 245 x 370 mm, 320 pp., ISBN 3-8228-2619-7 (softcover)
*Wolf, Michael "Chinese Propaganda Posters: From the Collection of Michael Wolf", 2003, ISBN 3-8228-2619-7
* Harriet Evans, Stephanie Donald (eds.), "Picturing Power in the People's Republic of China", ISBN 0-8476-9511-5
* Stefan Landsberger, "Chinese Propaganda Posters: From Revolution to Reform", ISBN 90-5496-009-4
*Hunter, Edward. "Brain-washing in Red China: the calculated destruction of men's minds". New York, N.Y., USA.: Vanguard Press, 1951, 1953,
*Lincoln Cushing and Ann Tompkins, "Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution", San Francisco, CA : Chronicle Books, 2007; ISBN-13: 978-0-8118-5946-2

External links

* [ Morning Sun: A Film and Website about the Cultural Revolution]
* [ Vintage Chinese Propaganda Posters]
* [ Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages]
* [ Rethinking Cultural Revolution Culture]
* [ Jon Sigurdson’s Collection of Posters 1963-1983]
* [ University of Westminster Collection]
* [ Ann Tompkins (Tang Fandi) and Lincoln Cushing Chinese Poster Collection]
* [ Artemoto Collection of Chinese Propaganda Posters]
* [ Chinese Propaganda posters]

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