Art is a medium through which some very powerful messages can be expressed. Art is anywhere you decide really, and in this post we’ll take a look at some wonderful (in an artistic and non-political sense) posters used for spreading certain ideologies across China during the last century.
A bit of sense of all these Historical Chinese Propaganda Posters
First off, if you’d like to see the gallery’s entire content, go ahead and visit the site responsible for collecting and diffusing all of these historic posters on the net by clicking on the following link: Chineseposters.net.
For this post I’ve regrouped some works that I found aesthetically pleasing and with distinctively striking messages. Since their gallery is organized chronologically, I followed the same process concerning the order of the images posted below.
Japanese occupation (1937-1945)
Defeat Japanese imperialism
“Anti-Japanese propaganda from the Nationalist Party (Guomindang).”
“Japanese propaganda. An imaginary pro-Japanese demonstration, with Chinese carrying slogans: Oppose Communism; Long Live North-China; Forward China Japan Manchuko; Peace in East Asia; Down with the Communist Party; Have full confidence in the Japanese Army; Peace and happiness; A bright North China; Down with the Guomindang.”
Look! Look! The cruel injustice of the Communist Party
“Japanese propaganda. The Communist Party, in blue uniform, receives money from the red devil hiding behind a friendly Western mask.”
Building the People’s Republic (1949-1956)
Celebrating the People’s Republic of China’s National Day
“Parade with traditional drum dancers. The portraits are of Mao and Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan), the first president of the Republic of China (until 1925).”
Emulation in the Patriotic production campaign
“Factories are competing to reach the highest production to support the Korean War effort. Building railways has a high priority.”
Elect good people to take good care of things
“Elections for the first peasants’ and workers’ councils.”
New view in the rural village
“A pretty girl with a fashionable haircut in a rice field. The artist designed glamorous film posters in the 1930s, and it still shows.”
The Korean War (1950-1953)
Stamp out the flames of war, save the peace!
“A Korean woman with children, on the run from an American airplane.”
Chinese people absolutely cannot condone the encroachment of other countries
“The man in uniform is a caricature of Douglas MacArthur, commander of the American troops in Korea. While he is committing war crimes in Korea, an American airplane bombs a factory in China.”
The justified noose awaits them!
“Murdering and looting Americans in Korea. The large soldier in the center appears to be a caricature of American President Harry Truman.”
Great Leap Forward (1956-1960)
Study the Soviet Union, to advance to the world level of science
“The airplane pictured is a typical 1950s technological fantasy. It seems to be meant as a passenger plane, circling the earth outside of the atmosphere. The space race between the West and the East is in full swing in the late 1950s, with the East (the Soviet Union) in the lead. China is just starting its own satellite projects. “
Go all out and aim high. The east leaps forward, the West is worried
“The characters on the sails read ‘greater, faster, better, cheaper’ – indicating production. Below right are the Taiwanese, shipwrecked and miserable.”
Prosperity brought by the dragon and the phoenix
“The Great Leap Forward in industry and agriculture is often pictured with traditional symbols: the dragon (China) and the phoenix (good governance).”
Ride the wind and cleave the waves to realise a Leap Forward in all fields
“Contemporary workers from all sectors and traditonal Chinese symbols. Note the small symbol for nuclear power held by a scientist, left from center. Top left is Tiananmen Gate, with Mao’s portrait. “
Intervening years (1960-1965)
Long live Chairman Mao
“A famous poster that will cause great problems for the designer during the Cultural Revolution: why did he not depict Mao? And why give prominence to such an elegant, bourgeois woman, instead of showing an ordinary worker?”
Study the spirit of Daqing
“The Daqing oilfield, in the cold north-east of China, becomes the national example for industrial development. Workers obtain a high production, inspired by Mao Zedong’s thoughts (see the book in the coat pocket). “Iron Man” Wang Jinxi, the drill operator pictured here, becomes a model in his own right.”
Fully engage in the movement to increase production
“Engineers and technicians take over the construction of industry again after the years of the Great Leap Forward.”
Man works hard, flowers are fragrant
“Li Mubai and Jin Xuechen are two of the most famous designers of commercial posters featuring elegant ladies in the 1930s. After 1949, they are recruited to work for the publishing houses of the People’s Republic, designing propaganda posters.”
Down with imperialism! (1961-1966)
The projectionist of the village
“The girl, member of a mobile propaganda team, shows movies and slides, sings songs accompanied by clappers, and tells stories praising the accomplishments of the new China. In this way, propaganda reaches the smallest villages.”
Anti-American wave of rage next to the Huangpu river
“Anti-American manifestation along the Bund in Shanghai. Left in front a propaganda play is performed, with an American capitalist and soldier under attack. The billboards and the placards carried in the demonstration are historically correct, just like the buildings in the background.”
Awakened peoples, you will certainly attain the ultimate victory!
“The large figures represent Latin America, Asia and Africa: the three continents that should liberate themselves from Western Imperialism.”
Cultural Revolution (1966-1968)
Scatter the old world, build a new world
“A Red Guard at work. The smashing is not just meant symbolically. Property of ‘rightists’, monasteries, temples and other things considered old, bourgeois or decadent are literally smashed to pieces.”
Fully criticize the Chinese Khrushchev from a political, ideological and theoretical perspective
“Khrushchev is the Soviet party leader who denounced Stalin’s misdeeds in 1955. Eventually he was dismissed and put under house arrest. The ‘Chinese Khrushchev’ is Liu Shaoqi, considered Mao’s designated successor until then.”
The renegade traitor and scab Liu Shaoqi must forever be expelled from the Party!
“For many years, Liu Shaoqi is the most powerful man in China after Mao. Now he is ‘public enemy number one’. On the poster his name is written in black characters, crossed out in red.”
Mao, Jiang Qing, Lin Biao (1966-1972)
Advance victoriously while following Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line
“Lin Biao is the inventor of the Little Red Book and the architect of the Mao cult. After Liu Shaoqi’s downfall he becomes Mao’s designated successor. In 1971 he dies under mysterious circumstances.”
Long live chairman Mao! Long, long live!
“People are on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, waving Little Red Books. They are looking towards the balcony where Mao appears a few times every year, for the commemoration of the proclamation of the People’s Republic on 1 October or Labor Day on 1 May.”
The invincible thought of Mao Zedong illuminates the stage of revolutionary art!
“Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, was an actress in her younger years. Around her scenes are shown from the revolutionary model operas she developed. During 1966-1976, these model works are the only theatrical performances allowed.”
Workers, peasants, soldiers (1966-1972)
Greet the 1970s with the new victories of revolution and production
Sharpening the knife day after day, intruders must be annihilated
“In the 1970s, Chinese pilots still use model airplanes to stage mock manoeuvers.”
Turn philosophy into a sharp weapon in the hands of the masses
“The Cultural Revolution is not all about destruction. As this poster shows, Mao Thought works like a spiritual atom bomb, and helps in the construction of the Yangzi Bridge at Nanjing.”
Imperialism and all reactionary forces are paper tigers
“This poster, reminiscent of a scene from the Korean War, shows what will happen when the Americans invade China – which they have no intention of doing in these years. On the contrary: in 1971 secret diplomacy between China and the USA starts, leading to Nixon’s famous visit to Mao in 1972.”
China as paradise (1972-1976)
The construction of the bridge over the Yangzi at Nanjing is a great victory of Mao Zedong Thought!
“According to the official propaganda, workers build this bridge, the Yangzi Bridge at Nanjing, all by themselves, guided only by Mao’s writings. Engineers are no longer needed.”
The red electromagnetic wave brings good news
“Work on the improvement of the farmland, roads and irrigation channels continues through the night. During a break, the workers are treated to a propaganda radio broadcast.”
Herdspeople love to read books by Lenin and Marx
“State bookshop in the North of China, where Mongolians and other ‘minority peoples’ live. The young woman on the right carries rolls of posters in her bag.”
Unite to achieve an even greater victory!
“The building in the background is the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen square in Beijing. The people are delegates to the Fourth National People’s Congress, held there in 1973.”
New leaders (1976-1978)
Smash the ‘Gang of Four’
“A traditional New Year print with a political subject: the children are piercing caricatures of the Gang of Four. Anti-Gang of Four children’s games are also for sale around this time.”
Chairman Hua waves his hand, we advance victoriously
“Hua Guofeng in a classic Mao pose, raised high above the crowds. Hua really tries to mold his image, including his hairstyle, to look like Mao.”
Relentlessly criticize the “Gang of Four”
“The woman carries volume Five of Mao’s Selected Works. It is published in 1977 on Hua Guofeng’s initiative. In this way, Hua shows he is Mao’s true successor, not the Gang of Four.”
Sternly attack criminal activities
“Combatting crime becomes another major policy intiative. The criminals on the poster have Western haircuts and grey faces like the villains in traditional Chinese operas.”
The age of smiling
“The woman sells Chinese cola from a street booth, an example of the private entrepreneurship that has become accepted under the Reforms. Nowadays Pepsi and Coca Cola are the most popular in China too.”
“Disco is a huge craze in the 1980s. The poster shows that it is accepted and should no longer be condemned as a form of Western decadence.”
Long live the People’s Republic of China
“Examples of modern technology around the emblem of the People’s Republic. China’s campaign for modernization has started. The absence of industrial and agricultural workers on the poster is conspicuous.”
Less births, better births, to develop China vigorously
“In the 1980s, the One Child Policy is enforced, with more success in the cities than in the countryside. On posters like this it is usually girls that are shown, to indicate that they are worth as much as boys.”
Well, that really depends on your thirst for these creations. Let me remind you guys once again, these are just a small sample of the plethora of designs available on Chineseposters.net. I urge you to visit their site as soon as possible.
See you guys next week.