posters and education


posters and education
Propaganda posters are increasingly targeted at children and adolescents. Such posters, usually produced in sets, are designed specifically for use in classrooms, or are directly aimed at young people outside of school. These groups are considered more impressionable, and more receptive to the messages the posters contain. They are also seen to be less inclined to reject them as ‘mere propaganda’, as the posters must now compete with a flood of other voices and images. In posters published in the early 2000s, the influence of the many Japanese cartoons shown on Chinese television can be easily recognized: youngsters are depicted with the typically Westernized round eyes and spiky hairdos made popular in manga. The important themes that emerge in these materials convey patriotism and other elements of socialist spiritual civilization. They are partly derived from the ‘Five Loves’ (wu’ai, i.e. love the nation, the people, labour, science and socialism) that have been part of the moral education curriculum since 1989.
The issues of loving the nation, the collective and labour are visualized in a number of recurring themes. Loving the nation usually involves images of the flag of the PRC and/or the Constitution. Loving the nation also entails maintaining unity and friendship within the multi-ethnic composition of the population. Loving the collective is often visualized in the form of cleaning up, or tied in with activities aimed at protecting, the environment. Images of street-sweeping, window-cleaning and tree-planting ceremonies are often used to instil this sentiment.
The calls to honour teachers, authority figures and the elderly in general are standard elements in the various educational poster series and evoke a strong Boy Scout ethos. Youngsters are often shown assisting the elderly while shopping or while crossing the street. An interesting subset is the attention paid to (obedience to) the police. This often comes in the form of children reporting (petty) crime, or returning found goods.
The posters urging to love education and/or science continue to feature Mao Zedong’s call to ‘Study hard, make progress every day’ (Haohao xuexi, tiantian xiangshang) that used to define prowess at school in the revolutionary era. Exhortations to study hard by other leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, are also invoked. The precept of love for education usually shows a boy and a girl in a classroom situation. Love of science often situates a boy and a girl in front of high-rise buildings, freeways, rocket launches and other Star Wars imagery. Sometimes the image of Albert Einstein is visible in the background, as an icon of intellectual excellence. By the late 1990s, the ardent love for science and education also has been invoked as an antidote to the possible attraction that the forbidden teachings of the Falun gong and other organizations may have on youngsters.
CCP-leaders since 1992 have increasingly stressed patriotism (aiguo zhuyi), ‘loving the state’, defined as loving the socialist system and the leadership of the Party. As a result, patriotism has by and large replaced the political and class struggle content that dominated propaganda posters in the pre-reform era. Love for the Mother Country in these images is largely related to the success of the modernization process. It is stressed time and again that the results of modernization have made the world once again stand in awe of China. Further concrete factors that have contributed to intense patriotic feelings include the successful resumption of sovereignty of Hong Kong (1997) and Macao (1999), the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the PRC (1999), the organization of the 2008 Olympic Games, and the accession to the World Trade Organization (the latter two events both took place in 2001). The qualification of the national football (soccer) squad for the World Championships (which were organized by Japan and South Korea in 2002) initially did contribute to patriotic feelings. However, the goalless team failed to present a convincing performance.
The newfound Chinese self-confidence is expressed by a desire to stand up for what China sees as its legitimate rights. Patriotism is a theme that has not only found its way onto posters, but is also expressed in the various rituals that have become part of the daily activities of many young Chinese. These include singing patriotic songs and, in primary and secondary schools across the nation, singing the national anthem and taking part in flag-raising ceremonies. Raising the flag has not only become part of the school curriculum, but can also be witnessed daily at sunrise in front of the rostrum of Tiananmen Square since 1991.
See also: nationalism; Olympics; World Trade Organization debate
Landsberger, Stefan R. (2001). ‘Learning by What Example? Educational Propaganda in Twenty-First-Century China’. Critical Asian Studies 4:541–71.
Tyl, Dominique (2002). ‘The Formation of New Citizens in China’s Secondary Schools’. China Perspectives 39:4–16.
STEFAN LANDSBERGER

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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