Thursday, November 17, 2011

Communist Propaganda

The Chinese government likes to engage in propaganda in order to keep the population in line. Here are some example of a long-running propaganda campaign in my city:

Be dedicated and love your work!

Be friendly and harmonious!

Be frugal and strive for self-improvement!

Be patriotic and obey the law!

No public property damaging!

Protect the environment

Be polite and honest!

Confucius warns against road rage.

The snake wishes you a safe journey.

These signs are all over the place in my city. All these photos were taken within about 1km of my home. I'm not really sure how this kind of campaign would work in other countries, but it seems that this is what the local government wants to use for social conditioning. "Nefarious" stuff.


  1. It reminds me of a kindergarten, or lower primary school setting.

    I suppose it goes to show just how paternalistic the Chinese Government is towards their population and provides little hope that they will voluntarily give them more say over their own destinies.

  2. Are there any messages in particular that you disagree with, Greg? Is there anything intrinsically wrong with the government utilising the back of road signs (which is what these are mostly, except for the "Be friendly and harmonious one", which is painted on a wall surrounding a construction site) to give advice on how to make a better society?

  3. @ Greg

  4. I saw them few days ago in Hangzhou and I found surprising this campaign. I don’t know if it is social conditioning but surely it is very paternalistic.

  5. Well, the issue with criticising paternalism in the Chinese government's behaviour is this: China has a large number of poorly educated rural people migrating to the city, and many of their habits, while perfectly fine in an area of relatively low population density, such as the countryside are not conducive to a healthy or even safe city. The number of times I see people from rural areas cross in front of cars while ignoring traffic lights is quite scary, to be honest, especially since they often do this with their children/grandchildren in tow. The children, at least, are being taught proper road safety in school, but there are many adults to need to learn it as well.

    All too many peasants come into cities with an attitude of "I've never personally experienced bad consequences from this action, therefore it is fine" - even if the result of a large number of people engaging in said action is disastrous for the country as a whole. I don't think it's indicative of any real moral failing on the part of the peasants - it's just the natural result of poor education. They haven't been taught to make a connection between the litter they throw away and the rubbish they see in water supplies. They don't understand how concentrated human waste can result in the spread of disease, because the small amount that they and their neighbours produce isn't enough to cause such problems. And so on.

    Sure, campaigns such as the one I've posted here would be insulting if aimed at people with a high educational background, but once you consider that they are aimed at the many migrant workers who have never attended school at all, the fact, as Greg so rightly pointed out, that these billboards would be appropriate kindergarten or lower primary school setting suddenly seems much more understandable.

  6. Very interesting Lusy, thank you. So the target is not a child as I thought looking in the sign the image of what seems to me a baby.

  7. The image is of a young girl, as well as Sun Wu Kong, the Monkey King from the classic story Journey to the West.

    For some reason, I've noticed that a very large proportion of Chinese advertisements and announcements use women female voices as the authority figures. A part of me suspects that it is at least in part to encourage gender equality (which the Chinese government takes VERY seriously) by portraying girls as authoritative, morally upright individuals. Also, since Sun Wu Kong is male, his companion has to be female in order to maintain an even gender ratio in the image.

    I wouldn't read too much in the fact that they are using an image of a young girl in messages to adults: you see a decent number of children playing the same role in advertisements for products sold on the television.

    This kind of social conditioning is effective, though. In the months leading up to the Shanghai World Expo, they put all these ads showing proper subway etiquette up on the subway in Shanghai. Crowd flow improved remarkably quickly in that period of time, with the exception of the Shanghai Railway Station Station, which is poorly designed, and full of peasants who had not yet been taught the proper behaviours. In a way it's scary how quickly the government was able to effect such a significant change on the population, but at the same time, the gains in safety that were made really were necessary.

  8. This is not paternalistic to me. After all, in the US the sayings "Don't mess with texas" and "I *heart* NY" were started by government agencies for tourism or whatever. Besides, compared to say some WWII US Propaganda this is REALLY low=key and nice. Seriously, saying 'dont shit up the earth' is orwellian propaganda? It's in the same level as state governments and their ad campaigns to stop drunk driving or whatever, in my opinion.

    It doesnt help that I watch a lot of anime and am largely okay with the 'kawaii' aspect of using animated characters for advertising or whatnot.

  9. Anonymous: I suspect that part of the reason some people might see it as paternalistic is because they haven't been conditioned to see that kind of ad as "normal". Chinese television ads also come across as very simplistic to western audiences. Of course, it's harder for western audiences to call those ads paternalistic, since it's you don't have the same kind of power dynamic between advertisers and consumers as you do between the government and its people. Conversely, Chinese people look at Superbowl ads, and while they admit they're entertaining can't quite understand how they'd get you to buy the product.