Monday, June 11, 2007


I have a long-held fascination with Chinese "propaganda". Still not quite sure why the Chinese word "xuanchuan" is always translated as propaganda. The word "xuanchuan" does not hold any negative connotations to Chinese people as far as I can tell and yet the word propaganda exerts an instantly negative gut reaction in westerners. When I was living in China in the early 1990s I would learn Chinese by asking my friends to read for me the big red characters painted on the sides of walls all over China. You can still see primary schools with the words of Chairman Mao painted in big letters on the school wall "好好学习天天向上" which simply means study hard and make progress every day. On the walls of this school gate is written "Have high ideals, have morals, be cultured, be disciplined". Those all sound good to me.

Also in recent years there has been a national campaign to promote "lu hua" or the increase of greenery. As far as I can see this campaign has had dramatic results and is especially noticeable in the cities. Beijing, Tianjin, Lanzhou and even small cities have all invested great amounts of money in creating parklike spaces that are used very well by the citizens. In Lanzhou the banks of the Yellow River have been turned into spectacular park areas with flowers and trees and grass and elegant walkways and sculpture gardens and fountains. On summer evenings families come out to walk along the river banks and it is ever so pleasant. This poster in a school yard declares "Lets use our actions to create a green and environmentally friendly home".
Around Beijing these days it seems all the energy of the propaganda department is focused on preparing Beijingers for the 2008 Olympics. They seem to be reminded everywhere that they will soon be welcoming the Olympics and this is an opportunity for them to show Beijing to the world in the best light possible and that each individual has a responsibility in this regard. This is a sign displayed in the back of a taxi: "Welcome the olympics, be civilized, create a new culture" That is probably a terrible translation but it is the best I have to offer at the moment.

Of course the Baha'i in me is also intrigued by the proclamation emblazoned across Tiananmen Square "Long live the People's Republic of China, Long live the unity of the peoples of the world". I am not sure how long that has been there but it was already there on my first trip to Tiananmen in the early 1990s.

For more on Chinese propaganda over the decades see Stefan Landsberger's marvelous website with lots of pictures.


Blogger Bonita said...

Our daughter spent time teaching in China, and found sweet faces on the children as you've shown here. She simply adored those children. I believe that the universal thought of unity and oneness permeates every forward looking country. Good things are in store for China if they foster all these virtues.

11:07 AM, June 12, 2007  

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