Propaganda, the dissemination of information— facts, arguments, rumors, half-truths, or lies — to influence public opinion.
Red Collectors, the connoisseur collective with a penchant for Chinese propaganda posters. Underlying motivations may vary.
The China Temper spotted from afar a blistering balefire, burgeoning with old-school yet ever-contemporary China cool tantrums: Propaganda. Posters.
But before we continue, we must give props.
The informations and illustrations in this short feature belong to China Propaganda specialist Jasmine Sour, a red poster collector with more than 30 years of traveling, studying, and working in China under her belt.
Pandas and Pan Asian Games
Sour: Over the course of the 30 years I have spent traveling, working, and studying in China, I have used Foreign Exchange Currency, RMB, Alipay, and WeChat to shop at Friendship Stores, the Silk Market — when it was still a street market — and Taobao.
I biked across Beijing when there were 8 million bicycles and less than 50k privately owned cars.
I have hailed 面包车 [vans], taxis and didis [滴滴打车| Tencent’s mobile transportation platform]. I have surfed the web at 网吧 (Internet bars), from my mobile and beyond the Great Firewall. But some things never really change…
Do not Jinbao (L, 2019 CIIE panda mascot) and Panpan (R, 1990 Beijing Pan Asian Games panda mascot) look like they could be long lost twin brothers?
Hostess of the Mostess
Sour: Details of an early 1990s poster show a hostess posing in front of a Chinese carrier (undefined airline).
Civil aviation in China took off as early as 1949 and was initially under direct People’s Liberation Army supervision.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China operated its own airline right up to 1988 when three “commercial” airlines were born: Air China (HQ: Beijing), China Eastern Airlines (HQ: Shanghai), and China Southern Airlines (HQ: Guangzhou).
The Chinese State holds a majority stake in all three airlines.
Who’s The Pretty Trendy Kitty?
Sour: Detail of a 1990 poster featuring the local beauty sporting a “trending” swimsuit.
By the 1980s, the nation’s style-scape had been dominated by unisex Mao getups for roughly three decades. After Deng Xiaoping in 1982 opened China’s doors to the West, however, people collectively decided to get changed.
The 1980s and early 1990s saw the gradual re-introduction of Western-style fashions in China.
At Your Service!
Sour: Details of a 1980s health prevention propaganda poster.
Family doctors or GPs remain a rather rare find in China where most people will simply go to the nearest hospital to receive any type of treatment. Hospitals are government-owned and generally over-crowded.
One doctor has less than a minute or two to dedicate to each patient he/ she sees.
While the occurrence of strokes has been on the decline across Europe and the U.S. in recent years, it is increasing dramatically in China.
China’s 3 million doctors have unequal training and access to medical information depending on whether they are based in first-, second-, or third-tier cities or counties.
Without proper training and sufficient time and resources, many patients are ill-diagnosed. Thus increasing public health risks.
Sour: Details of a late 1980s poster showcasing a People’s Liberation Army soldier safeguarding peace, order, and harmony on Nanjing Road.
Nanjing Road is one of Shanghai’s busiest pedestrian streets.
Back in the 1930s, the infamous Great World building (as seen behind the soldier) was the embodiment of entertainment and vice.
Sour: Detail of a post-1989 poster featuring three of the five armed forces within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The PLA is the armed force of both the People’s Republic of China as well as the Communist Party of China. It was founded on August 1, 1927.
It consists of five forces: ground, air, navy, rocket, and strategic support.
It is the world’s largest armed force comprised of more than 2 million people (a mere 0.2 percent of China’s entire population).
The PLA is rapidly modernizing. China has the second-largest defense budget in the world — after that of the U.S.
Thy Body is Thy Temple
Sour: Ping-Pong Diplomacy. The year 2017 marked President Trump’s first official visit to the Middle Kingdom and, also, the 45th anniversary of ping-pong diplomacy.
Ping-pong diplomacy refers to the exchange of ping-pong players between the U.S. and China in the early 1970s. In the eye of the Cold War storm, this diplomatic move paved the way for President Nixon’s first visit to China in 1972.
China at the time was still considered an aggressor nation by the U.S. and both countries had had neither economic nor diplomatic relations for some 20 years.
Ping-pong provided an opportunity for U.S. and Chinese players to meet up during international competitions in the early 1970s.
Mao Zedong in 1971 allowed nine American ping-pong players to enter the PRC. Soon after, Nixon visited. This visit is still considered the one event that formally normalized relations between both countries.
Sour: Chinese Internet humor is often used to transmit meaningful and sensitive information. Chinese netizens have developed a network of common codes that seek to outsmart sophisticated systems of censorship.
Sour: From early 2019 onwards, Chinese netizens have twisted and adapted 1960s propaganda poster slogans to befit and criticize contemporary topics of controversy as they arise across mainland China.
Sour: The above images derive from 1960s official propaganda slogans and iconography to depict situations linked to the late January 2020 outbreak of the new coronavirus — as it played out across mainland China in the weeks and months after.
Who controls the past controls the future.
Who controls the present controls the past.
For full high-res images, contact Sour via Instagram: @JasmineSourCollection.
FEATURED IMAGE: 2010s poster seen at a Shanghai construction site. Photoshop did not kill propaganda. That’s for sure. Courtesy of THE JASMINE SOUR COLLECTION, 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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