(Picture: Yu Zizheng, China Current News Assistant, South China Division, Zhuhai)
‘Socialism is good’. ‘Learn from Lei Feng’. Posters with slogans like these are found in city centres and business areas across the country. Even school walls appeared full of slogans during the Third Plenum of the CCP.
On November 12th, the Third Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee of the CCP began in Beijing. The Plenum Resolution introduced a series of reform proposals, stating that reform is of vital importance to China’s future development. Every Third Plenary Session is a key juncture, when the government introduces new, and sometimes far-reaching reforms, and as such, this year’s Third Plenum attracted widespread international attention. Many hoped that Xi Jinping would follow on Deng Xiaoping’s footsteps and push through deep reforms.
According to Xinhua’s statistics, since the 1978 reforms and opening-up, China’s economy has maintained an annual growth rate of 9%, and its GDP has grown 16-fold, becoming the world’s second largest economy. The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said that China’s economy is growing at a faster pace than Japan or the four Asian tigers’ (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan). “China created an economic miracle”, asserted NBS after the end of the Plenum.
China’s successful reform and opening-up policy, and sustained economic development, have created opportunities for the government to strengthen its legitimacy and improve its image. The Party Central Committee’s Propaganda Department has recently launched several ‘public-service advertising’ campaigns. Officially meant to inspire Chinese people, it seems that the main reason why the state keeps launching this kind of campaigns is to legitimise its rule and consolidate its power through propaganda.
In Zhuhai city, Guangdong province, there are countless such propaganda posters. In the centre of the town, where tourists gather, there are now seven giant posters. Propaganda posters are also pasted on walls near primary and middle schools. “Near our school gate, there are many ‘Lei Feng’ posters ”, said Chan Ye, a second-year student in Zhuhai Number 3 Middle School. “There is a reason why the government chose these specific places to put posters up”, pointed out Larry Liang, International Politics student from Sun Yat-sen University, “the government chose commercial areas because there are lots of people there. Just like with commercial advertisements, the more people who see them, the better the product ‘sells’. The government also put them up in school areas because children’s value systems are not mature and solid yet, so it is much easier to convince them and implant ideals in their mind. And, most importantly, they are the future of China”, he continued.
“I don’t care about these posters, even though they are posted just opposite my house”. Uncle Chan, a man from Macao currently working in Zhuhai, revealed to China Current. “I lived in the US when I was young, and I am not familiar with the Chinese Communist Party at all, so these posters just mean nothing to me.” Although there are people like Uncle Chan who are not influenced by these propaganda posters, they are clearly not the government’s targets. “My teacher taught me that Lei Feng is a Chinese hero who loved to help others, and that we should see him as our model”, said Chan Ye with a smile. In fact, many students like Chan come up with similar answers. Song Dan, a senior student in Zhuhai Number 3 Middle School added: “these posters are very beautiful, and they encourage me to study hard and help our country when I grow up.”
These answers show that the government has done a good job convincing some children, but what about other young people, such as college students? Jim Ding, a fourth year student at Beijing Normal University and Hong Kong Baptist University United International College (UIC), said: “the government wants to use these posters to brand an idea or an image into people’s minds, and I do pay attention to them, but I think they will not change my view of the government much. I hope the government can do more things, not just talk.” At this point, Jimmy Tang, also a student, argued: “Though the government has greatly
contributed to China’s development, there is still room for improvement, such as in the areas of protection of human rights, reducing corruption, etc.”
It is not only in Zhuhai where these propaganda posters have sprung up. They have also appeared in many other provinces. “In Chengdu, there are many posters like these”, said Du Sha, a student from Sichuan. “These posters appeared overnight; my parents didn’t even notice.”
In the Zumiao trading area, the busiest place in Guangzhou’s Foshan city, a huge poster on the ‘China dream’ appeared a few days ago. Miss Chan, a Foshan citizen said: “the China dream would be great if it was real.” Meanwhile, officials’ comments sound optimistic: “we are going to spare no effort to spread positive energy across society in order to encourage Chinese people to work hard and study hard”, said Mr Yu, headmaster of Foshan Party School, in a conversation with China Current, “we hope that Chinese people will finally stand together and support the leadership of CCP, making the China dream come true.”by