Ian Johnson investigates how the Chinese government has shifted from Marxist sloganeering to more of an American-style nationalism:
Propaganda posters have a long tradition in Communist China, beginning with posters in the 1950s that celebrated the new revolution and urged support for the Korean War. … Xi Jinping’s China Dream posters are linked to this earlier era of Communist sloganeering. The difference is that while the old posters touted Communist values, the new ones largely replace them with pre-Communist Chinese traditions—drawing on traditional folk art like paper cutouts, woodblock prints, and clay figurines to illustrate their message. This is a redefinition of the state’s vision from a Marxist utopia to a Confucian, family-centric nation, defined by a quiet life of respecting the elderly and saving for the future. … Almost all the art used in the posters, with its depictions of traditional dress and poses, used to be derided by the Party as belonging to China’s backward, pre-Communist past; now, these aesthetic traditions are a bulwark used to legitimize the Party as a guardian and creator of the country’s hopes and aspirations.
(Photo: A group of Chinese workers walks past a ‘Chinese Dream’ promotion billboard in Beijing on September 2, 2013. By Wang Zhao/Getty Images.)