Contemporary Art and New Media
A man, muscles bulging, face cemented into a firm grimace. Cast-iron
chains shackle his hands, but that doesn't stop him from cocking his
rifle and lurching forward to battle with the rest of the massive
crowd of the defiant and oppressed.
The Chinese Communist propaganda of the late 1960's and early 1970's
reflected the international upheaval churned by rising social and
liberation movements. The images that the Chinese government
presented to their people were clear – we, along with Black Americans,
Cubans, the Vietnamese, and all other oppressed peoples are all united
in an epic struggle against forces of tyranny. This message was
communicated in a multitude of ways. One poster showed a heroic
Fidel, fist clenched, mouth letting out a fearsome war cry. Another
featured a black man prominently, but only as one in a mass of people
of mixed races, all donned in brilliant red, yellow, blue, orange,
green garb, and charging forward to defeat the forces of imperialism.
Another depicted an American anti-war rally, with the Capitol building
disappearing into the background, drowned out by a sea of protesters
of all races wielding "Get Out of Vietnam" posters.
As an American observer with a strong background in recent world
history, these images are undeniable attempts by the government to
link Chinese Communism with other worldwide movements that it deemed
noble and worthy causes. But were these posters effective among a
Chinese audience that perhaps did not have access to information about
world events? Were these posters distributed more heavily in the city
or the countryside? And why was it important to foster support for
these international movements among regular Chinese people?