This week marks the 50th anniversary of the May 16 notification in 1966, which summarized Mao’s thoughts and led to the Cultural Revolution, a decade of chaos, attacks on intellect and culture, and state-sanctioned violence that China has never fully come to grips with.
While visiting Xuzhou, a city in northern Jiangsu, as part of the “Foreigners’ View of Jiangsu” series, which invites foreigners in China on tours around the province, we visited an interesting museum at Wolongquan Ecological Museum Park, which displayed Mao-era propaganda posters and items of daily life. I begin this introduction with an old fashioned clock just because it includes Cultural Revolution slogans.
In the yellow text on red stripes at the bottom, it says,
Long live immaculate Mao Zedong thought!
Long live Chairman Mao! Long live the Chinese Communist Party!
Long live the Great Cultural Revolution of the Proletariat! Revolution isn’t a crime
Many of the posters evoked the anti-American sentiment of the time. Mao Zedong thought of the world divided into “three worlds.” Unlike the Western theory, the world wasn’t divided between capitalist (U.S. and its allies) and communist (the Soviets and their allies), but rather between exploiter countries (both the U.S. and U.S.S.R.), in-between countries (Canada, Japan), and the exploited (China, India, Africa, most of Asia). Deng Xiaoqing expressed that view to the United Nations in 1974, but the idea of China uniting with other poor nations preceded it.
Other posters from 1951 expressed the deep scars of the early years of the Cold War. One poster shows Chinese soldiers shooting American planes down in flames in Korea, and another equates the United States with Nazis. (Note the swastika morphed with the dollar sign.)
Ironically, the poster takes credit for the Communist Chinese having defeated both Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany while at the same time lauding its success at relegating the Nationalist Chinese to the verge of defeat. The Nationalists, however, (to say nothing of the obvious case of the Americans) did most of the fighting against the Japanese on the Chinese side.