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Learning by What Example? Educational Propaganda in Twenty-first-Century China

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The moral education of the people has been viewed historically as a function of good government in China. Models have played an important role in this educational process, constantly making people aware of correct behavior and correct ideas. Since 1949, so-called propaganda art in the People's Republic of China has played a major supporting role in the many campaigns that have been designed to mobilize the people, with the propaganda poster being the favored vehicle to convey model behavior. In the twenty-first century, state-inspired education and the posters it produces are fighting an uphill battle to grasp the attention of the people. This illustrated article discusses the state of state-sponsored propaganda art and highlights the various social and artistic pressures that weigh on the propaganda poster in the era of reform. The author examines the changes in the government's communication strategy, and focuses on the changing way in which propaganda art has been used in the reform era, the technical innovations that have been applied, and the topics that have been selected by the government as subjects for propaganda campaigns. The patriotism of the late 1990s is a topic that receives special attention. Finally, hypotheses are presented about the possible alternative applications of the medium in the light of recently published propaganda posters.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2001

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