The Writing on the Wall


Anyone who’s travelled around China would have seen one of the nation’s many millions, if not close to billions, of propaganda posters. They come in all shapes and sizes: some continue to sing the praises of the Chinese Communist Party, whilst others show in more “cute” ways or language best practices about being safer on the highways. They’re almost impossible to miss: nearly all of them come in the form of white or bright yellow Chinese characters on a red background, sometimes with CCP or PRC logos, although since the administration of current leader Xi Jinping, some have changed beyond recognition: that picture of paper cuttings of fish and roosters actually turn out to be posters promoting Xi’s official policy of the “Chinese Dream”!

The start of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms was heralded by the removal or destruction of many statues of Mao Zedong, who ruled the country for almost three decades, at times as a brutal tyrant with his often-random political movements. Yet even as marble and rock formerly carved in the form of the “Great Helmsman” were reduced to rubble, the near-ubiquitous white-on-red propaganda poster, a sign of continued “spiritual civilisation” and ideological control, remained. Seeing one of these posters in front of fast-food joints in the capital of the communist country has become one of these “oh this is so China” moments that becomes impossible to define by words. This clash of messages being sent — Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, and successive ideologies in the foreground, Ronald McDonald in the background — shows a unique situation in contemporary China.

For the interested, Unhyped China maintains a running exhibition of The Writing on the Wall, or how the message from the Chinese authorities continue to be communicated, but also how it evolves from year to year and from one administration to the other.

This is an independent, private exhibition. Content is provided without implying any kind of support or opposition for any political party or ideology.

Contents (to access an entry, click on the week and date entry):


  • Week 45, 03 Nov 2014: 修身律己、崇德向善、礼让宽容 (Prioritise Manners, Embrace Virtues and Grace, and Be Courteous and Tolerant)