Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 1 year 3 weeks ago

I picked my Inquiry Project in Phase 0, asked ten thoughtful questions about it in Phase 1, and found some useful resources in Phase 2. Now in Phase 3, I do a lot of heavy research on my Inquiry Project, Wall Propaganda Messages. 

Background Information (from Phase 1):

The People's Republic of China is unlike any other government that China had ever seen in its entire history. For it should have been a utopia, where the poor were valued and trusted, the country was self-sufficient, and imperialistic powers were driven away.[1][2] At least, this was what the Maoist government allegedly stood for. Instead, power grew out of the barrel of a gun, as the Maoist Gongchandang only came to power through popular sentiment with the lower class of China. Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China in 1949, and strove to rebuild a country badly damaged by the simultaneous civil war and Japanese invasion.[3]

Large portions of the population still approved of Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist party, now exiled to Taiwan. [10] In response, Mao Zedong built a personality cult around himself to keep autocratic power and stop his enemies. [10] Propaganda for the state heightened, especially after the Socialist Education Movement of 1962, in order to persuade the public to change their opinions and approve of government policies. [4][11] Furthermore, multiple events during the second half of the twentieth century, like the Great Leap Forward, the Sino-Soviet Split and the Cultural Revolution, caused significant unrest, whether by damaging the economy in the former two or encouraging a completely different mindset in the latter. [5][6] The cultural revolution especially helped Mao, as the hundreds of millions of youths and students enthusiastically attacked scapegoats of the revolution and enforced Mao's personality cult. [10][11] In these situations, propaganda like Mao's Little Red Book among other tools effectively quelled the unrest. [7] According to Chinese Posters,

"Large doses of didactic politicized art, whether figurative or literary, were produced... [Mao] was truly convinced that the more moderate leaders were trying to steal his place in history by subverting the nature of the revolution that he had fought for...In the arts, the subjects were to be portrayed realistically, and they were always to be in the centre of the action, flooded with light from the sun or from hidden always seems as if we, the spectators, are looking upward, as if the action is indeed taking place upon a stage. The subjects were represented hyper-realistically, as ageless, larger-than-life peasants, soldiers, workers and educated youth in dynamic poses. Their strong and healthy bodies functioned as metaphors for the strong healthy productive classes the State wanted to propagate." [4]

In the age of Mass Media, Chinese propaganda easily spread to all corners of the country. State-led propaganda even played a role away from China, as Mao's meetings with American president Nixon enabled China a seat on the United Nations. [11] Xizhou, tucked away in rural Yunnan, used to be a refuge for Chinese intellectuals persecuted by the government, like Lao She and Xu Beihong. [8] Later, after Mao's death and the opening of China's borders, Xizhou with the rest of rural China had a boom in tourism, enhanced by the scenery of Lake Erhai and the nearby pagodas of Chongsheng. [9]

Information from 3-to-5's:

Unfortunately, my 3-to-5's did not have firsthand experience relating to my topic, and I received little information that I could put here. Mrs. Linden, the only foreigner I had a 3-to-5 with, mentioned that the Xizhou locals never disapproved of her actions and in general were very accepting of outsiders like her. When I asked her why she decided to come, she explained that she came to highlight rural Chinese culture, and that she employed locals and Chinese outsiders for the same reason. [6]

Information From Local Contacts:

• Xizhou locals envy America, as a free and rich nation with good family values, and disapprove of the Chinese for corruption or lack of civil education. [13] [14] [15] [19]

• With a Nietzschean viewpoint, this envy of the Chinese people towards others might be a motivator for their rapid economic growth. [13] 

• Tax evasion is prevalent in rural China - few things come with receipts. [13]

• Corruption is prevalent in China - government jobs bring low income, perhaps 6000 RMB a month. [13] [17]

• However, government jobs do not require much work, and provide safety from prosecution from those involved. [20]

• Some Xizhou locals view Japan negatively for their atrocities of the Sino-Japanese War. [13] [14] [16] [18]

• Other Xizhou locals, especially those who know the situation of modern Japan, can forgive them. [17] [19]

• The war receives wide media coverage: about 60-66% of Chinese TV shows are about the Sino-Japanese War, and tens of millions of Japanese are killed in these shows every year. [13] 

• Younger people, aware of the war's brutality on both sides, rarely watch these shows and dislike the spin for entertainment. [20]

• Currently, the main propaganda drive has to do with protecting Lake Erhai as "the mother lake". [13] [16] [17] [19]

• Most people approve of this campaign because it makes their lives better, even though it will take some effort. [16] [19]

• Others are much more wary, as the government cracks down on the tourist industry, which harms migration and tourism into the area for the benefit of the environment. [20]

• The China Dream is also a modern propaganda campaign, in which locals know they can help by simply self-improving and helping their immediate surroundings. [19] 

• Few people paid attention to government wall messages and some view them with hostility. [13]

• Army veterans were not exposed to significantly more propaganda than regular citizens. [14] 

• In multiple areas of China, propaganda during the Cultural Revolution drove large numbers of people to suicide, even the elderly. [15]

• The painting of a propaganda message required multiple hours of careful, painstaking painting. [17]

• State visits to Xizhou are a form of propaganda, mainly as drives to increase safety, tourism, or to promote a recent propaganda campaign, like protecting Lake Erhai. [16]

• Modern propaganda is often promoted through banners across town which citizens cannot take down, and social media like Weixin and Tengchong News. [16] [18] [20]

• Coverage of the Second Sino-Japanese War is prevalent to cover the absence of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution in Chinese education. [16] 

• There was little government propaganda against Vietnam, even while the Sino-Vietnamese wars were underway. [14] [17]

• Propaganda from the 70's, before China opened its borders, was vastly different than the propaganda afterwards. [14]

• Propaganda toned down significantly after Deng took power; he was more invested into peaceful development, and focused his propaganda around that issue. [14] [17] [19] [20]

• Some people believe this is due to the creation of the Internet and the rise of free information on it. [20]

• People believe that the wealth generated during Deng's rule is why Chinese corruption became so rampant. [20]

• Locals understand and support Xi's anti-corruption campaign, even if it is not too publicized here, as they think power will only be with the wealthy without this initiative. [17] [19]

• Some people are enthusiastic about Chairman Deng's progress, and many approve of him. [19] [20]

• Locals understood and supported the one child policy when it was active. [17]

• Locals believe the government's minority treatment is getting better and better.[17]

• People believe that the current government and leaders are down-to-earth realists. [20]

• Some locals support more government control in Xizhou, as it will help promote civil education and the villagers' lives here. [19]

• A good example of modern propaganda is the "Eight Honours and Eight Shames", a moral code advocated by Hu Jintao in 2006. This is a recent wall propaganda message. [19] [20]

• Some feel like the government changed little from Mao's rule, as leaders are still old (in their 50's and 60's), stubborn and conservative. [20] 

• Some approve of the current authoritarian government, which brings easy stability and has some freedom via the representatives from each municipality. [20]

Above are Mr. Xu the receptionist, Mr. Xie the tea-seller, Mrs. Zhao the waitress, and a typical wall propaganda message.

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1): 

1. What are some demographic misconceptions that the Xizhou villagers will have of foreign countries, especially those related to government propaganda?

From WWII TV shows, villagers may believe that Japan lost more troops during the war than they actually had. 

2. What are some generalizations that Xizhou villagers will have of developed countries? How would government propaganda have shaped these views?

Government propaganda only touches on a few developed countries, most prominently Japan, which is shown highly negatively. Xizhou villagers have positive generalizations about America not fed by government propaganda.

3. What are some generalizations that Xizhou villagers will have of underdeveloped countries? How would government propaganda have shaped these views?

Government propaganda rarely touches on underdeveloped countries. Even Syria, a pretty big focus of the world's attention, is something they know pretty vaguely about.

4. How does Chinese propaganda mention and use other countries in order to make themselves look good? What do villagers think of "outward belittlement", if they are aware of it at all?

With the exception of Japan and coverage of WWII, "outward belittlement" rarely exists.

5. Who are the greatest Chinese leaders according to the Xizhou villagers? What factors, including government propaganda, would have shaped these views?

Their picks of "great leaders" are highly varied over China's long history, and would remain similar even without government propaganda. However, certain leaders of the past 100 years may be less featured, like Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Sun Yatsen, etc.

6. What do the Xizhou villagers know about 20th century Chinese history? How would government propaganda have shaped these views?

All adults know the main events, especially if they were living during the time. However, they may know more about the Sino-Japanese War than events under Mao, especially the younger adults who have not lived through MaoF.

7. How is propaganda spread about Xizhou? How can I analyze every method of propaganda in Xizhou?

Propaganda is mainly spread through social media, television and banners around town nowadays. However, a few decades ago, propaganda through radio, wall messages and banners would be more dominant. 

8. Where are wall propaganda messages placed? What factors impact their placement?

Wall propaganda is placed all over town, often in easily accessible areas but not necessarily. Some can be found in dead ends and alleyways, often because those places had many more people before. They are also frequently placed away from sunlight, so that they will not fade too easily.

9. What colours are predominant in wall propaganda messages? What results can certain colours convey?

Only red is used for the majority of the time, or white on red if they are banners. These colous attract attention easily and stand out from the walls, no matter how decayed.

10. How is art used in wall propaganda messages? What results can art bring?

Art is rarely used in older messages; however, there are more recent pictures that depict art for public health campaigns, like for anti-smoking PSAs. 


1. "Maoism." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 30 Aug. 2010. Accessed 14 Apr. 2017.

2. "Ma." Glossary of Terms: Ma. MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

3. "Mao Zedong." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 29 Dec. 2015. Accessed 14 Apr. 2017.

4. "The Mao Cult." Chinese Posters. N.p., 16 Dec. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

5. "Great Leap Forward." Chinese Posters. N.p., 07 Nov. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

6. "Cultural Revolution Campaigns." Chinese Posters. N.p., 21 Jan. 2017. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.

7. Han, Oliver Lei. "Sources and Early Printing History of Chairman Mao’s “QUOTATIONS”."Bibsocamer. The Bibliographical Society of America, 10 Jan. 2004. Web. 14 Apr. 2017. <>.

8. "Dali Attractions." Dali Attractions China: Sightseeing Sites in Dali. Travel China Guide, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2017. <>.

9. "Visiting Xizhou Is like Being Trapped in Time." Shanghai Daily,上海日报. N.p., 03 June 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2017. <

10. C____, Annie. Web 15 Apr. 2017.

11.  Y___, Catherine. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

12. LindenJeanee. Personal Interview conducted by Marco K., May 2, 2017

13. Linden, Bryan. Personal Interview conducted by Marco K., May 3, 2017

14. Du. Personal Interview conducted by Marco K., May 4, 2017

15. Li. Personal Interview conducted by Marco K., May 5, 2017

16. Zhao. Personal Interview conducted by Marco K., May 5, 2017

17. Xu, Changming. Personal Interview conducted by Marco K., May 8, 2017

18. Landsberger, S. R. Email message sent 2 May 2017

19. Xie. Personal Interview conducted by Marco K., May 15, 2017

20. Xu, Hongkang. Personal Interview conducted by Marco K., May 16, 2017

The purpose of this information was for me to form and support a thesis statement, in order to report my findings and share a final product with you. After I finished doing so, I moved on to Phase 4.


Whoa! I just finished reading

Whoa! I just finished reading your Phase 3, and I can't believe you're already moving onto Phase 4! You're really on top of your game, and your project is really shaping up. Knowing you, I know you're passionate about the history aspect this project involves. Phase 3 for me was the most challenging, since it took so much time. Your next few phases will go by so quickly, so don't be afraid to fully embrace what this project can become. I hope you have a blast finishing your project, and I can't wait to see your final product!

Hi! I am Marco, a student of SAS from 2006 to 2017. I was part of the Tactical trip, which was in Xizhou during May 2017. My family comes from Hong Kong. I have two twin sisters who are two years older than me. One of them, Charlotte K, is a Microcampus alumni. I love to read, learn and take risks, all of which I have done plentifully in Microcampus. I have had so much fun in Xizhou, especially as I improved myself and realised so much about rural China. What I have learned in Xizhou is truly unforgettable and important to me.