Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 6 months 3 weeks ago

In Phase o, I evaluated the topic choices for my Inquiry Project and chose Wall Propaganda as my final topic. In Phase 1, I will be continuing my work based on the background research I have here. This is Phase 3, where I will be collecting information, explaining facts using local contacts, and finding their relevancy to the ten big questions I will create later in the process. All my research here is separated into four different categories. 

Background Information (from Phase 1):

The Great Leap Forward was a campaign promoted by Mao Zedong between 1958 and 1960, to organize China's vast population and to transform China's land cultivations (farming) to a modern, industrial society - in five years. Chinese Communists hoped to develop labor-intensive methods of industrialization, which would emphasize manpower rather than machines and capital spending[1]. Mao hoped to increase China's agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) by taking workers from agriculture and putting them into the manufacturing. He relied, however, on illogical Soviet farming ideas, such as planting crops very close together to allow the stems to support one another and plowing six feet deep to encourage root growth[2]. These farming strategies damaged countless acres of land and ruined crop fields, rather than producing more food with fewer farmers. Mao also wanted to free China from the need to import steel and machinery. He invigorated people to organize backyard steel furnaces, where citizens could scrap metal into functional steel. Families who were desperate often melted items into their own pots, pans, and farm implements. The results were extremely defective, backyard smelters executed by peasants with no metallurgy training produced low-quality-iron that was completely worthless. 

Regardless of the harmful agricultural renovations, the weather in 1958 was very favorable and the harvest seemed promising. However, the amount of labor diverted towards steel production and construction resulted in the majority of the harvests to rot uncollected in some areas[8]. The exact number of famine deaths is impossible to determine, but estimates range from 30 million to 55 million people[8].

Despite the indications that the Great Leap Forward had failed to reach its objective, the movement continued through propaganda. The most appalling thing about the propaganda during the Great Leap Forward was the Communist party's unwillingness to take responsibility for the man-made famine inflicted on society. The political parties were in command, and regardless of the difficulties, propaganda artists proceeded on with making posters that expressed lagging industrialization and mechanism that could be overcome in a relatively short amount of time. The artists relied on human beliefs of difference. Chinese citizens were persuaded by the idea of Chairman Mao Zedong improving the country from an agrarian economy into a socialist society through industrialization and collectivization. Propaganda during that period had censorship distorts and concealed many accounts of China's great famine. 

There is a particularly deceitful piece of propaganda from the Great Leap Forward with the message "争取更大的丰收献给社会主义“[6]. In English, this message means "striving for a greater harvest for socialism". Socialism is made up of various political and economic theories advocating the means of production, distribution, and exchange that is regulated by the community as a whole. This message shows the government attempting to paint Mao Zedong's disastrous ameliorations as a roaring success, even when millions of Chinese starved to death in the countryside. 

In 1966, China's communist leader Mao Zedong initiated what became known as the Cultural Revolution (known in full as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) in order to reinforce his authority over the Chinese government after the tragic failure of his Great Leap Forward policies. He believed that the current Communist leaders were guiding the people of China in the wrong direction. Mao called on the nation's youth to purge the "contaminated" elements of Chinese society and to revive the revolutionary spirit that brought China from a hardline socialist country to a capitalist nation. The People's Republic of China steadily embraced the tenets of capitalism, however, Mao was highly convinced that the current party leadership in China (as in the Soviet Union), was moving too far in a "revisionist direction, with an emphasis on expertise rather than on ideological purity"[3]

During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong mobilized groups of devoted young people who called themselves "Red Guards" to carry out his program and to punish party officials and any other people who showed bourgeouis tendencies. He sought to enforce Communist principles and to cleanse the nation of the "Four Olds" which means old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas[4,5]. The first targets of the Red Guards included Buddhist temples, churches, and mosques, which were demolished or converted for other uses. Sacred texts, as well as Confucian writings, were burned, along with religious statues and artwork. The Red Guards also persecuted people regarded as "counter-revolutionary", which led to the guards conducting "struggle sessions", in which they abused and publicly humiliated people accused of capitalist thoughts (usually these were teachers, monks, or other educated people)[4].

By February of 1967, China had descended into chaos but the one common thread was propaganda. The propaganda notices were designed with vibrant colors which brought life to a period remembered in black and white. The posters were widespread art that conveyed political ideas, despite their simplistic messages. For example, there is a piece of art propaganda showing Chairman Mao above an adoring crowd of Red Guards, soldiers, and workers. However, a lot of the propaganda during the Cultural Revolution was destroyed, since everyone was scared to keep printed works. The posters were and still are a witness and a reflection of turbulent Chinese history[7]

Information from local contacts:

3/14/18 Mr. Yin

Mr. Yin is the husband of Zhang Jie and is part of the fourth generation of the Yin family. This afternoon, Mr. Chen and I visited Mr. Yin's textiles shop next to the Cheese workshop.

  • The government is promoting ethical ideas
  • Most of the propaganda during the Cultural Revolution was extirpated by Red Guards -- not much was preserved and nothing could be rebuilt therefore the government cemented a lot of propaganda 
  • The government promised to subsidize sewage pipe costs for private homes (guaranteed money through propaganda, the output was no money)
  • The government promised to pay for purification projects to make Erhai's water portable, they publicized this plan with propaganda (it still is not safe to drink) 
  • The government's propaganda has promising messages about Erhai protection when in reality, the public goals are not met
  • When Mr. Ying was 10 years old, he did not recognize or think too much about the propaganda that was posted during the Cultural Revolution
  • Now that he is older, he can comprehend propaganda and sometimes looks at it

3/14/18 Mr. Pan

Mr. Pan moved to Xizhou in the 1980s. He has been a guard at the Linden Centre for almost 3 years. 

  • There are Dali propaganda campaigns around Xizhou advocating to make Dali a civilized city 
  • He is pleased and delighted to see propaganda (tourist brochures, billboards, posters etc.) every day because many support longterm Bai culture 
  • Government propaganda is the platform for Bai culture 
  • Tourism has metamorphosized propaganda 
  • Individuals are entitled to their own opinions on propaganda 
  • Children do not think much about Bai culture propaganda, on the other hand, many of the elders in the village do because they appreciate culture and traditions 

3/15/18 Mrs. Linden

Mrs. Linden is the wife of Mr. Linden, the two of them are the owners of the Linden Centre.

  • Too much trouble to take down the propaganda
  • People have different mindsets when it comes to taking down propaganda 
  • There is no culture of beautifying houses in Xizhou (propaganda is left on houses)
  • Western and Bai culture cohesion affects local viewpoints on propaganda
  • Vandalism on propaganda expresses opposition against powerful authorities 
  • Back in the 1900s, the only way to get news was looking at the walls of villages 
  • Xizhou's central government has a "top-down" system
  • The government will not take down most of the propaganda and citizens will not either 
  • Propaganda resonates with older generations
  • All the power manifested in propaganda is detrimental
  • Mao propaganda is embedded in Xizhou culture 
  • Many people are not personally connected to the propaganda because they did not experience the history (i.e Cultural Revolution, The Great Leap Forward)

3/16/18 Mr. Du

Mr. Du is a local antique collector and salesman in Xizhou. 

  • Every time period in history stimulates mistake and "how to live" propaganda 
  • Honorable propaganda inspires 
  • Immoral propaganda destroys trust 
  • Xizhou's 2016 propaganda was about opening tourism and elevating civilized farming and economy
  • In 2017, there was propaganda about the 19th party congress 
  • There is also propaganda through TV commercials and live radios 
  • Advertisements profit from propaganda vandalism 
  • When adults look at propaganda, it normally "goes in one ear, and out the next" 
  • When propaganda does not relate to the public as much anymore, it is thrown away 
  • Cultural Revolution propaganda encouraged "Protect Mao", "Protect Lin Shao Qi" (Communist Leader) 
  • During the Cultural Revolution, the Central Party ensured every province had a different slogan 
  • During the Cultural Revolution, the Yunnan province had the mantra "Down With the Prevential Government" 
  • As an individual, Mr. Du does not pay much attention to the propaganda, however, as a child, he used to a little bit 
  • Some tourists scrutinize the propaganda, while others do not 
  • The vice premier of the Cultural Revolution included the government threatening to "break open" the heads of people who did not follow Mao's ideals 
  • When Mr. Du was 16, he would go to the Cultural Revolution meetings on SiFangJie to encourage citizens to abide by Mao's principles 
  • During the Cultural Revolution, propaganda promoted Mao Zedong as the "red sun" 
  • Many Xizhou residents are too focused on their jobs to notice the propaganda 
  • Mr. Du lives by the quote "disregard things when they do not affect one directly, or remain aloof when one is not affected personally" (-Mao Zedong) when he sees propaganda 
  • With every new generation or era, our thoughts change through time like a ticking watch 

3/19/18 Mr. Linden

Mr. Linden is the founder and owner of the boutique hotel and center of cultural exchange in Xizhou, Yunnan.

  • Affluent educated Chinese visitors do not emit value, they normally see through the propaganda 
  • Early stories resonate with elders
  • The negatives of propaganda during a time period is forgotten easily 
  • There is still public resentment and expressions of bitterness and anger when it comes to propaganda 
  • Elders are willing to overlook hardships for younger generations
  • Inexperienced and unworldly people do not realize the suffering their grandparents endured through
  • The Xizhou government does not want to be prompted of mistakes (this is why unprincipled government propaganda is painted over)
  • Older generations do not want reminders (this is why unprincipled government propaganda is painted over)
  • There is some public stability when cynical propaganda is taken down
  • Many Xizhou citizens feel that there is additional social security, balance, and normality when corrupt historical propaganda is taken down 

3/20/18 Mr. Yang

Mr. Yang is a farmer who sells his organic fruits and vegetables in DongAnMen.

  • Xizhou propaganda through advertisements lure tourists to visit 
  • Xizhou is a treasured place but the government is not trustworthy
  • There is no solution to fresh Erhai water 
  • The garbage in the sewage surges into Erhai 
  • The Erhai tapwater is profit for the government 
  • "If Xizhou citizens do not drink the Erhai water, it is protecting Erhai" 

3/20/18 Mr. Li 

Mr. Li was a farmer during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, he is now retired. 

  • There is propaganda concerning environment protection and pollution reduction through newspapers and television
  • There is propaganda advocating for limiting farming compost, water, and fertilizers
  • There is tourist propaganda seducing and attracting the outside world to Xizhou
  • There is advertisement propaganda celebrating Chinese New Year 
  • Dali is poor, Xizhou is rich (old aphorism about trade and prewar)
  • Every age has discrete thoughts on propaganda
  • Many Xizhou residents are too busy supporting families to pay attention to the propaganda 
  • During the Korean War, there was a famous Mao saying "Beat the Americans, Take Down the Enemy" 
  • The Dong, Yan, Yin, and Yang were the richest families during the Cultural Revolution
  • There are now lower crime and vandalism rates when it comes to propaganda due to more education 
  • During the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, many people had similar thoughts to Mao Zedong's 
  • There was immense life pressure during the Great Leap Forward because of starvation 
  • "绿水青山,就是金山,银山" is a propaganda slogan about not destroying our beautiful home (Xizhou)
  • "农业儿字法,水土肥种㙅工管“ is a propaganda slogan during the Great Leap Forward about increasing and producing farm yields
  • ”听毛主席的话,走共长党的跃“ is a propaganda slogan during the Cultural Revolution - it translates to "Listen to Chairman Mao's words and take the leap of the Communist party"
  • "Having your mind change with the times" 
  • If propaganda does not correlate with a certain time period, it is taken down
  • Mao's philosophy: for every five "mu" of land, you should have supplementary livestock (mostly of horses, cows)
  • Mao's philosophy: one "mu" commensurates with pigs
  • Mao's philosophy: the pigs, cows, and horses are natural fertilizers for soil and crops 
  • Mao's philosophy: harness the power of people

3/21/18 Zhao Shi Fu 

Mr. Zhao is one of the guards at Yangzhuoran. 

  • There is propaganda through advertising and social media
  • Every era has its own propaganda 
  • There was often propaganda promoting "create a good communist society"
  • During the Great Leap Forward, there were community groups to communes to become village groups
  • When adults tell their children about Chinese history, they often do not know what the Great Leap Forward or Cultural Revolution is
  • Everyone has their own opinion and perspective on propaganda 
  • There were too many slogans during the Great Leap Forward 
  • Walls with propaganda often break down and in order to restore the wall, the propaganda will be covered up
  • "Protect Erhai as if it is your mother" 
  • Mr. Zhao's family earned work points (before the Cultural Revolution) growing pigs and processing their manure to create fertilizers
  • “鼓足干劲” is a propaganda slogan which translates to "go all out, do one's best" 
  • “力争上游” is a propaganda slogan which translates to "aim high; strive for first place; try to make greater progress"
  • “多快好省“ is a propaganda slogan which translates to "achieve faster, greater, better and more economical results"
  • “万岁大跃进“ is a propaganda slogan which translates to "long live the Great Leap Forward"
  • “建设社会主义,万岁走路线” is a propaganda slogan which translates to "continue to follow the Great Leap Forward path"

3/22/18 Zhang Jie 

Zhang Jie ayi is the possessor of the cheese workshop. She also sells textiles and Xizhou merchandise with her husband, Mr. Yin.

  • People study and pay attention to praiseworthy propaganda
  • People disregard or look past inimical propaganda 
  • People live life and do business - most of the propaganda in Xizhou has no impact
  • "Study well" was a slogan during the Opening and Reform of China 
  • When people do not damage the propaganda or when there is no destruction from wind, rain, snow etc. propaganda generally would not be taken down, however, propaganda will naturally wear over time

3/27/18 He Shi Fu 

He Shi Fu is one of the guards at Yangzhuoran. 

  • During the Great Leap Forward, propaganda slogans were all about singing the government's praises
  • During the Great Leap Forward, "one person bragged higher than the next"
  • Mr. He was in 7th grade when he joined the 10th production team during the Great Leap Forward
  • Production teams (生产队)organized manufacturing, harvesting crops, constructing wells, digging ponds and pumping water 
  • Below communes on the chain of command were production teams 
  • Many of the propaganda catchphrases are written in red because it represents Communism and Mao's quotations were written in red 
  • Nobody used the color blue in propaganda because it illustrated Nationalism
  • “接住天上水,到会洱海水,挤出苍山水,挖出地下水“ was a propaganda slogan during the Great Leap Forward which translates to "Collect the rainwater, draw the Erhai water, squeeze the Cangshan mountain water, dig the underground water" 

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1): 

Thoughts of the People:

1. What opinions/judgments do the residents of Xizhou have on the propaganda? 

During the 1950s Xizhou residents would either agree or disagree with the propaganda. Some people were neutral -- drawn to the two opposing sides due to various factors. Currently, many Xizhou residents have lots of responsibilities and are pressured to support their families and run their businesses. Some Xizhou citizens perceive that tourist propaganda and promoting Xizhou to the outside world is marvelous because it supports longterm Bai culture and allows the economy to thrive. 

2. How do propaganda opinions fluctuate in the village according to age?

On an individual level, people's understanding of propaganda evolve over the course of their lives. Academic research indicates that not only generations have distinct political identities and views on government messages, but that people's basic outlooks and orientations are set fairly early in life. However, attitudes are malleable, with a lot of potential for dramatic changes in perspective in late adolescence or early childhood. There are colossal differences between groups of people who lived through a historical time period and groups of people who were born after that time period. Older generations who existed during the Cultural Revolution lived through the experiences of Mao's control still have resentment and express bitterness and anger when it comes to propaganda, despite that, many elders are willing to overlook hardships for younger generations. Some of the children in Xizhou are incognizant towards the suffering their grandparents endured and the majority of descendants do not care and pay attention to the propaganda. 

3. What are the reactions to the propaganda between more visionist groups compared to more pragmatic groups in Xizhou? 

The term "pragmatic" relates to a philosophical and political pragmatism, it is defined as dealing with things sensibly and realistically in ways that are based on practical rather than theoretical considerations. In this context, visionist means having mental images of what the future will and could be like. Visionists plan the future with imagination and when they see the propaganda they think of fanciful vivid dreams of the Xizhou community prospering under the rule of what the propaganda states. Pragmatic villagers disagree with the propaganda and wish for it to be taken down. The propaganda messages do not persuade them, they see things logically and hold onto their traditional values and beliefs. 

Visual Interpretation of the Propaganda: 

4. What do the propaganda messages say?

Most of the propaganda relates to authority matters in question that connect with activities associated with the governance of Xizhou. Many correlate to something on a more local level, for example, village concerns like unpredictable weather that can damage harvests, pollution reduction, limiting farming compost, water, and fertilizers, and Erhai protection. On the other hand, there is still disintegrating historical propaganda during the American war in Korea, the Opening and Reform of China, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. Frayed propaganda during those times promote messages like "万岁大跃进" (Long Live the Great Leap Forward), and “农业儿字法,水土肥种㙅工管“ which is about increasing and producing farm yields.

5. Are there different forms of propaganda (not including posters) in Xizhou? 

Tourist posters, live radio announcements, product advertisements, newspapers, social media, and TV commercials are also considered as propaganda. For example, merchandise sponsors use TV commercials or product advertisements to promote goods for more recognition.

Citizen Discontent in the Propaganda: 

6. Has the propaganda in Xizhou ever been vandalized?

In Xizhou, nobody has the nerve to vandalize propaganda because many are frightened by the government's dominance and authority. The only damage that Xizhou's propaganda has gone through is rain, snow, sleet, and powerful winds. 

7. Have there ever been individual or community protests? If so, to what extent did the remonstrations go to? 

Protests are expressions or declarations of objection, disapproval, or dissent. Many of the walls in Xizhou are still plastered with propaganda messages that mainly advocate negative influences, and there are dissatisfied individuals that keep their thoughts to themselves but would never protest and there have never been community protests.

8. Why has the propaganda not been removed? 

A multitude of propaganda has not been removed due to the concept of the tragedy of the commons. Most of the propaganda in Xizhou belongs to both the people and the government. Since the propaganda is everyone's responsibility, nobody has the incentive to take it down, leaving the propaganda untouched. On the other hand, propaganda in Xizhou is not taken off because many people are indifferent and it would not matter whether the propaganda remains intact or is destroyed.

9. Why has some propaganda been removed, painted over, or covered? 

Some propaganda is painted over in view of the fact that the Xizhou government does not want to be prompted of mistakes and older generations do not want reminders of previous hardships. When cynical propaganda is removed, there is some public stability implicated over Xizhou and the citizens feel that there is additional social security, balance, and normality when corrupt historical propaganda is covered and painted over. Furthermore, some walls tumbledown because they become antiquated and are not properly cared for, resulting in propaganda taken off to construct new walls. 

I know I am prepared to move onto Phase 4 because I am ready to emerge my ideas to report my findings in order to assemble my final product.

Sources: 

1. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Great Leap Forward.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 20 July 2016, www.britannica.com/event/Great-Leap-Forward.
2. Szczepanski, Kallie. “Mao's Catastrophic Great Leap Forward in China.” ThoughtCo, www.thoughtco.com/the-great-leap-forward-195154.
3. History.com Staff. “Cultural Revolution.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/cultural-revolution.
4. Szczepanski, Kallie. “What Happened During China's Cultural Revolution?” ThoughtCo, www.thoughtco.com/what-was-the-cultural-revolution-195607.
5. Szczepanski, Kallie. “Who Were China's Fierce Red Guards?” ThoughtCo, www.thoughtco.com/who-were-chinas-red-guards-1954126.
6. Griffiths in News on Jan 3, 2013 1:00 pm, James. “How propaganda and censorship distorts and conceals accounts of China's Great Famine.” Shanghaiist, 3 Jan. 2013, shanghaiist.com/2013/01/03/examining_chinas_great_famine.php.
7. “Related Stories.” Art and politics[1]|chinadaily.Com.cn, europe.chinadaily.com.cn/culture/2014-12/04/content_19018645.htm.
8. "Great Leap Forward." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Jan. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Leap_Forward.
9. Lin. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 14 2018 
10. Pan. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 14 2018
11. Jeanie, Linden. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 15 2018
12. Du. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 16 2018
13. Brian, Linden. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 19 2018
14. Yang. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 20 2018 
15. Li. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 20 and 26 2018
16. Zhao. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 21 2018
17. Zhang Jie. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 22 2018
18. He. Personal interview conducted by Sonia Z, March 27 2018

 
 
 
 
 
My name is Sonia, and I am 14 years old. I was born in Canada, however, I was raised in Shanghai. My hobbies include basketball, touch rugby, volleyball, writing, and reading. I acquire a thirst for learning and new opportunities. I was in Xizhou immersing myself in a new culture and remarkable, powerful, stoical, generous community. A community of people with wisdom, erudition, and philosophy to share, and lives with stories worth listening.