Along the years, China’s image in posters

| October 27th, 2010


(From Posters use vivid visual symbols to get messages across in a strong way. During the time when arts only served for revolution propaganda, Chinese posters has developed its unique styles, which many artists happily utilize to express totally different meanings. As China is now trying to rebuild its “country image”, let’s check out how China looks like in posters.


Title: Chinese Family

China did not reach out for the world until late Qing Dynasty. The China image in foreigners’ eyes is typical: value family, clear age hierarchy, and pretty vulnerable.



Title: Your Friend

American military recruitment poster during WWⅡ. China formed alliance with the United States at the  Pacific War. But to American militants, Chinese men looked the same as their Japanese enemies. Thus posters like this one was made to remind confused Americans.



Title: Chinese people don’t tolerate invasion, either should we allow our neighbors be invaded.

A poster from the Korean War. Chinese Communist Party came to power after the Chinese civil war and stood against the United States as the Korean War broke out and the Cold War approaching its climax. Featured in the poster is General Macarthur, who lead the US army in the Korean War.



Title: Long live and win the North Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army.

Also one of the posters from the Korean War.



Title: “Made in China” Appears In The Global Market

America’s symbol Uncle Sam is featured to urge people buy American goods, yet a small line at the bottom of the poster,  indicates the poster itself is “Made in China”.



Title: “Made in China” March towards Western World

After the introduction of Reform and Open Up, Chinese people are surprised by the price difference between domestic market and developed foreign markets. Numerous grass-root entrepreneurs smell the benefits of “made in China” and kicked off a trend of exporting and currency exchange.



Title: Western Consumerism Enters China

In this Culture Revolution style poster, the red sun is replaced by M&M to reflect the fact that China is being overwhelmed by western consumerism.



Title: Wang Guangyi’s Big Criticism Series

To counter the wide-spreading consumerism, Chinese artist Wang Guangyi uses Chinese poster style painting to express his resolution to go against luxury brands.


11 Title: Typical Chinese Non-Violent Protest

First released by CCTV in 1980s, the photo astonished the western world who then named the Tian’anmen Square affair a live massacre. It is still hard to say until when can China gets rid of the vivid mark of the “tank man”.



Title: Beijing Olympics In Human Right Activists’ Eye

In 2008, China attracted international attention for hosting the Olympic Games. Without saying, it is a great chance for China to fix its international image. But human right activists also capitalize on the event to demonstrate their understanding of China’s human right situation.


Title: Where Is China Headed?

After the 2008 Olympic, western world began to self reflect and speculate how China as an important player in the global economy will change the world. Where is China headed?



Title: China’s Internet Censorship

China is Internet has developed rapidly since 2000. But China’s Internet also bears typical Chinese characteristics: many websites is in fact complete knock-offs of their blocked overseas “parent” website. They survive by localizing and self-censoring. They develop a special relation with government censorship: resist but have to live on it.



Title: Obamao

The image of Obamao came into being when Obama visited China in 2009. Chinese people think that black man Obama belongs to the “oppressed but now stand up slave” category, and thus can understand China more. They believe that he will lead capitalistic America into Socialistic world.



Title: Here Comes Chinese

In 2010, “China Threat” is raised again. Sino-America relationship become what most put as delicate and subtle. The poster dramatizes that Chinese people are coming to steal Americans’ jobs and earn US dollar.



Title: China Threat Theory After Financial Crisis

China’s performance after the global financial crisis reminds what Mao said in the old times: enemies are getting worse day after day, we are getting better everyday.



Title: Chinese Workers Are Standing Up

China’s story is not limited to the beautiful “v” curve of exportation, it also faces huge domestic challenges, including working force that no longer “works uncomplainingly”. The picture is from “World economy: The rising power of the Chinese worker” by The Economist.


At last, another Obamao to conclude the topic. Nowadays foreign relation is not only revealed from diplomat spokespersons’ mouth, but also by these nameless creative grass-root artists. Maybe this is a new phenomenon both countries should take into account in the days to come.

55 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. Justin says:

    First. My favorite is the “This man is your Friend“ poster. I’m sure it was necessary in WWII to help Americans remember who to hate and who not to.

    • Justin says:

      I also like the one of Douglas MacArthur stabbing some babies. That is good ol’ fashioned propaganda.

    • Justin says:

      Now the U.S. government needs to make a new poster with Japanese and Koreans saying these are your friends and then add a Chinese person saying this is your enemy, to clear up the confusion once again. But on second thought, then how would people differentiate between North and South Koreans? Damn. How will I ever know who I’m supposed to hate? I guess the government should just simply things and say you should hate everyone who is not a white-skinned Protestant.

      • 2B-real says:

        Ok ypou idiot. If you look back the poster its a different uniform than the cccccp pccpc ccp or what. The poster depicted a soldier who opposed communism. During that time they were fighting together to defeat Japan but fighting each other for control over mainland.

        South Korea and Japan and China do have different uniforms in todays time only midern eastern guys are hard to make out, haha.

        • Justin says:

          How the hell am I supposed to know what a KMT or PLA uniform looks like in a black and white picture? And if you were really such an excellent student of history, you would recall that the KMT and the CPC called a temporary truce after Chiang kai shek was kidnapped by Chinese generals.

          The U.S. did cooperate with all Chinese forces, not just the Guomindang. So stop trolling and actually be real as your name implies.

          And I wasn’t talking about uniforms, just about the inability of Americans to differentiate between Asians.

      • Al says:

        What about President Obama? Should the government tell us to hate him?

    • Paul says:

      Well, I can tell you the Japanese soldiers who were responsible for the rape of Nanking were monsters. My heart hurts to think about what happened there in such a short time.

  2. GuoBao says:

    Interesting how quickly the Western allies were forgotten after WW2. Without the US China would probably have lost the war. I assume “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” has little merit after the enemy has been defeated. I’m surprised you put “Tank Man” in this article Annie since it’s been banned in China since 1990 and Reporters Without Borders are censored as well, props for gutsiness though. China needs more people like you.

    Someone really ought to instruct the lads in the 5th picture in how to hold and operate a machine gun. The McArthur one is rich as well. Obviously the “We don’t tolerate invasion,,” part did not include the fact that North Korea began the war by invading the South in 1950 (and damn well nearly won a complete victory before the South’s allies finally made a stand).

    • Justin says:

      Well it was the same with the Russians. I mean there was that whole sticky situation of Cold War allegiances, but then the Russians turned against the Chinese and voila! Nixon and Kissinger brokered détente. And the China-U.S. alliance was mutually beneficial in WWII, though it is arguable that China would have lost, especially given the tech disadvantage and the fact that it was devastated by the KMT-Communist civil war.

      On the other hand, using propaganda to unite the nation by raising the specter of a nefarious “other” is a time-honored strategy that has been honed to an art by the United States. It is still being practiced today in the elections to win votes by raising “The China Threat” to scare voters into supporting whichever party that pays lip service to saving American jobs that are supposedly disappearing into the gaping maw of the Red Dragon.

      • Justin says:

        Also the mujahideen, whom Ronald Reagan dubbed “freedom fighters” when they were fighting against the Soviets, were later re-branded terrorists once they became the Taliban.

        So the pendulum of abandoning old alliances in favor of current interests swings both to the East and to the West.

    • Gary says:

      The guy who stood in front of those tanks was the greatest patriot to ever live in China.

  3. diaohua says:

    theres a lot of posters named justin!

    the fashion mao stuff is so fashion, while the m&m mao is also quite fashion.

    • Justin says:

      Actually these are all by me. I’m just bored today at work and I can’t get on Chinasmack for some reason. Does anyone know if it has been blocked?

      • GuoBao says:

        Chinasmack and IMDB have been blocked since yesterday. I don’t know what else is but it’s probably some insecure bastard deciding to piss off his territory. I’m close to having had enough of this country and it’s pathetic censoring.

  4. Jay K says:

    where is “Voice of China” I need his Global Times brainwashing talk to get the day rolling

  5. lulu says:

    these posters are really funny, some of them ive never seen before. the last one, obamao. i dont know why is that? whats the link between mao and him?

  6. rpc says:

    excellent selection! i do have to second that “this man is your friend” takes the bunch

  7. Epitope says:

    No Free Tibet posters?

  8. Al says:

    The “Citizens United” poster is against the US Chamber of Commerce, and not really a criticism of China or Chinese people. I don’t think the average Chinese person understands the dynamics of PACs in American politics though, so I guess it’s a mute point. I had never seen that poster until now.

    Do Chinese people think that the US has fallen apart or something? The economy in the States has been growing for the past year or more. Things are going pretty well here, considering.

    • Paul says:

      That poster was made by the “US Chamber of Commerce” in the US. It is supposed to be saying that the US government and big businesses in the US are selling out the American worker to cheaper overseas labor sources.

  9. georgeson says:

    Just found an interesting song. The lyrics was modified based on S.H.E.’s 《中国话》.

      物价高 物价涨 工资想跟上物价涨
      物价高 物价涨 工资跟不上物价涨
      成都赵幺妹 买不起衣服送妈妈
      天津来的钱老大 天天都吃面疙瘩
      全国各地的人民 全国各地地方话
      好聪明的中国人 好疯狂的中国价
      物价高 物价涨 工资想跟上物价涨
      物价不让工资跟上物价涨 工资偏要跟上物价涨
      物价偏偏不让工资跟上那物价涨 不求工资高但求价别涨
      老公老婆有工作 老公今年二十多 老婆比他小得多 老公说 先买房
      老婆说 先买车 按揭买房 贷款买车 最后还是没钱买房 没油开车
      全世界都在学中国价 中国的物价 越来越国际化
      全世界都在讲中国价 我们的物价 让美国都认真听话
      上海孙阿拉 贷款买房压力大sang hai sen a la dai kui ma vang a li du
      深圳来既黄先生 生病花咗八万八
      全国各地的人民 全国各地地方话
      好聪明的中国人 好疯狂的中国价
      有个学生叫小郭 大学花了六万多 毕业了 找工作 每月工资一千多
      没有房 别提车 结婚更是没着落 C P I 跑不过 这样的 还挺多
      生不起 一万几 生得起 养不起 养得起 学不起 学得起 娶不起
      娶得起 生不起 生了又是一万几 最后我还病不起 病了我还死不起
      全世界都在学中国价 中国的物价 越来越国际化
      全世界都在讲中国价 我们的物价 让美国都认真听话

  10. MAC says:

    The M&Ms one is pretty obviously meant to evoke the Soviet Union, not China.

  11. You can the picture of Obama eveywhere in Beijing, but it is different from the one in the article, actually looks like this:

  12. Douglas says:

    Your last point is the most important one. I think that we will soon see a century of grass roots artists and freelance creators, mostly stationed in Asia, who become the creative lynchpin of a global artist and thinker class.

    Taking on global theories requires the use of both western and non-western thought, and who better to achieve this than a tribe of well traveled creative class with western and eastern experience?

  13. fishgill says:

    OK, so we know what imdb is.
    What is Chinasmack? Can someone explain. Is that a site for foreign voyeurs trawling for Chinese dominatrix.
    How many ways to get spanked on a comment thread.

  14. BlackSugarDaddy says:

    Hey , why do you put my picture over there huh ?

  15. Michael says:


    • Joe says:

      Why? China is great! I’ve made more money here then I ever did in the US. I drive a bimmer and will be getting my first house here soon. All thanks to China!

  16. Mark says:

    “First released by CCTV in 1980s, the photo astonished the western world who then named the Tian’anmen Square affair a live massacre. It is still hard to say until when can China gets rid of the vivid mark of the “tank man”.”

    Not sure what the above means?

    • Paul says:

      The author is saying something like: “It is hard to say when China will be able to live down ‘tank man'”, meaning when will China not be criticized for that incident, internationally?

  17. Cleo says:

    Obama really does look like a Southern Chinese. JEEZUS. And Malia sometimes looks like a little old lady with a bun and a jade ornament.

  18. Cleo says:

    I bet his dad’s not dead and probably sitting downstairs in the White House kitchen wrapping wontons and playing mahjong with the Filipino cooks.

  19. Fay says:

    “They believe that he will lead capitalistic America into Socialistic world.”
    who are “they” here refer to? I live in China, and I never heard words like this.
    It’s funny that you guys just listen to some medias’ words about China , and think you know China very well. You don’t. Trully China has many shortcomings, but still no country is perfect. and we are working hard to solve those problems. but if you guys still hold this stereotype about China, you can never know the true China, and if you don’t, don’t pretend that you do!
    sorry if I say something that make you feel offended.

  20. Owen says:

    The picture from the Economist is a joke because it it says in Chinese ‘What do we workers want? More money. When do we want it? Now.” In English, this is a very common chant at demonstrations – but the tune doesn’t fit.

  21. The M&M poster is obviously a parody of Soviet propaganda.

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    Global Voices in English » China’s image in posters

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    Common Grounds Project | Blog | Along the years, China’s image in posters

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    A History of China via Posters « Somewhere Between Here and There.

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