By Sam Schenerman
The Chinese Communist Party has a proud history of propaganda. From posters to weird Youtube videos, the CCP feels a deep need to make sure everyone agrees with its causes. But did you know that during the 1950s and 1960s (before the Cultural Revolution), the CCP used comic books to brainwash the populace?
There’s Nothing Funny About These Comics
One of the most popular forms of pulp entertainment was called Lian Huan Hua (translated literally as “linked images”). It started out in the 1920s in Shanghai.
But after the Chinese Communist Party took power, they seized all forms of art and remade them in the form of propaganda. Comics were no exception. The CCP thought that the masses would be more susceptible to brainwashing by comics than by communist books or treatises. Why use newspeak and brainwashing sessions when you can just use comics?
Many classic CCP propaganda themes were included in these comics. The Second Sino-Japanese War (1936-1945, eventually part of World War II), selected biographies of both Republican and Imperial Chinese historical figures (such as Lin Zexu), and stories promoting communist ideals. There were portrayals of modernization such as railroads and dams. Also featured were heroes of the proletariat. Many of these comics were also created to help children learn how to read. Instead of “see Spot run,” it’s “see Mao harvest mangoes.”
During the Great Famine (1958-1962), Chinese children were being shown images of how great China was becoming.
They’re At It Again
Although Lian Huan Hua declined in “popularity” after the Cultural Revolution, propaganda laden comics are making a comeback. As manga and comic books become more popular worldwide, Chinese leaders are revisiting the old ways. In 2016, Chinese media released a comic called “Dangerous Love” which portrays a suave Westerner beguiling a poor, innocent Chinese girl. It turns out that cute guy she met at that party was actually… a foreign devil! He tricks her into giving him sensitive documents from the government office where she works.
Watch that episode on China Uncensored: