Essay On to What Extent Do the Chinese Propaganda Posters Tell the Story of the Great Leap Forward?

Published: 2021/11/23
Number of words: 1734

Chinese Propaganda Posters


Chinese propaganda posters played a crucial role in the history of the People’s Republic of China. Mao Zedong had a plan to transform the country to the extent of overtaking the Western in 15 years. The Great Leap Forward period from 1958 to 1961 marked a crucial time when Zedong wanted to introduce reforms in the economy of China by implementing capital intensive development of the heavy industry (Clark, 2008). The aim of setting up the Great Leap Forward period was to ensure China goes its way into the decentralization of industrial effort. During the period, propaganda posters were used to create an illusion of what the society should look like. Posters can play a role in mobilizing or motivating individuals within the community to work harder. The period was characterized by the strengthening of two major pillars of economic development in the country (De Bary and Lufrano, 2001). The introduction of the workers’ commune and increasing the production of grain and steel were Mao’s plans. The paper aims to examine the extent that the Chinese propaganda posters tell the story of Great Leap Forward.

Chinese Posters and the Great Leap Forward

Propaganda posters during the Great Leap Forward period were meant to mobilize, inform, congratulate, inspire, and instruct the Chinese on how to conduct themselves to realize objectives set. Equally, posters were being used in the political tradition of PRC as a way of appeasing people (Deutch, 2018). Colorful propaganda posters were convenient during the period due to the accessibility of such messages by a large number of people. Communication is an essential aspect within any society, and the production of posters was the most appropriate means then. The study needs to conduct a background check on the role that posters played during the Great Leap Forward in the Peoples’ Republic of China. Posters are an essential piece of art that can help deliver an important message or spread the right thoughts in the society. The use of propaganda posters has a long history in the political tradition of PRC. Great Leap Forward was meant to increase and decentralize industrialization through communism in China. As a convenient way to communicate, posters proved crucial to Mao Zedong’s intentions of modernizing China (Deutch, 2018). The commune, according to Zedong, could provide new decentralized spaces for egalitarianism and free women to participate in industrial work.

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Propaganda posters used during the period indicate the level of industrialization that was desired by communists. A close look at the pictures that were taken during the Great Leap Forward illustrates the desire and zeal that the Chinese had to increase industrial production. To Mao and other communist theorists, increased production of steel and grain could be a significant step forward (Zhou, 2013). In essence, the propaganda posters that were used are an indication of how the period projected high productivity, especially in steel and grain. Mao wanted to transform China into a socialist community from the soviet economic policies that were applicable initially. During the Great Leap Forward, people were meant to work hard in various industries in a bid to increase production. People would live in self-sustainable communities, with residential areas and industries where the population would work. For instance, the gigantic dragon art used to illustrate a commune during the Great Leap Forward is indicative of the industrial revolution that was to happen in China. The photos were to serve as an inspiration as people would work hard to achieve the standards set in the pictures. To Zedong and communists, propaganda posters were the most convenient approach to inform and create impressions of their political agenda. An examination of Chinese propaganda posters can help tell the story of industrialization during the Great Leap Forward in China.

Propaganda posters used are indicative of the intention to free women to work in industries and participate in matters of leadership. Zedong acknowledged the fact that if women were empowered, they would contribute tremendously to economic growth and development, as evidenced in western countries. The society could only develop if all stakeholders participate in harmony for economic prosperity (Gail, 2011). Women in Chinese culture were not allowed to work in industries traditionally. The need for increased grain and steel production required the input of women during the Great Leap Forward. Propaganda posters used during the Great Leap Forward depicted women as free and ready to champion their rights in China. This inspired many women in society to start working in agricultural farms and industries. Pictures that portrayed women as productive in industries acted as a way of convincing many to change their notions about women in the Chinese society. Women in Chinese society were used to perform domestic chores such as washing, cooking, and taking care of children. The Great Leap Forward represents a time that the nation needed the input of women in industries (Liu, 2006). As such, propaganda posters during the Great Leap Forward can help explain how communists wanted to free women to work in farms and industries.

Chinese propaganda posters used during the Great Leap Forward illustrate the urge that communists had to ensure food security. Food security could only be achieved by devising strategic measures to promote agriculture during the period (Zhou, 2013). For instance, posters with women selling fruits indicate that people were encouraged to participate in agriculture as a way to ensure food security. One of the most critical aspects of an economy is being food sustainable. Nations that face hunger problems find it difficult to achieve desirable levels of growth and development. As such, Mao wanted to ensure that food security has been achieved by reclaiming land and improving agricultural practices (Westad, 2003). Food sustainability guarantees a nation active and productive labor, which can project the country into another level economically. Posters that show images of people working in plantations and industries indicate the busy nature of the Great Leap Forward regime. Equally, a poster with a picture of a family that is eating healthy is illustrative of the anticipated standards of living within the Chinese society after that period (Mark, 2013). As important pillars to economic growth and development, agriculture and food sustainability are portrayed in Chinese propaganda posters during the Great Leap Forward.

The propaganda posters used during the Great Leap Forward can help tell how the communist party inspired citizens to work hard for economic prosperity. Propaganda posters inspire many within society as they appeal to their social practices (Merwin, 1970). The inspiration was geared towards economic development, sustainability, and modernization of China as a republic. The Great Leap Forward is characterized by symbolic pictures that are inspirational on various matters within society. Some act as a motivation to achieve specific goals, either economically or socially (Hershatter, 2002). As such, the Chinese propaganda posters applied during the Great Leap illustrate the need to work hard within the Chinese context. The image of a dragon to represent the commune inspired many to agree to Mao’s economic demands. The poster depicts the commune as a modernized locality with residential areas and industries for people to work. As a mechanism to achieve the set objectives, the communist party resolved to use of propaganda posters to inspire and motivate people within the society to work hard. The posters created during the time depict modernization as the best approach to solve social problems within society (Esherick, Pickowicz and Walder, 2006). In essence, Chinese propaganda posters can help tell the story of the Great Leap Forward to a large extent.

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Propaganda posters tell the story of the Great Leap Forward by illustrating how art applied in mobilizing masses. Many people in China appealed to posters as an approach to relaying important messages to people. On many occasions, publications of people in a group discussing a matter were released more often, indicating that the period used posters to capture the attention of many within the society. Art was appropriate, as many could get the message easily as compared to the use of other means (Clark, 2008). As such, Chinese propaganda posters can be used to explain the happenings during the Great Leap Forward.


To sum it up, the Great Leap Forward was characterized by rapid industrialization, improved agricultural practices, and communism within the Chinese society. Rapid decentralisation of industries and enhanced egalitarianism was a major interest in the Chinese society. The period is well known for using various approaches in mobilizing, informing, inspiring, and appeasing people within the Chinese context. Equally, the regime marked a significant period in history when women in the Chinese context were allowed to work in farms and manufacturing industries. An examination of the propaganda posters that were used then can help gather information on what transpired during the regime. The posters used then illustrate the zeal and industrious nature of the Great Leap Forward period. Historical art in existence during the period depicts the Great Leap Forward as a regime of industrialization, increased food production, and an era of communism. As such, Chinese propaganda posters from the period can help tell the story of the Great Leap Forward in detail.


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De Bary, W.T. and Lufrano, R. eds., 2001. Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 through the twentieth century. Columbia University Press.

Deutch, J., 2018. Is Innovation China’s New Great Leap Forward?. Issues in Science and Technology34(4), pp.37-47.

Esherick, J., Pickowicz, P. and Walder, A.G., 2006. The Chinese cultural revolution as history.

Gail, H., 2011. The Gender of Memory: rural women and China’s collective past, Berkeley.

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Zhou, X., 2013. Forgotten Voices of Mao’s Great Famine, 1958-1962: An Oral History. Yale University Press.

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