Propaganda Past: New from China Copyright and Media

Children's Day at Tiananmen, June 1, 1989. (

Children’s Day at Tiananmen, June 1, 1989.

In partnership with the China Copyright and Media blog, “ Past” is now featured in our series. All translations in this series are by Rogier Creemers.

New series: Propaganda Past

One of my ongoing projects is a book on the history of Chinese regulation. When working on this, I recently came across a collection of CCP propaganda departments, dating from the early beginnings of the CCP until the mid-Nineties. Some of the documents in this collection are public, but a good number of them were for internal circulation and are, so far, not available in the public sphere. I have decided to translate the most interesting of the documents and publish them here with comments. I expect that new posts will be added to this series on a biweekly basis.

To kick off the series, I translated two speeches from around this time, 24 years ago. The first one was given by Peng Zhen, the retired head of the Central Political-Legal Committee, and addressed the question of how to bring unity through abiding by the and the law. On the student protest, he found that

The motivations for these student demonstrations are good, pure, kind and constructive, the objective is to overcome flaws and mistakes in work, and to run State affairs and the Socialist system even better, this is consistent with our requirements. But the methods and means that they have adopted is not very appropriate. This is not the fault of the children. First, they do not know the law or don’t know it well. Second, they lack political experience, and are insufficiently on guard against the treacherous intentions of an extremely, extremely small number of conspirators and evildoers who seize the opportunity to cause turmoil.

His subsequent analysis about how the Constitution and the law did not allow for such protests, is interesting in the light of the ongoing debate about constitutionalism at the moment. Much of the language used is very similar.

Article 1 of the Constitution provides that the People’s Republic of China is led by the working class, not that it is led by the bourgeoisie, and not that the working class and the bourgeoisie jointly lead and divide all under heaven between them; that it is based on the alliance between workers and peasants, not on the basis of any other class or stratum; that it is a people’s democratic dictatorship, not a bourgeois dictatorship, and certainly not a landlord class dictatorship; that it is a Socialist country, and isn’t a capitalist country. The movement to do bourgeois liberalization in our country violates the Constitution, and violates the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnicities in the entire country and the standpoints of the Party.

Read the complete speech here: Use the Constitution and the Law to Unify Thoughts.

The second speech was made by , on 9 June. This speech takes stock of the events in Beijing, and much attention is paid to the harm suffered by the armed forces.

During the suppression of this riot, so many of our comrades have been wounded, and even sacrificed themselves, their arms have also been stolen, why is this? It is also because good people and bad people have become confused, resulting in the fact that it was difficult to take on some drastic measures that should have been adopted. Dealing with this incident was a grim political trial for our Army, practice proves that our Liberation Army has passed the examination, if tanks had been used to press their way through, it might have created an ignorance of right and wrong around the entire country. Therefore, I must thank the PLA officers and men that they used this attitude to deal with the riots and incidents. Even though the losses makes one feel heartbroken, they may win the people, and make people not clearly knowing right and wrong change their viewpoint. Let everyone see, what kind of people the PLA actually are.

It is interesting as it outlines the primary building blocks for the political and economic consensus in the Nineties. It does so by re-establishing the necessity the basic policy of “One Centre, Two Basic Points”. The one centre here refers to the central position of economic development, the two basic points consist of the Four Cardinal Principles on the one hand and reform and opening up on the other. Deng also reiterates his objective of becoming a “middle-level developed country” by the 2040s. The mistakes that were made, according to Deng, were in the field of education.

Since founding the nation, we have always put the emphasis on arduous creation, in later days, when matters became a bit better, we advocated high consumption, consequently, the phenomenon of waste spread in all areas, adding to this a weakening in ideological and political work, the fact that the legal system is not complete, the phenomena of violation of law and discipline, corruption, etc., they all came out. I said to foreigners that the biggest mistake of the decade was education, here, I mainly talk about ideological and political education, I don’t purely talk about schools and young students, we also lack education for the people. There is little education concerning arduous creation, concerning what kind of country China is, and what kind of country we must change it into. This is a very big mistake of ours.

Lastly, Deng warns against the influence of the West, indicating that

in the area of political structural reform, there is one point that can be confirmed, which is that we must persist in implementing the People’s Congress system, and we cannot adopt a US-style tripartite separation of power structure. In fact, Western countries also not all implement the system of a tripartite separation of powers. The US scold us for suppressing the students, but in their dealing with domestic campus uprisings and riots, did they also not send the police and the military, did they also not arrest people and shed blood? They suppress students and the people, and we have suppressed a counterrevolutionary riot. Which qualifications do they have to criticize us!

Read the complete speech here: Speech when Receiving the Capital Martial Law Army Troop-Level or Higher Cadres

The next post in Propaganda Past will go back forty years, from 1989 to 1949. [Source]


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