« | Home | »

‘Great Changes after the Liberation’

Tags: | |

In 1950 the Chinese Communist Party published a comic called ‘Great Changes after the Liberation’. Its aim was to ‘awaken people’s disgust toward imperialists and counter-revolutionaries’ by contrasting the inequalities of pre-Liberation China with the promises of the new regime. The comic was recently posted on Sina Weibo and generated a lot of online discussion before it was removed. Though some of its predictions have come true, such as the rise of the renminbi against the dollar and the need for foreigners to obey the law, plenty of people pointed out the similarities between China now and before 1949.

The comic contrasts a pre-Liberation official surrounded by money and alcohol, indifferent to a citizen’s needs, with a selfless, cheerful cadre. The Communist Party runs frequent anti-corruption campaigns, often involving the dismissal and imprisonment of provincial officials, but corruption is endemic throughout Chinese society. The Bo Xilai case has strengthened perceptions that often ‘the cat and the rat are asleep together’ (māo shǔ tóng mián).

The comic’s promises of low living costs (even the vegetables are happy about it) and universal housing were arguably fulfilled until the economic reforms of the 1980s. Before then most people were part of a danwei (‘work unit’) that took care of their housing and welfare needs. The reforms led to the closure of many non-competitive state-owned enterprises, and an increasingly free (and uncertain) labour market. Now many poor and middle-class people without a state job are complaining about price rises and increasing rents.

These are problems that the government freely admits to (they are present in official statistics). In late 2011 the government announced an initiative to provide affordable public housing, but there are already doubts about the scheme, partly due to corruption.

Modern China doesn’t live up to the comic’s promises in other respects, too, such as gender equality and prison conditions. But the pictures are perhaps less interesting as an ironic tool for bashing the present regime than as a record of what was hoped for, or even thought possible, 62 years ago.

Comments on “‘Great Changes after the Liberation’”

  1. NM says:

    Were the promises of low living costs and universal housing really fulfilled during the pre-Reform period? My impression was that they weren’t really — that the full socialist benefits package (housing, schooling, health care, pensions) was only ever available to permanent employees of urban danwei, and that even this package only really came together fully towards the end of the “high socialist” period, the late 70s. I.e., were not at all times very large parts of the population excluded from this — the rural population obviously, but also within the cities those on temporary contracts of some kind, or those who were members of less wealthy danwei (those who belonged to small local SOEs rather than big, central-state “key point” SOEs; or who belonged only to collectives, not SOEs)?

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • DJL on What will happen now?: The defence of Jeremy Corbyn in the third paragraph is really astonishing. No-one denies that the EU is a capitalist club, but so is the UK, and a wor...
    • Graucho on What will happen now?: The first order of the day for the labour party is to replace Jeremy Corbyn with Gisela Stuart as leader. Winning national campaigns is item number on...
    • Allan House on The Politics of Hate: Philip, much as I enjoy the opportunity to knock Thatcher and to promote better mental health services, I can't see how you can possibly know what sor...
    • Phil Edwards on Labour’s Divisions: The first question to ask isn't what Labour needs to do to win back the Leavers - it's whether Labour's lost them in the first place. (I don't know wh...
    • guanchonazo on White on White: I can understand that if you don't see any "black" player in a team, you can infer that the team is not diverse. But if one of the first team player's...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement Advertisement