When the Communist government wants the People to have faith

Like English, the Chinese word for “faith” or “belief” (信仰) doesn’t necessarily have spiritual,religious, or metaphysical meaning. I most often encounter this word in two ways. First, from random men like taxi drivers and people on the bus who give a thumbs up and say, “Religious belief is good!” in response to finding out what I think about certain things. They almost always don’t have any 信仰 themselves, but nonetheless have the general impression that believing in some religion – whatever religion – is a good thing.

The second way I often see this word is on the propaganda posters like the one above, which increasingly saturate public spaces from sidewalk vendors’ booths to hospital waiting rooms:

社会主义核心价值观
Socialism Core Values
人民信仰国家力量
When the People have belief, then the nation has strength.

The Core Values get laid out in three categories: *国家 Nation, **社会 Society, ***公民 Citizens:

*富强民主文明和谐
Prosperity, Democracy, Civilizedness, Harmony;
**自由平等公正法治
Freedom, Equality, Justice, Rule by law;
***爱国敬业诚信友善.
Patriotism, Dedication to one’s work, Integrity, Friendliness.

Although using 信仰 this was might not be an explicitly religious reference, it does seem that the government sees its package of traditional Chinese culture, ethics (most emphasized: filial piety) and patriotism as direct competition for the spot formal or informal religions/ideologies/worldviews (including “Western values”) would occupy in the hearts and lives of the People.

In a similar but more eye-popping line of posters, the Chinese literally reads: “[Insert Core Value here] is a belief.” To read more about how the government uses “belief/faith” you can click that link, and also see Joann Pittman’s, In Democracy We Trust..

Comrade Papa

At least they don’t actually call him “Big Brother.”

comrade_papa_xi
“Staunchly unite around Comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the Central Party Committee. Unceasingly initiate fresh progress in the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
坚定团结在以习近平同志核心的党中央周围,不断开创中国特色社会主义事业新局面
(They call him “Papa Xi” 大大.)

Been to any good Parties lately?

The past year or two’s ongoing propaganda campaign is the most extensive we’ve seen during our time China. This is from the Qingdao North Train Station:
goodparty_happypeople
The big words say:

THE COMMUNIST PARTY IS GOOD 共产党好
THE COMMON PEOPLE ARE HAPPY 百姓乐
BLESSED HOUSEHOLDS 幸福人家

The small words list the Core Values of Socialism.

Surely I’m not the only one who thinks of Animal Farm whenever they see that first slogan…

[Photo Gallery:] the old Licun Chinese Prison

A literal stone’s throw from the south wall of the Rockcity Mall (伟东) in Qingdao’s Licun (青岛李村) sits the last remnants of the old Licun Chinese Prison (李村华人监狱). It’s surrounded by construction fences, but you can get in through the loosely chained construction site gate on the north side.

The walls inside and out are covered in barely legible Mao Era slogans, which, along with its history, make this a fascinating stop for urban explorers. But unless the authorities have plans to turn it into a museum, I doubt it will be standing for much longer. Along with the Binhe Lu Christian Church (滨河路基督教堂) and, until recently, Licunji (李村集,the canal bed market), this prison represents the last wisps of tangible history in a fast-developing district.

According to Baidu, German imperialists built the Licun Chinese Prison in 1897 (they had a separate prison on Changzhou Lu 常州路 for foreigners). Around 1939 it underwent major restoration. In 1941 during the Japanese occupation there was a famous prison break, commemorated with a photo. After Liberation most of the original structure was torn down and rebuilt.
iron&wood
In 1954, criminals were given three months of winter thought reform training in the “3 Destroys, 3 Erects”:

“Destroy reactionary thinking, erect socialism thinking;
Destroy exploitative notions, erect the glory of labour;
Destroy old bad habits, erect new morals.”
反动思想社会主义思想
剥削观念劳动光荣
恶习道德

That slogan and many others are still visible on the prison walls — I’ve translated all the legible ones in the photo captions below (with much help from my Weixin pengyous). (The most recent writing I found was a posted notice from January 2007 listing sanitation duties.)

These photos were taken on December 12 and 14, 2016. Click a thumbnail to get started!


I found two other photo collections: one from August 2013, and one from April 2016.

Nation before family

One way to translate this is, “Nation comes before family.”

nationbeforefamily
yǒu guó, cái yǒu jiā

Hyperliterally it’s, “Have nation, then can have family.” You could also render it, “You can’t have a family without a nation,” or, “You need a nation to have a family.”

It’s sort of a play on the word “nation/country/state” (国家), which is a combination of “nation”() + “family/home”(), so when writing the word “nation,” the “state” literally comes before “family”.

(Mouseover the characters for their pronunciation!)

Praise the Motherland! Or don’t…

Part of my regular commute is literally lined down both sides with Chinese Communist Party propaganda. Recently, it was lined on both sides with vandalized Party propaganda. Someone took out all propaganda posters within a couple blocks’ radius, tagging or slashing dozens of posters.

partygraffiti
“Praise the Motherland!” 歌唱祖国

About two weeks later, the slashed ones have been replaced, but the tagged ones have just been whitewashed a bit.
praisetheparty
“Heartily sing a song praising the Party’s grace!” 高歌

We don’t often see this kind of graffiti. 99.9% of what we do see scrawled on walls is just advertising. But this particular wave of Party propaganda has achieved higher levels of saturation than the previous waves. Our district is full of it.

Why do China and the US report conflicting air pollution numbers?

The air pollution app we use just did a major update. We can now track cities outside of China, and also choose Chinese or American Air Quality Index standards:USAvChinaAQIreporting
It’s not just that each country characterizes pollution levels differently (China’s “Moderately Polluted” = America’s “Unhealthy”), they’re calculating their AQI differently. The Air Quality Index number is what the average person uses to gauge the pollution level. These screenshots show China and the U.S. arriving at different AQIs, even though they’re dealing with the same pollution data:

American_Beijing_AQI China_AQI_Beijing

The Global Times, China’s English language international mouthpiece, explains it this way:

Qiu Qihong, an engineer of the Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center, said US and China use the same function to determine AQI figures from six different pollutants. However, he explained that the UStates uses a stricter system to determine what numbers to plug into the AQI formula. The formula requires a range of values of PM2.5 to calculate the number, and the US and China are using different ways to determine this range.

Qiu explained, “The US uses a stricter system because their society is further along in the industrialization process.”

This is why when PM2.5 density is transferred to AQI figures, the two countries have different readings, Qiu said.

For example, according to the standards published by both countries, if the PM2.5 density reaches 15.4 micrograms per cubic meter, according to US standards, the matching AQI figure is 50. But under Chinese standards, the density needs to reach 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

We usually turn on our DIY air purifiers when the AQI hits 200 (though the one in the kids’ bedroom is always on whenever the windows are closed). We can usually smell and/or see an AQI of 75 by China’s calculations.