I’ve noticed at least three different waves of local propaganda since we’ve been here. The third one just started in the last few weeks.
During the buildup to the Olympics, the parks and neighbourhoods were saturated with slogans and posters about acting more “civilized” (讲文明). This meant curbing embarrassing common public behaviours that were likely to make China look bad to foreign guests during the Olympics (horking everywhere, shoving and crowding instead of lining up, etc.). This was connected to China’s highly sensitive national image/”face.” Before the “be civilized” campaign, when we first arrived in Tianjin, everything was about “sanitation” (卫生), and this meant clearing away the dirty, poorly-regulated street markets.
Now that the Olympics are over, the emphasis seems to have shifted back to an even bigger propaganda buzz word: “harmonious” (和谐). This apparently means get along, stay out of politics, and don’t cause trouble for the rulers; it reflects a very well-founded fear of social instability. This shift in emphasis was most evident to me when in a nearby neighbourhood they painted over some Olympic propaganda slogans with a new slogan that said, “build civilization,” only to come back a couple days later, paint over “civilized” and replace it with “harmony.” Here it is before it was re-painted:
This says something about morality and neighbours uniting to help one another, with warm family feelings together establishing civilization/harmony.
yǐ dé wèi lín tuánjié hùzhù, qíng nuǎn lì jiā gòng jiàn wénmíng
In our area at least, harmony is officially in.
What difference does it make? I can’t say. There are always older slogans hanging around somwhere; you can still find stuff about sanitation and being civilized painted on walls. You can even find stuff about “thinking scientifically” and “liberated thought.” But with the end of the Olympics there’s a sharp drop in the amount of “be civilized” slogans to be seen; there’s definitely been a shift in emphasis.
“Establish a peaceful Tianjin, construct a harmonious society.”
chuàngjiàn píngān Tiānjīn, gòujiàn héxié shèhuì
This one is about how to behave (don’t throw garbage, don’t burn ghost money in the road, etc.). Of course, people sometimes don’t pay too much attention:
“Tianjin city resident behaviour rules”
Tiānjīn shìmín xíngwéi shǒuzé
You can see a detail from this wall here.