Behaving yourself… with Tianjin characteristics

The word “propaganda” (宣传 xuān​chuán​) doesn’t carry the same sinister connotations in Chinese. A range of promotional material and activity that we wouldn’t automatically consider insidious in North America would be called “propaganda” in Chinese. (So maybe it’d be most accurate to use the word “propaganda” more broadly like the Chinese do but retain the negative connotations?) Anyway, this April contained a lot of propaganda. Before the gov. started spinning its role in the earthquake relief efforts, an unrelated propaganda campaign was already underway in Tianjin.

I mentioned in before how our teacher warned me about this April’s campaign in Tianjin to enforce previously unenforced laws; she was afraid I’d get a ticket for the way I bike. Our neighbourhood got some colourful new posters detailing the rules in pictures, though the photo at right of our neighbourhood notice board shows how much people seemed to care. Our Chinese teacher’s explanation of how people feel about these little campaigns (“行动“) fits right in with what we’ve seen in our area. After all, they’ve been through this drill before.

According to her, there’s an understanding between the front line guys who have to make a show of implementing these kinds of campaigns and the people who are supposed to alter their behaviour/business activities: play the game, let us put on a show for our bosses so they can report to their bosses, and we’ll continue looking the other way just like we’ve always done once this little xíngdòng blows over.

I won’t bother translating all the text from the posters, but here’s the main parts (left to right, top to bottom). I followed the Chinese grammar as close as I could for fellow language students’ sake. Not the most exciting material, I know, but this is our neighbourhood; all the behaviours mentioned are ubiquitous around here, though some more than others. Besides, you know you’ve always wanted to know how to say “propaganda poster” in Chinese!

“Tianjin City City Administration Regulations” Propaganda Poster 1
《天津市城市管理规定》宣传挂图
tiānjīnshì chéngshì guǎnlǐ guīdìng xuānchuán guàtú

City residents ought to abide by City Administration laws and regulations and behaviour norms, cherish public facilities, protect the public environment, and maintain public order.
市民应当遵守城市管理法律规定和行为准则,爱护公共设施,保护公共环境,维护公共秩序。
shìmín yīngdāng zūnshǒu chéngshì guǎnlǐ fǎlǜ guīdìng hé xíngwéi zhǔzé, àihù gōnggòng shèshī, bǎohù gōnggòng huánjìng, wéihù gōnggòng zhìxù

In public places it is strictly forbidden everywhere to spit phlegm, spit chewing gum, strictly forbidden everywhere to pee or relieve yourself, strictly forbidden to carelessly throw cigarette butts, paper scraps, fruit peels and pits as well as all kinds of other waste material. [Sign: Prohibited everywhere to poo or pee] (Fine: 50元/$7.45)
在公共场所严禁随地吐痰、吐口香糖,严禁随处便溺或者乱倒粪便,严禁乱扔烟蒂、纸屑、瓜果皮核以及其他各类废弃物。[禁止随地大小便]
ài gōnggòng chǎngsuǒ yánjìn suídì tǔtán, tǔ kǒuxiāngtáng, yánjìn suíchù biànnì huòzhě luàn dàofèibiàn, yánjìn luànrēng yāndì, zhǐxiè, guāguǒ pí hé yǐjí qítā gèlèi fèiqìwù. [jìnzhǐ suídì dàxiǎobiàn]

It is strictly forbidden from buildings or vehicles to toss out any kind of material.
严禁由建筑物或者车辆向外掷各类物品。
yánjìn yóu jiànzhùwù huòzhě chēliàng xiàngwài zhì gèlèi wùpǐn

It is strictly forbidden on buildings, construction and other installations or trees, residential passageways and other places to exhibit, post, hang, carve, scribble, any kind of urban eyesore slogans, propaganda articles and other materials.
严禁在建筑物、构筑物和其他设施或者树木、居民楼道等处摆放、张贴、悬挂、刻划、涂写各种有碍市容市貌的标语、宣传品和其他物品。
yánjìn zài jiànzhùwù, gòuzhùwù hé qítā shèshī huòzhě shùmù, jūmín lóudào děngchù bǎifàng, zhāngtiē, kèhuá, túxiě gèzhǒng yǒuàishìróng shì mào de biāoyǔ, xuānchuánpǐn hé qítā wùpǐn

It is strictly forbidden whatsoever for work units and individuals to privately put up disorderly buildings.
严禁任何单位和个人私搭乱盖。
yánjìn rènhé dānwèi hé gèrén sī dā luàn gài

It is strictly forbidden on residential buildings outer eaves to add new doors and windows, open windows and alter doors or increase the original door and window dimensions. [Privately owned beauty parlour]
严禁在住宅楼房外檐上增设门窗、拆窗改门或者扩大原有门窗尺寸。[私家美发]
yánjìn zài zhùzhái lóufáng wài yánshàng zēngshè mén chuāng, chāi chuāng gǎi mén huòzhě kuòdà yuányǒu mén chuāng chǐcùn. [sījiā měifà]
(A whole strip of first floor street-facing businesses next to our complex have just filled in their illegal doors half-way and either posted signs saying “Normal business hours, go around” or provided steps for people to step over the recently laid bricks. After the first two three of the campaign, some of the businesses have already knocked most of their brickwork back down.)

It is strictly forbidden to illegally occupy the road, in public locations to display and sell, food and drink, or engage in activities like motor vehicle washing and repairing, etc. [Intersection Jianbing][Sanitary and clean]
严禁违法占用道路、公共场所从事摆卖、餐饮、机动车清洗和修理等经营活动。[道口煎饼][卫生干净]
yánjìn wéifǎ zhànyòng dàolù, gōnggòng chǎngsuǒ cóngshì bǎimài, cānyǐn, jīdòngchē qīngxǐ hé xiūlǐ děng jīngyíng huódòng. [dàokǒu jiānbing][wèishēng gānjìng]
(Around here this means that all the street cart vendors have started crowding the entrances to neighbourhoods rather than being right out on the street corners.)

It is strictly forbidden on the road and in neighbourhood unappointed places to burn funeral wreaths, paper money and other funeral articles.
严禁在道路及社区非指定区域内焚烧花圈、纸钱及其他丧葬用品。
yánjìn zài dàolù jí shèqū fēizhǐdìng qūyù nèi fénshāo huāquān, zhǐqián jí qítā sāngzàng yòngpǐn.

It is strictly forbidden for individuals to raise aggressive dogs, big-size dogs. (Penalty: 1000元 fine and the dog gets confiscated.)
严禁个人饲养烈性犬、大型犬。
yánjìn gèrén sìyǎng lièxìng quǎn, dàxíng quǎn.

It is strictly forbidden to make use of high-volume broadcast loudspeakers or to produce other high-level noise to interfere with the surrounding residential life; if engaging in household indoor entertainment, renovations, etc., activities, you ought to restrict the time or take effective measures to alleviate noise pollution. (Amen!!!)
严禁使用高音广播喇叭或者发出其他高噪声干扰周围居民生活;从事家庭室内娱乐、装修等活动,应当限制时间或者采取有效措施减轻噪音污染。
yánjìn shǐyòng gāo shēng guǎngbō lǎba huòzhě fāchū qítā gao zàoshēng gānrǎo zhōuwéi jūmín shēnghuó; cóngshì jiātíng shìnèi yúlè, zhuāngxiū děng huódòng, yīngdāng xiànzhì shíjiān huòzhě cǎiqǔ yǒuxiàocuòshī jiǎnqīng zàoyīn wūrǎn.

It is strictly forbidden to illegally occupying city streets. It is strictly forbidden to change the purpose of approved road occupation or move location, expand area or extend occupation time length without approval.
严禁违法占用城市道路。严禁未经批准改变占路用途或者移动位置、扩大面积、延长时间。
yánjìn wéifǎ zhànyòng chéngshì dàolù. yánjìn wèijīng pīzhǔn gǎibiàn zhàn lù yòngtú huòzhe yídòng wèizhi, kuòdà miànjī, yáncháng shíjiān.

It is strictly forbidden in the first place to illegally damage park green spaces. It is strictly forbidden after occupying park green spaces to delay in rehabilitating.
严禁违法占压、破坏园林绿地。严禁占用园林绿地后迟延恢复。
yánjìn wéifǎ zhàn yà, pòhuài yuánlín lǜdì. yánjìn zhànyòng yuánlín lǜdì fòu chíyán huīfù.
———————————
And here’s some other recent sloganeering from near our old neighbourhood:

“Implement the Scientific Development Concept, strive to establish an economically strong district, cultured greater area and an ecologically suitable-for-dwelling city. (A Binshui Nanli Neighbourhood Committee announcement)”
落实科学发展观,努力建设经济强区,文化大区和生态宜居城区。(宾水南里居委会宣)
luòshí kēxué fāzhǎn guān, nǔlì jìnshè jīngjì qiáng qū, wénhuà dà qū hé shēngtài yí jū chéngqū. (bīnshuǐnánlǐ jūwěihuì xuān)

“Support the motherland, love Tianjin, behave like civilized Hexi district people!”
赞祖国、爱天津、做文明河西人!
zàn zǔguó, ài tiānjīn, zuò wénmíng héxīrén

For an interesting, unflinching window into contemporary China, I’d suggest checking out this large photo collection of translated slogans and photos — some are funny; some are very, very sad. Once you get out of the higher-profile cities on the coast, the slogans become much more… galling.

6 thoughts on “Behaving yourself… with Tianjin characteristics”

  1. Joel, I don’t believe this usage of “propaganda” is unique to Chinese — it’s actually a socialist usage of the term. See the writings of Upton Sinclair for many examples of this.

    To a socialist propaganda isn’t an under-the-table thing, it’s just getting the word out and sharing your ideas, in printed or verbal form, to anybody who will listen or who you can connect with.

  2. Right. My point was that popular usage of the term is different between China and North America. Is “propaganda” ever used is a positive or neutral sense in popular usage in North America? I have a hard time imagining those public service announcements being literally titled “government propaganda”, though of course the anti-drugs and bike helmet commercials would certainly count given a technical, more academic use of the term (I used those as examples of North American ‘government propaganda’ in the magazine version of this post).

    By the way, for the last few months I’ve been having a comma crisis when it comes to quotes. I want to put the comma outside the quotes when I’m quoting a term or a phrase, but after all those years of always putting it inside the quotation marks, I sort of feel guilty. This is my cry for help.

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