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 ä¿¡ä»° 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
人民有信仰,国家才有力量。
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 ä¿¡ä»° 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..

Our Chinese preschool promotes Socialism Core Values (again)

Passed this on the way in to work today. It’s the 2nd time this year they’ve strung it up. I don’t know how they choose when to display it.
Socialism_Core_Values_Banner
To find out what the Socialism Core Values actually are, see:

An unintentionally terrifying Chinese democracy poster

“Socialism is good”

“Socialism is good” 社会主义好
“100 sons make happy the Chinese nation” 百子乐中华
Socialism is good
Courtesy of the “Qingdao City Cultural Spirit Development Committee Office” 青岛市精神文明建设委员会办公室。

“Communist” China summed up in one bumper sticker

Passed this on the way out this morning:


我们的目标:向钱看,向厚赚
Our goal: look to money, look to thick profits

Chairman Mao, as some stories have it, refused to even touch money. After his death, Deng Xiaoping launched China’s ‘Reform and Opening’ and ‘Modernization’ Era under the slogans: “Liberate thinking, seek truth from facts, join together and unanimously look forward” (解放思想、实事求是、团结一致向前看). He probably meant “look forward” to mean something like, “let’s not dwell on all that nonsense of the past few decades, but instead get on with making a better future.” The bumper sticker simply switches out “front” (前 qián) for “money” (é’± qián), turning “look forward” into “look to money” — both phrases are pronounced exactly the same: xiàng qián kàn.

There are a million anecdotes to illustrate the way Mainland Chinese unapologetically prioritize money. The most recent one is from some study reported in a magazine (I forget which), indicating that Chinese tie material wealth to happiness at more than twice the global average.

P.S. – I suspect there’s more to the bumper sticker, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

P.P.S. – Here’s a Chinese forum thread admiring the same slogan on a custom license plate: 我的目标-向钱看-向厚赚-牛B720

P.P.P.S – What would the equivalent bumper sticker say in your home country, if it were equally honest?

P.P.P.P.S. – Like Propaganda?

Can Confucianism and Socialism be reconciled?

A written exchange about the potential, or lack thereof, of Confucianism as the ideological foundation of a modern China: Exchanges: Reconciling Confucianism and Socialism?