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International Seminar Series: “Making Sense of Propaganda in Communist China”

Wednesday, October 23rd 2019
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Event Description

Propaganda, for all its negative connotations, has long been an integral part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) agenda of building a new nation.  The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is defined as a “propaganda state,” to borrow Peter Kenez’s words, “because of the extraordinarily significant role played by indoctrination in forming the state and in executing policy.” The effort to indoctrinate the populace is made by not just propagandists/ideologues, but more often than not by cultural producers—novelists, artists, dramatists, storytellers, filmmakers, and so forth. In this sense, PRC’s state propaganda is, in reality, a “propaganda-culture system.” This talk focuses on a range of CCP-sponsored cultural products or activities—such as urban design, motion picture, novel, and storytelling—to reexamine the efficacy of state propaganda in communist China, particularly during Mao’s times (1949-1976). I thus raise a series of questions: What is the relationship between propaganda and popular culture in China? Is propaganda a repressive system of imposing false consciousness and eliminating alternative worldviews or a productive mechanism allowing for the creation of multiple consciousness and viewpoints? Finally, how does the audience interpret, rework, emphasize, and deflect the messages that state propaganda intends to deliver?

Dr. Qiliang He is associate profess of history at Illinois State University. His main field is cultural history in twentieth-century China. He has published several books, including Newspapers and the Journalistic Public in Republican China: 1917 as a Significant Year of Journalism (Routledge 2018), Feminism, Women’s Agency, and Communication―The Case of Huang-Lu Elopement (Palgrave Macmillan 2018), and Gilded Voices: Economics, Politics, and Storytelling in the Yangzi Delta since 1949 (Brill 2012).

Series Overview: The International Seminar Series offers the Illinois State campus and Bloomington-Normal communities weekly opportunities to learn about a wide range of international topics. Guest speakers are usually experts in their fields across a range of disciplines who cover a wide array of cultural, historical, political and social topics.

Series events have become one of the most popular internationally focused events on campus and continue to draw ever-growing crowds of students, faculty and community members. Audience members are given time at each event to raise questions to enable a two-way participation and learning.

International Seminar Series events are free and open to the public and occur every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. in the Bone Student Center. The Fall 2019 series will focus on understanding contemporary China.

If you will need special accommodations, please contact the event organizer.


Office of International Studies and Programs
(309) 438-5276


Bone Student Center
Old Main Room