The University of Westminster’s Chinese Poster Collection
is a unique archival collection of some 800 posters spanning the period between the late 1950s and the early 1980s. more...

  • 1950s
    The 1950s was a decade of sweeping land reform and social revolution with the redistribution of land to lower-class peasants and the legal protection of women's rights.
    By 1958, private ownership was entirely abolished and households all over China were forced into state-operated communes.
    Posters of the 1950s are characterised by pale colours, and particularly in the early half of the decade, Soviet influence can be seen in the depiction of people in the Socialist Realist manner. The Great Leap Forward started in 1958, after the Sino-Soviet split, a campaign by Mao to rapidly raise industrial and agricultural production.
    In industry, Mao promoted the goal of overtaking the steel production output of Great Britain by 1968. The Great Leap was a disastrous policy which ended in famine on a vast scale, with tens of millions dying by the early 1960s. Posters from the Great Leap period take on a sense of fantasy, with stylised images of peasants riding on corn sheaves and phoenixes often in green and pink tones.

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  • 1960s
    The early 1960s was a relatively quiet period in the wake of appalling famine brought about by widespread agricultural failure due to the policies of the Great Leap. In 1966, in order to sustain his position, Mao decided to launch a further revolution in the form of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. He purged several key members of the Party, Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi, and called on China's youth to 'Smash the Four Olds', calling them his Red Guards.
    This movement unleashed millions of young people who were encouraged to destroy anything associated with feudalism, the West, classicism and religion (mainly Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity). In 1968 the campaign to send educated youth to the countryside to be reeducated by the peasants. Posters from the early Cultural Revolution in red, black and white recalled the woodcut prints of the 1930s in their quick execution, reductive style and strident message. These posters came to be iconic images of Maoism, crystallising Chinese revolutionary imagery into a classic form.

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  • 1970s
    The Cultural Revolution continued into the 1970s, officially ending when Mao died in 1976, after which the Gang of Four were arrested and put on trial.

    The early 1970s posters are diverse and include a revival of Mao's status as a leader moving away from the strident message of the mid to late 1960s, 'educated youth' in the countryside and the continual promotion of agricultural production (Dazhai commune). Late 1970s (1976-1978) posters promote the acceptance of Hua Guofeng the interim leader and a gradual softening of political imagery comes into view with themes of patriotism, posthumous Mao nostalgia and more depictions of women and children. A stylistic turning point is seen in 1979 when Deng Xiaoping came to power launching his Four Modernisations campaign to modernise Science, Industry, Agriculture and Defence. The posters of this period (1979-1982) frequently emphasise the study of science as a means to develop socialism.

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  • 1980s
    The 1980s was a decade of opening up, with the advent of a market economy, as Deng Xiaoping moved to implement extensive reform.
    Most posters of the early 1980s focus on international friendship, politeness towards costumers and civilised, courteous behaviour.

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