Aesthetics liberally borrows from Asian manga (including some banned in China) and suggests you should trust science rather than religion.
by Zhou Kexin
The China Anti-Xie-Jiao association has unveiled on different websites and social media its new series of posters against banned religious movements labeled as “xie jiao.” As readers of Bitter Winter know, “xie jiao” is officially translated in English-language Chinese documents as “evil cults,” but has been used for more than a thousand years in China to indicate “heterodox teachings” the government does not approve of.
The posters deserve an analysis both for their content and their aesthetics. The aesthetics liberally borrows from Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese manga, including those depicting magical creatures and monsters. This is somewhat paradoxical, since in principle comics showing magic or “superstition” cannot be imported into China—but obviously those who designed the posters were familiar with them.
The content confirms a recent trend of using the propaganda against xie jiao to combat “illegal religion” in general—indeed, the expression “xie jiao and illegal religion” is becoming common in official documents.
The xie jiao are depicted as evil monsters the Chinese police protects citizens, particularly children, against (Poster 1), but Poster 2 warns against those who believe that human beings can be regarded as incarnations of immortal deities, a belief obviously found also in mainline religions.
Posters 3, 4, and 5 lampoon those who give money to religious groups or seek comfort in religion in times of misfortune and sickness, making their own situation even worse. Again, this criticism may be applied well beyond the sphere of groups the government labels as xie jiao.
The spirit of the campaign is best captured by Poster 6, depicting the triumph of science and “learning” over religious “distortions of the truth.” It is more rationale to believe in science, the poster says—but just in case, a policeman is keeping watch, implying that those who are not persuaded by the carrot of the propaganda will be forced to agree with it by the stick of the police.