China adopts a back-to-the-future tactic, reintroducing Cultural Revolution-era sound systems to deliver constant Communist Party propaganda.
In villages across China, residents are being subjected to endless atheist sermonizing and repetitive communist songs, blaring from speakers lining their streets. The experience is not a new one for older people.
Bitter Winter received a copy of a document entitled Notice on the Implementation Opinions on Carrying Out “Happy Sunday” Themed Activities in Suiyang District. The document was issued in September 2018 by 12 government departments in Henan Province’s Shangqiu city in Central China. Under the heading of discouraging religious belief, the document demands that “village loudspeakers” be used to the maximum extent to broadcast propaganda including the Party’s religious policies, traditional culture, and Marxist atheism.
The loudspeakers were one of the iconic items of the Cultural Revolution as an essential indoctrination tool for the CCP in the 1960s and 1970s. They could be seen everywhere along the streets, installed on wire posts, playing “red” songs, praising Mao Zedong, and promoting the Party’s policies.
Such loudspeakers have recently become widespread again in rural China. In Henan’s Jiangkou town, under the jurisdiction of Yongcheng city, the “Voice of the Jiangkou Party Branch” – a local radio station that broadcasts over the public loudspeakers – starts airing every morning at 7 a.m., accompanied by the song “Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China.” The station’s official task is to “promote the Party’s revolutionary traditions, to reshape revolutionary ideals, beliefs, and morals so that the masses become close to the Party, feel the Party’s kindness, and follow the Party.”
According to Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party’s English-language newspaper, as of the end of December 2018, over 200 cities and counties across China have joined the “New Village Loudspeaker Project.” The CCP-lead campaign calls for broadcasts to be played three times a day – in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. From 2019 to 2020, the project is expected to expand to cover 14 provinces and 300,000 villages.
The loudspeakers that have quietly reappeared in rural China have attracted attention. Zhang Lifan, a historian with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the return of loudspeakers “means that the Party is trying to impose its will on the people, regardless of whether they want to hear it or not.”
Some online commenters compared the loudspeaker project to the initiative by Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, to distribute a radio to every German family to make them listen to Nazi propaganda each day. The CCP is doing the same thing, but the loudspeakers can’t be turned off. One Chinese netizen noted that because the daily broadcasts through the loudspeakers are so loud, some young people who came back to their villages for Spring Festival (the Chinese New Year) wanted to tear them down but were warned that they would be imprisoned if they did so.
Mainland China media channels sing the praises to the project and promote its “positive results.” An article on Sohu.com promotes the results of the loudspeaker project stating, “The Party’s ideological position in the countryside has been further consolidated. In the rural area of Yongcheng, the number of people drawn to the Party is increasing, while the number of religious and superstitious people is decreasing.”
The article cites an example. In Shaozhuang village, under the jurisdiction of Yongcheng, an impoverished man by the name of Guo Quanling, previously worshiped Buddha. But the loudspeaker project subtly changed his thinking. Now, he has replaced Buddha images in his home with those of Communist leaders.
According to informed sources, in late-April of 2018, loudspeakers in a village in Anhui province’s Fuyang city in Eastern China were used to promote resistance against The Church of Almighty God (CAG). For several days in a row, villagers were encouraged to “earn 500 RMB (about $75) for reporting a person and 1,000 RMB (about $150) for reporting a meeting venue.” Following this intensive propaganda campaign, more than 20 CAG members in a village were forced to stop holding gatherings. Christians from out of town who came to attend gatherings were unable to enter the village because of the close surveillance by villagers.
Some believe that loudspeakers have an imperceptible effect on people’s behavior, tantamount to forced indoctrination. One Chinese expatriate commented, “This [village loudspeakers] is part of my childhood memories. There was a loudspeaker outside my grandmother’s home. Since there was no way to turn it off, I had to listen to it all day long. There is no better way to indoctrinate people than that.”
A commenter on Twitter said, “Why couldn’t Xi be a little more creative than Mao? Almost every member of the leadership in power grew up during the Cultural Revolution. They have no reflection, no accountability, and no repentance for the Cultural Revolution, so it is coming back again.”
Reported by Gu Xi