20080310-Lei Feng8.jpg
Model Worker Lei Feng
Control of the media and culture is essential for leaders to get their message and agendas across. Mao Zedong once said that control of information and control of the gun are the two pillars of Communist Party power.In the old days, Communist propaganda had a strong influence on the masses. A single word or phrase from Mao Zedong could mobilize millions. These days propaganda is largely greeted with a shrug. Few people tale it seriously anymore. Even so political satire in China is largely absent. China doesn’t even allow cartoons of its leaders.

"Serve the People" is probably the most famous slogan of the Chinese Communist Party. "Enemy of the People" was widely used in the Mao era. The use of the word "the enemy" comes from Mao's famous 1957 speech, "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People", which instructed officials, when dealing with alleged offenders, to distinguish between two types of social contradictions: those "between the enemy and us" and those "among the people". The former were to be handled with the unremitting severity of dictatorship.

One U.S. diplomat told the Wall Street Journal, "When things look too good to be true here, they usually are." Dahzai model commune, which was shown off to foreign visitors, for example, was a big hoax. It declined after Mao's death and the end of subsidies. See Dahzai Commune, Agriculture, Economics

Art, Popular Culture and Maoism

The Communists viewed literature and culture primarily as a propaganda devices. In a piece entitled Yan'an Talks of Art and Literature, Mao argued that literature was something that should be used for a revolutionary purposes. Most Communist literature is about peasants who overcome great odds to achieve great things.

After Liberation in 1949, popular Chinese pulp novels were replaced by Communist books such as Red Star Heroes, We Fight Best When We March Our Hardest, After Reaping the Bumper Harvest and Grandma Sees Six Different Machines. Party line fables like The Foolish Man Who Removed the Mountains were known to everyone. It was several decades before the Ministries of Truth, Propaganda and Culture allowed romantic novels about Liberation soldiers who missed their girlfriends to be published.

Social Realism art dominated the Mao era and the Cultural Revolution. Social Realism has been defined as "concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary accordance with...ideological training of workers in the spirit of Socialism." It appeared in paintings hoisted in public and on posters splashed all over cities. Subjects in the works including spirited workers, heroic soldiers, uplifting leaders. Posters of "shock workers" (people who worked tirelessly for Socialism) show handsome, muscular men with smiles on their faces performing various kinds of menial chores in front of glistening factories.

Time art critic Robert Hughes wrote: ‘socialist realism was the most coarsely idealistic kind of art ever foisted on a modern audience." It was "geared to a naive, not to say brutish mass public barely literate in artistic matters.” One man who lived through the tough times in the 1940s and 50s told the New York Times, "Art back then was only a reflection of a beautiful dream — not of the slave labor of collective farmers or those who dug the canals, mines and built factories.”

Slogans, See Literature, Arts, Media, Sports

Youth and Education: a Target of Maoist Propaganda

Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: “ “One of the central goals of the new administration was to reform the educational system and bring it in line with socialist thought. Schools and colleges were put under Party supervision, with a Soviet-style Ministry of Education issuing directives. Even outside official institutions, however, people were encouraged to better themselves through study. [Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, /=]

“The building blocks of society are naturally its children. Traditionally, it was believed that children must be socialized in Confucian values and morals before they could become productive members of society. Under Communist rule, however, children were inculcated with socialist rather than Confucian beliefs. Children unburdened by feudal or capitalist notions could acquire the socialist vision from the beginning.

“The new China proclaimed itself to be a multi-ethnic state. Officially, at least, China was supposed to be composed of a number of distinct but equal ethnic groups joined in a collaborative state. The model provided justification for dominion over Tibet and Xinjiang, which had been attached to the Qing but had broken away after the collapse of the dynasty in 1911. Artwork featuring national minority themes were encouraged. Images of children and women were particularly popular in this regard.

Little Red Book

The most widely read book in the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 70s was “The Little Red Book”. “Mao's Selected Thoughts”, a collection of sayings better known as “The Little Red Book”, was put together by Lin Biao in the Cultural Revolution. According to Time magazine, "No other book has had such a profound impact on so many people at the same time...If you read it enough it was supposed to change your brain.” Some of the passages of the Little Red Book were set to music and slogans like "Reactionaries are Paper Tigers" and "We Should Support Whatever the Enemy Opposes"! were painted everywhere on billboards and walls.

Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian, “Only the Bible has been printed more often than the Quotations, which was a keystone of Mao's personality cult. A billion copies circulated in the Cultural Revolution – the population pored over it in daily study sessions; illiterate farmers memorised chunks by heart. In the west, translations were brandished by radicals. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, September 27, 2013 ***]

“Many knew the text well enough to cite quotes by page number; they became ideological weapons to be wielded in any political struggle. Under siege by Red Guards, the then foreign minister reportedly retorted: "On page [X] it says Comrade Chen Yi is a good cadre …" But they also coloured even commonplace exchanges, as described by one historian: "Serve the people. Comrade, could I have two pounds of pork, please?" ***

“But the political frenzy ebbed, and production of the Little Red Book had mostly stopped long before Mao's death; afterwards, as China embarked on reform and opening up, officials began to pulp copies. Later, in a more relaxed age, commercial reprints and introductions to his thought appeared, but no new editions of his works: "This has been a very sensitive topic," said Daniel Leese, author of Mao Cult and an expert on the era at the University of Freiburg.” ***

Little Red Book Sayings

The three main "Rules for Discipline" for soldiers and party workers in the Little Read Book were: "Obey orders in all your actions; Do not take a single needle or thread from the masses; and Turn in everything captured." Loyal Communists were also urged to "speak politely; return everything you borrow; don't swear at people; and do not take liberties with women."

On the topic of violence and revolution: 1) "Power grows out of the barrel of a gun." 2) "In order to get rid of the gun, it is necessary to take up the gun." 3) "Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed." 4) "When human society advances to the point where classes and states are eliminated, there will be no more wars." 5) “Fight no battle you are not sure of winning.”

left Other famous sayings from the Little Red Book include, 1) "Modesty helps one go forward, whereas conceit makes one lag behind;" 2) "Investigation may be likened to the long months of pregnancy, and solving a problem to the day of birth. To investigate a problem is, indeed, to solve." And, 3) "People of the world, unite and defeat the U.S. aggressors and all the running dogs...Monsters of all kinds shall be destroyed."

A poem from the Little Red book that produced a several slogans went:
” A revolution is not a dinner party
Or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing
It cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle,
So temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and
A revolution is an insurrection,
An act of violence by which one class overthrows

Other Famous Mao Sayings

Mao Zedong once said, There is no construction without destruction. Destroy first, and construction will follow. He extolled their Chinese peasantry for the blankness, observing that one can write beautiful things on a blank sheet of paper. On the matter of equal rights, Mao said "women hold up half the sky." In regard to population growth, Mao said, "every mouth comes with two hands." The population of China doubled under his leadership.

Mao reportedly once said that a loud fart is better than a long lecture. He shocked Kissinger by jokingly informing him that China was planning to send 10 million Chinese women to the United States.

Mao told Nixon, "People like me sound a lot of big cannons. For example, things like, 'the whole world should unite and defeat imperialism, revisionism, and all reactionaries and establish socialism.” He then broke into a fit of laughter.

New Edition of the Little Red Book

Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian, “It will not be especially little, and the cover will be only partly red. But a new version of the world's second most published book is due to appear on Chinese shelves, decades after it fell from favour with the end of Maoism. The re-emergence of Quotations from Chairman Mao – better known as the Little Red Book – comes amid an official revival of the era's rhetoric. China's leader, Xi Jinping, has embraced Maoist terminology and concepts, launching a "mass line rectification campaign and this week even presiding over a televised self-criticism session. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, September 27, 2013 ***]

“The new version was released in November, just before the 120th anniversary of Mao's birth. Its chief editor, Chen Yu – a senior colonel at the Academy of Military Science – describes it as a voluntary initiative. "We just want to edit the book, as other scholars work on the Analects of Confucius… We don't have a complicated political purpose," said Chen. But Leese suggested it was a "trial balloon" from Maoist sympathisers: "If they hadn't seen how the general tone towards the Maoist heritage had changed, I don't think they would have dared. This is party internal politics popping up in the public sphere." ***

“Chen said his team of 20 had worked for two years on the project, under pressure from left and right. The title may not include the word "quotations", he said, and will be attributed to Mao Zedong instead of Chairman Mao because the former is more neutral. The best-known editions are the military versions covered in red plastic and shrunk to fit the pocket of an army uniform – hence the book's nickname in the west. ***

“This time the cover will be at most partially red, said Chen. The new book will draw on other compilations of Mao's sayings and writings, remove quotes wrongly attributed to Mao and correct those which have become distorted. An "internal reference" version with limited distribution will run to double the length – 240,000 characters – and include "thoughts about the Cultural Revolution and other special events confirmed as wrong by the government", Chen said, so that people could study Mao comprehensively. Leese noted that unlike other collections of Mao's thought, the Little Red Book covered his later years in power – which saw the purges of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Great Famine and Cultural Revolution. ***

Xi Jinping “ might not be the initiator, but he certainly endorses it," said Joseph Cheng, a political scientist at the City University of Hong Kong. Some perceive a tactical manoeuvre, designed to appeal to leftwingers estranged by the trial of Bo Xilai and concerned that financial and economic reforms will be unveiled at a key party meeting in November. Others see genuine conviction: "Xi believes in Maoism. He wants to completely revive Mao's policy and he has already started it," said political scientist Zhang Ming. ***

Liu Wencai: The Despotic Pre-Communist Landlord

Anren (in Dayi County, 40 kilometers west of Chengdu) was the hometown of Liu Wencai, a Qing dynasty warlord, landowner and millionaire. His 27 historic mansions have been well preserved and turned into museums. Liu's Manor Museum (in Anren) is the former residence of the Liu family and the big landlord Liu Wencai. It covers an area of 70,000 square meters, and consists of two big architecture groups. The buildings are very luxurious, and include various shapes such as rectangles, squares and terraces. It was converted into a museum in October 1958. It now houses an extensive collection of over 27,000 cultural relics, including a suit of rosewood desks and chairs with marbles in it. In addition, 8 of them are embedded with 27 colorful pearls. The manor exhibits the life of Liu Wencai, which consisted of four parts, and shows the day-to-day life of the affluent landlord.

Vanessa Piao wrote in the New York Times’ Sinosphere: “To many Chinese, Liu Wencai is the archetype of the despotic landlord from pre-Communist days, one who exploited his tenants, tortured those who fell behind on rent in a “water dungeon” and forced new mothers to breast-feed him as a longevity therapy. Liu Wencai, born in 1887, amassed huge wealth in the 1920s in the Yangtze River port of Yibin, dominating lucrative businesses including the opium and weapons trades under the wing of his younger brother, Liu Wenhui, a Nationalist warlord. In 1933, Liu Wenhui retreated to the Tibetan region of Kham, after losing a battle to a warlord nephew, and Liu Wencai returned to his hometown, Anren, and sponsored road, water and electricity projects as well as the school.[Source: Vanessa Piao, Sinosphere, New York Times, July 26, 2016]

Liu Wencai died in October 1949, the same month that Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic. The Liu family, like many wealthy Chinese, considered fleeing to Hong Kong, fearing what might happen under the new Communist government, Mr. Liu said. But Liu Wenhui urged them to stay, insisting the family would be treated well as the party’s friend. Instead, the family’s property was seized and its members attacked in a series of political campaigns. In 1958, local officials eager to demonstrate their fervor for Maoist class struggle presented Liu Wencai as the prototype of the exploiting landlord. His coffin was dug up, and his remains were scattered.

right“In 1959, the landlord’s residence was turned into a museum, featuring a “water dungeon,” an underground space half-filled with water. A woman who claimed to be the dungeon’s sole survivor described it as filled with human bones. By the early 1960s, Liu Wencai was nationally notorious as the “chief representative of the landlord class for 3,000 years.” His brother Liu Wenhui, who in 1959 became forestry minister and escaped persecution under Zhou Enlai’s protection, was powerless to reverse the propaganda campaign, though he was secretly upset. “What the hell are they talking about?” was his private comment on one newspaper article about Liu Wencai, according to his grandson Liu Shizhao.

“In 1965, the Sichuan authorities commissioned more than 100 life-size clay sculptures that the museum installed as the Rent Collection Courtyard, which purported to show how Liu Wencai and his lackeys bullied peasants to extract rents. Replicas of the statues were exhibited in Beijing later that year, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors. In 1966, just before the onset of the Cultural Revolution, a documentary about Liu Wencai was released, and stories of his crimes were subsequently included in textbooks.

“Denunciations of the landlord and the evil he ostensibly personified surged during the Cultural Revolution. Family members came under attack. A cousin of Mr. Liu who fled to Xinjiang was murdered along with his wife and children, as were many other people in China branded as “landlords.” The frenzy subsided only in the 1980s, when liberal voices were tolerated to some extent. In 1988, the provincial authorities admitted that the water dungeon was an invention, and it was drained. But these beginnings of a re-evaluation stalled after the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown as the party tightened its grip, Mr. Liu said.

Liu Wencai: Not the Despotic Landlord He Is Made Out to Be?

Liu Wencai’s grandson Liu Xiaofei, who was 70 in 2016, has spent a good portion of life decades trying to prove that his grandfather was not only a good man, but actually aided the Communist forces in Sichuan Province. “The ruling party has no integrity, so I have to tell the truth,” Liu told the New York Times. “He said he was not seeking his grandfather’s formal rehabilitation but simply trying to establish that the government fabricated stories to advance its political goals. “By inciting hatred through propaganda, they turned humans into beasts,” he said. “I want to tell the truth so our nation won’t repeat these mistakes.” The exhibits at his family house in Anren are mostly fakes, he says.

Vanessa Piao wrote in the New York Times’ Sinosphere: “Mr. Liu said it was a single sentence his mother uttered in the late 1960s, during the Cultural Revolution, that sent him on his journey, a one-man battle even family members consider doomed in a tightening political climate. ““The underground Communists’ command headquarters was right in our manor,” he said she told him. “Those words were engraved in my heart.” Many residents in Anren seem to remember Liu Wencai favorably. “If you ask if people here think Liu Wencai was good, that goes without saying,” said Dai Rongyao, 89, who was selling embroidered handicrafts.

When Wencai returned to Anren after his time in Tibet he “sponsored road, water and electricity projects as well as the school. In 1942, Liu Wenhui, long at odds with the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, met with Zhou Enlai and began clandestinely cooperating with his Communists. In 1946, at the start of the Chinese civil war, Liu Wencai financed a Communist guerrilla force of around 50 people while allowing its command headquarters to be set up in his manor, said Mr. Liu, who said he learned this from a close aide to Liu Wencai who has since died. (A provincial government history says that underground Communists took advantage of Liu Wencai’s conflict with a rival to secure weapons from him.) In December 1949, his brother Liu Wenhui openly joined forces with the Communists, and the Nationalists retreated from Sichuan to Taiwan.

“Xiao Shu, the pen name of Chen Min, who in 1999 published “The Truth About Liu Wencai,” a book that was soon banned, said the party would be reluctant to restore to respectability a villain of its own making. His book was accused of “negating the legitimacy of the new democratic revolution,” when the party persecuted landlords and distributed their property to poor peasants, he said. “This is the basis of the regime’s legitimacy, so they don’t dare face the truth.” Wu Hongyuan, 60, a retired county propaganda official who served as the museum’s director in the 1990s, said the process of restoring the truth could not be rushed. “The museum is too sensitive, and Liu Wencai is too famous,” he said.

“Mr. Wu said he tried to recast the museum to more accurately present Liu Wencai’s life, but anytime he altered something, he said, former underground Communists in Anren would protest to the authorities. Li Weijia, 98, was one of those protesters. He never protected party members!” insisted Mr. Li, in a hospital ward reserved for senior officials in Chengdu. “That’s confusing black and white!"...Chen Fahong, 86 is a former worker in Liu Wencai’s manor. “We had rice and meat to eat then. He was kind,” Mr. Chen told the New York Times of Liu Wencai. “After liberation” in 1949, he said, “we had only bran and grass to eat.”

Model Workers in China

Iron Man Wang Jin
Model worker awards have been given out since 1949 to members of the proletariat that demonstrated extraordinary adherence to Marxist principals. The winners were typically miners, factory workers and builders who were given their awards in grand ceremony on the Great Hall of the People and were rewarded with a week at the beach or a holiday at a state-run sanitarium. Among them was a worker at the Beijing Fluorescent Light Bulb factory who was given a ten-day trip to the seashore after he caught a child who had fallen from a 15th floor apartment.

Iron Man Wang is another famous model worker, He was an oil worker who dug for oil with his bare hands and used his body to mix concrete. Chen Yonggui was illiterate until he was 43. After he learned to read he educated himself on Maoist theory and is credited with helping to make Dazhai model commune what it is. Another winner was Bi Xiuli, a bus conductor who was known for being unfailingly helpful to passengers and showing up at work early and on her own time washed windows so passengers could have a good view.

Yao Ming was given the “model worker” award in 2005 — the first multi-millionaire and overseas resident to receive it.

The latest role model is Fang Yonggang, a professor lauded in 2007 for his “spirit of studying Communist party doctrine, and exploring the truth? According to a flyer released to local government offices, “We should learn from Fang’s spirit of studying...We should earnestly organize party members, officials and people who live in these neighborhoods to study the advanced achievements of Comrade Fang Yonggang.” Fang stature was such that Chinese President Hu Jintao visited him at a hospital where he was being treated for cancer.

Fang reportedly has spent much time studying Marxist doctrine and new Chinese Communist Party doctrines — that try to rationalize China’s current capitalist trends and tendencies with conventional Communist Chinese ideology — and worked tirelessly to explain these doctrines to his students and anyone who listen. Despite efforts by the government to draw attention to Fang’s achievements few Chinese had heard of him or cared about what he is doing.

Role Models, Good Behavior and Revolutionary Martyrs in Maoist China

Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: ““The idea of perfecting oneself through emulation of an admired model has a long tradition in China. One of the fundamental premises of Confucian teaching is that setting a good example is a more effective way of instilling proper values than punishment. Role models also feature prominently in much of the political propaganda from the People’s Republic of China. The ultimate model was, of course, Chairman Mao himself. A virtual cult of personality was created around him; a portrait of him hung in every home and his image was to be seen everywhere in public.” In addition, billboards, seen everywhere in cities and towns, are often designed to teach appropriate public behavior. The billboard below is about riding bicycles, the major means of transportation for millions of Chinese. [Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, /=]

“During the 1950s, the period of consolidation for the Communist regime, China looked to the example of the Soviets as a successful socialist model. Accordingly, Socialist Realism was adopted as the official style. This realism was later combined with what Mao called "Revolutionary Romanticism." The combination was to result in works of art that, while taking their cues from everyday life, often imbued their subject matter with a romantic aura. Compositions usually focused on figures and were colorful and detailed.

“Under Communist rule people were divided into four classes: peasants, workers, bourgeois, and capitalists. These four were lead by the CCP. Virtuous members of the working class were also extolled in posters as fitting models.” The foremost of these was Lei Feng, an orphaned peasant raised by the Communist Party. He went on to become a soldier and died at the age of twenty-two. Lei Feng was imagined as being extremely loyal to the country and loving the people in earnest. In the early 60s he was promoted as a role model for the army and the people. In the little girl's hands is Lei Feng's journal, which was published after his death and became very popular.

As of 2008, 340,000 people had been awarded the title “Revolutionary Martyr” defined as someone “killed by his enemy when carrying out revolutionary tasks.” Families of those receive the award have special rights: free education, preferential treatment for jobs in the military and bureaucracy and lower university entrance requirements. They also receive a one-off payment of $33,700 and receive a full pension depending on the martyr’s income. In March 2008, the Communist party announced it would remove “Revolutionary” from of the title “Revolutionary Martyr” for those who die a heroic death. According to rules individuals no longer have to be socialist and anyone who has performed a heroic act can receive the award.

Lei Feng, the Model Soldier

Lei Feng poster
Perhaps the most famous Communist propaganda device that appeared during the Mao period was the story Lei Feng, the Model Soldier, and the publications, media reports. slogans and posters associated with him. Reported to be a real person, Lei Feng was orphaned as child and felt indebted to the Communist Party for taking care of him. He joined the Communist Youth League at the age of seven and worked at a steel mill before he was allowed to become a soldier in the People's Liberation Army even though he was only five feet tall.

Feng read Mao's writings nearly everyday and viewed himself as “a tiny screw.” In this diary, he wrote: "A man's usefulness to the revolutionary cause is like a screw in a machine. Though a screw is small, its use is beyond measure. I am willing to be a screw." He also reported wrote "A person’s life is limited but to serve the people is unlimited."

Feng died at the age of 22 in 1962 when his jeep ran into downed a utility pole. Afterwards his diary was "discovered" and Feng was elevated to the status of a "revolutionary icon." He became so famous that performing a good deed was refereed as "doing a Lei Feng." School children were taught the stories of his good deed; Mao said "Learn from Lei Feng;" and stores sold all kinds of Le Feng products. It is still not clear whether Lei and his diary were real or made up by the party.

Lei Feng's Altruistic Acts

Lei Feng’s acts of altruism were held up as examples for all good Communists. If the stories about him are to be believed Lei secretly washed other people’s socks, filled in potholes and scrubbed toilets in his spare time. A typical entry in his diary goes: “Today is Chinese New Year. Everybody else went to see a play. I want to do something good for people. So after breakfast I went to shovel manure. I collected about 300 pounds of manure and offered them as a gift to the [local] people’s commune.”

One of the more famous Lei Feng stories goes like this: one his friends was ill so Lei donated three liters of blood. against doctors orders to give only one, and used the $7 fee he received to buy medicine for his friend. Once, he received four sweet bean cakes as a New Year's presents and gave all four to injured miners. Another time he went without sleep for one night so he could wash a ton of cabbages and mop some floors.

‘some people call me a fool,” he wrote. “I want to be useful to people, useful to the country. If that makes me a fool, then the revolution needs more fools like me. The country’s development needs fools like me.” A group of Chinese has reportedly applied to the Guinness Book of World Records to have him recognized as the world’s most eulogized soldier.

Lei Feng has been lionized in books, films and television documentaries and is resurrected from time to time as a role model. After almost being forgotten after the Cultural Revolution, Lei Feng was resurrected in 1991 by the Beijing municipal government, who gave out "Living Lei Feng" awards to model citizens. Some old timers still get weepy eyed about the kinder, gentler, simpler times associated with Feng.

In an effort to emulate him, students and soldiers today are encouraged to give out free computer lessons and scrub highway dividers. But Feng is no longer held in the same high esteem he once was. On an Internet chat line one person wrote; “Lei Feng is a pathetic bug. When he was alive he made a fool of himself. Now that the is dead, they still parade him for public ridicule. He is the saddest and silliest figure in recent Chinese history.” [Source: Ching-Ching Ni, Los Angeles Times]

Periodically the Lei Feng ideal is questioned. In 1982, a university student Zhang Hua lost his life after jumping into a cesspool to save a peasant. His death sparked debate on the value of individual life just as Western values were being introduced to China through the open-door policy of the time. In 1988, a 14-year-old student Lai Ning died while fighting a forest fire aimed at protecting “national property” — a satellite TV station. He was lauded later as a top teenager, but his death sparked a revaluation of life among the general public. After the incident, minors were not encouraged to risk their life for heroic deeds.

Protest over Bad Boy Diver Playing Lei Feng


The announcement of bad-boy, diver-turned-actor Tian Liang would play the role of China’s famous Samaritan Lei Feng in a new television series titled Lei Feng, sparked a huge controversy throughout China. Tian won Olympic medals and world championships but never distinguished himself much as an actor and has been criticized for some of obnoxious behavior. [Source: Du Guodong, Global Times, April 29, 2009]

“For Chinese that still cherish the Lei Feng Tian is largely seen as an antithesis to Lei Feng. Tian was once thrown out of the national diving team for disobeying the rules and frequently shooting commercials during the training schedules. Due to this, amid the people, Tian’s image is one of publicity-seeker and someone who can easily break rules for celebrity status whereas, in sharp contrast, stands the memories of Lei Feng; a humble, do-gooder who never came forward to stake claim to all the good deed he continued to do in his lifetime.”

“Portrayal of Lei Feng’s life in a television series by Tian drew in criticism from Lei Feng’s former comrades, seventy of them, who came out with a statement, Tian is a good diver. However, he has totally different life background and experiences compared to Lei Feng. Besides, he is a pop star now. If he does the role of Lei Feng, many people will misinterpret Lei Feng.”

“The topic also kicked off heated debates on the Internet with the majority of netizens dissatisfied at Tian playing Lei Feng. Lei Feng kept a low profile all his life, while Tian thrives on publicity; Lei was so thrifty that he wore clothes that were patched up while Tian’s one wedding banquet table cost more than 300,000 yuan, one netizen commented.”

Under Mao the March 5th become the official Learn from Lei Feng Day, involving various activities to commemorate the Good Samaritan in China.

Another Lei Feng Revival

In late February 2012, Chinese state media relaunched a "Learn from Lei Feng" propaganda campaign to celebrate the spirit of a hero of the People's Liberation Army. Artist and activist Ai Weiwei criticized it as a "patriotic drive to unite people's thoughts and integrate people's wills in the Internet age." "I have nothing to say, as I feel desperation over the campaign," Ai said. [Source: Takanori Kato, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 4, 2012]

Lei Feng (1940-1962) was a truck driver in the PLA's transportation corps. After his death in an accident at a young age, he became known among the public after former leader Mao Zedong praised him as a model of patriotic sacrifice. The campaign was first started on March 5, 1963, by the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official paper. March 5 is the official "Learn from Lei Feng Day." Each year, as the day approaches, related stories are carried in the media. However, this year's campaign is particularly outstanding, as it marks 50 years since Lei's death.

Ai criticized the patriotic propaganda campaign, accusing government rulers of "manipulating the public for their own interests." He said the government's creation of an ideological movement to suppress voices that are critical of the state is the work of "people who are out of their minds.""It may be all right for the government to advocate patriotism during a time of national crisis, such as the Sino-Japanese War, but we're in a time of peace. Patriotism that places more importance on the state's interests than on individual happiness, truth and life is sinful," he said.

Image Sources: Chinese government, Xinhua. Landsberger Posters

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2021

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.