Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Keeping propaganda in line with policy is not easy

When an authoritarian regime sets out to change public policy, getting the message out is a big job. How do the Chinese methods compare with likely methods in other countries?

Slogans need to be updated
Solemn-faced couples, holding a spanner and a sickle, were a common sight in the early 1980s, when China introduced its one-child policy. They looked out of posters above a red slogan saying, "Controlled population, planned growth".

More than three decades later, Chinese newspapers are splashing photos of smiling parents carrying two infants with the banner "Home with two kids".
New version of a happy family
In January, China ended one-child policy and allowed all couples to have two children…

In the world's most populous country, childbearing is not a private issue among families - it has long been viewed as a "revolutionary task" in the national interest.

In the early 1980s, the family planning policy in red banners, like Chairman Mao's famous quotations, bedecked city streets; in the countryside, slogans were painted on walls and buildings…

[W]hen the New China was founded in 1949, the country was very poor and underdeveloped and the "more people, more power" idea was widely accepted. The population exploded from 540 million in 1949 to 830 million by 1970.The contrast sharpened between limited land and the massive population.

Fearful that uncontrolled growth would restrict economic development, China started strict implementation of a one-child policy, mostly among its urban population in the late 1970s to deal with the population pressures…

However, people are now China's most needed resource. While getting wealthier, the world's most populous country is also aging, with 220 million people aged 60 or over…

Ironically, Chinese are now less inclined to take on the burden on more children…

The rising cost of living is the main reason for the reluctance. A proposal at the Shanghai political consultative conference early this year shows that raising a child in the city cost at least 2 million yuan.

A recent investigation in Guangzhou revealed that 86.5 percent people had too little time to take care of their children…

Family planning slogans must now reverse this trend.

"The new slogans should be more interesting, vivid, and well received," said Zuo Dongling, a deputy of the National People's Congress (NPC)…

But just improving slogans is not enough. "Without improved services or polices, people will not have the courage have more children - no matter how good the slogan," said Zhang Jingping, a working mother of two…

NPC deputy Huang Xihua delivered a proposal for new family planning policies to offset the pressures brought by extra kids, including tax cuts, holiday extensions, and free kindergarten education.

"Having a child is really not a family affairs; it concerns the whole nation."

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