Haunting Photos: Propaganda from Mao’s China Erases History

Written by Oiwan Lam

On January 29-30, 2013 one of the top ten micro-blogs in Sina Weibo, the most influential micro-blogging platform in China, has a set of historical photos showing two versions of the Chinese history during Mao’s Era (1949-1976).

The micro-blog, in the form of a collage, published by @Pongyoung with a brief comment: “How history has been amended?”, has been retweeted 13362 times with 2237 comments within one day. The photos and their explanation were originally published by the history channel [zh] of ifeng.com.

In order to help our readers see the difference between the two versions of the Chinese history, I cut the collage into 9 photo sets with a brief explanation.

The missing person on the second photo is Lin Biao, a former Chinese Communist Part leader who was condemned as a traitor after his failed attempt to escape to Mosco in 1971. He was killed in a plane crash during his escape.

The missing person is Peng Dehuai, who was a prominent Chinese Communist military leader. He was prosecuted during the Cultural Revolution and died in prison in 1974.

The image amendment is to single out the two greatest leaders of the era: Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.

Irrelevant people are deleted so as to highlight the leader.

The missing person is Peng Zhen, also once a CCP leader. He was purged during the Cultural Revolution for opposing Mao's views on the role of literature in relation to the state.

The umbrellas and those carrying them had obstructed the stage and thus deleted.

Lei Feng, a solider of the People's Liberation Army, was portrayed as a model citizen after his death. The background of his photo was changed into a pine tree, which symbolizes evergreen for political propaganda purposes.

Many comrades who had been trained with Mao Zedong in the Red Amy Camp in 1937 went missing when the photo was published during Mao's era. The original photo only surfaced in 1986 during Deng Xiaoping's era.

The missing person is Ren Bishi, a CCP military and political leader. The photo was taken in 1940 with Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong. Ren was deleted because he was criticized for being sick and hospitalized in USSR in during the Chinese liberation war.

This post was originally published by Global Voices.


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Marianne Good
Past Member 6 years ago


Magdika Cecilia Perez

thank you

Laura Saxon
.6 years ago

Those photos should go back into the archives. Hunting is wrong.

Valley G.
Val j6 years ago

It reminds me of how pharaoh erased Moses name from the history of Egypt, when it was revealed that Moses was a Hebrew.

Christine Jones
Christine J6 years ago

Great article. Quite frightening to see how subtle some of these changes are. Digital media offers wonderful opportunities for sharing information, but it does have the drawback of being easily manipulated. Give me a good old-fashioned snap shot any day.

Jane L.
Jane L6 years ago

wow, very powerful and enlightening...how media can be changed and used to manipulate commoners' understanding of history! It's frighteningly subtle and hardly noticeable if you don't see the original first. Thanks so much for the truth, for this post!

Linda McKellar
Past Member 6 years ago

Well said Annmari.

Morgan McDowell
Morgan McDowell6 years ago

So Mao did the same thing as Stalin did!

He took people out of the photos that he got rid of!

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Mao and Stalin were just as much massmurderers as Hitler, Pol Pot and the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian leaders in the 1990s. Add to that the millions that have died because of orders from Churchill and Truman and all leaders since than.
Some of you debate the ideologies of socialism and capitalism. Socialism in its true sense is about sharing the wealth with everyone. A common saying about socialism is:
"Of everyone what they can do, to everyone what they need." It means that everyone give of their work in the way they can, wheater you are healthy or disabled, you can still contribute in some way and what you need will be provided by the common resources, which will be decided by the people.
The difference between the ideology of socialism and how it has been practiced, is that it has been forced upon people from above, not built from the ground and up.
I'm a syndicalist. Syndicalism is a form of socialism. It is based on work within the union, where all members decide their own affairs. No Government, no bosses and no leaders.
Capitalism has one goal and that is monopoly. If it's not gained by buy-ups and price dumps, other means are used. War is a way to spread into new markets and get rid of competition. Some capitalists are hardcore and some try to show a sort of compassion. The latter usually concerns charities and donations to individuals. But most capitalists aren't interested in giving away any of their power. That's why they rather pay lobbyists millions than

Linda McKellar
Past Member 6 years ago

Mary, absolutely correct. David doesn't know the true meaning of Socialism. I already said, it's the "Socialists" to be feared, not "Socialism" as those who claim to be socialists are creeps who hijack the ideology & bastardize it to meet their own ends, sort of how "Capitalists" in the US use the term as a virtue to exploit others & enrich themselves. They are not TRUE capitalists at all but the same as those who have hijacked socialism.Today's US so-called Capitalists are actually fascists. Look up the definition David. Capitalism, which can be a good system has been hijacked as well by pricks like the Krotch Brs who spend millions to buy elections &, laughingly, sometimes they fail. No more millions have died as a result of socialism as by distorted capitalism. I'm a socialist & proud of it. I not a selfish bastard with no compassion for others. THAT is socialism in its true form. Sounds pretty CHRISTIAN doesn't it? Perhaps our DNA IS better.The Canadian gov't doesn't control everything nor would we tolerate that.
David, since the topic here is propaganda, what do you think of the US propaganda I mentioned. All true! Dare deny it!
Carla, thanks for your kind words.