Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Propaganda or Collective Memory? Citizens Invited to Help Build National Day Websites

The red banners on the homepage of sohu, sina and xinhua

The celebration of the 60th birthday of the People’s Republic of China has become a phenomenon on the web. Major web portals in China:,,, and major news websites such as, and, all have a banner at the very top of their homepage, which links to a separate website dedicated exclusively to the celebration of the anniversary.

All the banners use red as the background color, and all carry the title: “Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.” Sohu adds a subtitle of its own: “Seeking a Modern China,” and Sina’s subtitle reads: “Nation/Home.” Not only that these banners are in pretty much the same design, located at exactly the same spot on each website (except, even the width of the banner is also uniformed: about one centimeter. This is not coincidence, but very likely the result of some administrative orders from the top power.

One can sure call it propaganda, but propaganda of a very fine kind, propaganda with a revolution: invitation of contribution from citizens. In other words, these websites are not entirely just a venue of official messages, but a platform for common folks to share their life experiences and memories.

On these websites are state media reports, official documents, as well as memoirs, videos, and photos produced by common netizens. The content is so comprehensive that they record a tremendous amount of experiences of the nation in the past 60 years: from major historical events to individual memories, from red guards to someone’s childhood jelly shoes.

Texts, photos, videos, slide shows, forums, blogs, etc., these sites have them all. The range of information is also very broad: history, current events, politics, economics, culture, arts, literature, music, sports, life style, feelings, opinions, and so on.

The sheer content of these websites may simply be too much for one to absorb. Nevertheless, they very well demonstrate the capability and power of the Internet in the massive media campaign for celebrating the anniversary. And this time, citizens are involved in contributing the content, turning a traditionally state propagandist endeavor into a fabulous show of collective memory.

Special National Day websites by major web portals and news organizations:
China News:

Update: some of the sites changed its outlook on the actual National Day, Oct. 1.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, to me it is not only the propaganda. In Fukuoka, Chinese students gatherd at the embassy and enjoyed the celebration, nobody ask us for this, the staff even told us "if few people come here, we will provide no service, for it is the vacation."