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Home  /  Inside China  /  Red posters with capitalist content – Funny merchandise in big Chinese cities
Red posters with capitalist content – Funny merchandise in big Chinese cities print version
In touristic and artistic gift stores in big Chinese cities there is a new trend of products: Communist images with capitalist content. A nostalgic desire, an acknowledgement of the current money-making frenzy within the Chinese society and a humoristic view of the sharp gap between the two epochs, are all embedded in these not-so-innocent products.

A walk in the touristic, old hutong (胡同 narrow traditional alleys) area near Beihai (北海, the 'northern lake') in Beijing, or in the equivalent (yet much younger) Tianzifang (田子坊) in Shangai, as well as in attractive alleys in other Chinese cities, which can also be defined as old-touristic-artistic, leads visitors to an encounter with new style of Chinese gifts. Red communist images, which were abundant during the Mao regime, demonstrating the pleasure of working in the fields, of a march with fellow workers or of a re-education activity, are now being printed with new capitalist content (or other features of the modern society), and are celebrated as nostalgic merchandise with a funny sarcastic twist.

An image of a boy and a girl reading diligently a red book, under the title '好好学习,努力赚钱!' - 'Study good, putting effort in money making'; three male workers raising hands assertively under the title '我要涨工资' - 'We want a raise in salary'; cloth wallets (or something between a wallet and a pencil-case) covered by a communist star and the title '血汗钱', 'blood-sweat (earned) money' (as opposed to blood-sweat labor). These are all examples for such slogans, which come in the forms of posters, cup covers, notebook covers and more. Both foreign tourists and middle-class or artistic Chinese seem to appreciate these new gifts ideas and allow this business to expand.

retro_sociocapi_1153

 girl_retro_baidu_641  80hou_retro_poster_672
 Wallets with slogans such as 'we want a salary raise', 'blood sweat (earned) money', and more - Taken in Furong jie in Jinan.  '上Google百读一下' (go on Google, Baidu (Chinese search engine) for a moment), new era information era on a reddish background (Shanghai Tianzifang)  '80后的责任是制造08后' - The responsibility of the post-80's generation is to produce the post 2008 generation. (Shanghai Tianzifang). 


What do these new 'edited' slogans show about the contemporary Chinese society? First of all, such images bring about a nostalgic flavor of companionship and innocence that many people feel attracted to, even if they don't really miss the epoch in which the original images were produced (if they were even born back then). Secondly, such slogans display the current existing contradiction within the Chinese society, one which is still filled with socialist motifs yet in the same time promotes the market economy and, which leads individuals to a fierce competition. The demonstration of such contradiction is an act of both social criticism and funny sarcasm, inevitably making these reddish-capitalist products an eye catching gift.

These gift products will probably not make it to heavy touristic markets (in the style of Beijing's silk market (秀水街 xiushuijie)), nor will they become a widely popular item within the Chinese society. Still, they are appealing to foreign tourists who have some interest in China and among Chinese, self-aware middle-class individuals, curious students and artistic consumers are the target crowd.

In a society in which the socialist past is still existing in present days and in which the capitalist quest is often not accompanied with relevant individualistic values, such retro-modern-socialist-capitalist images are an interesting interpretation of the road-intersection in which many parts of the Chinese society are standing.

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