The Vault

Pretty Environmental Propaganda Posters from 1980s China

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The great site offers deep thematic coverage of Chinese propaganda posters from the collections of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. The images below are from their collection of environmental posters of the 1970s and 1980s.

In introducing the images, the curators of the site point out that this group of posters, produced at a time when Chinese authorities “became more aware of the impact of environmental problems on the country’s economic performance,” don’t represent negative outcomes of industrialization (pollution, blight, acid rain). Instead, citizens are asked to attend to their immediate personal environments—to pick up litter and plant trees.

Steven Zhang, who has researched environmental attitudes among factory owners in China, wrote last year in the Atlantic that his interviewees espoused a vision of environmentalism that “focused almost exclusively on the effects of environmental damage to personal health.” Zhang found that instrumentalism—the preservation of environmental balance in the service of one or another human good—dominated discussions about environmental protection.

The posters below exemplify that approach, focusing on hygiene, regulation, and morality. 

“Social morality must be maintained,” 1984.

International Institute for Social History,

“Protect the environment and hygiene,” 1983.

International Institute for Social History,

“All the people plant trees, to regulate mountains and rivers,” 1983.

International Institute for Social History,

“Cherish greening, treasure old and famous trees,” 1983.

International Institute for Social History,

“Plant trees and make green, protect the ecological balance,” 1983.

International Institute for Social History,

Thanks to Amy Offner for the tip.