Since 1949, the Communist Party is in power in China, with Mao Zedong as chairman. In the early years, poster propaganda focuses on building the new country. The late 1950s bring the forced collectivization of agriculture and the campaign for the Great Leap Forward, which was to boost China's industrial production. The happy, energetic, and idyllic scenes on the posters contrast with the grim reality of mismanagement in industry and agriculture, which resulted in a horrible famine in which 30 to 40 million people starving to death.
On the posters, elements of Socialist Realism are recognizable, inspired by examples and teachers from the Soviet Union. From the beginning they are blended with elements of traditional Chinese painting and popular art: sweet colours, applied in soft gradations or combinations of heavy black contours with bright flat colours.
In the early 1960s there is an economic liberalization to encourage production. At the same time, an extremely aggressive style of propaganda is developed for use against Western imperialism. This is especially evident in posters on the Vietnam War.
These propaganda posters are highlights from the collections of the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam), and Stefan R. Landsberger (University of Amsterdam, Leiden University).