CCCH9046 China: Culture, State and Society
‘Propaganda State’: Culture and Politics in the People’s Republic of China


Course Description

The People’s Republic of China has repeatedly been referred to as a ‘propaganda state.’ What does this mean? In one interpretation the ruling China’s Communist Party has employed its control over pen as well as sword to secure its power and to mould Chinese society and citizens according to its wishes. It has even managed to pacify the World Wide Web with its Great Firewall of China. But propaganda has hardly been the sole preserve of China or other Communist regimes. Efforts to employ propaganda are also put into practice extensively in liberal societies such as Europe and the USA, not least in some recent general elections. This course, therefore, asks about the nature and goals of propaganda. Using the PRC as its main case study, the course considers whether the ‘propaganda regime’ can be seen as something that has held China back, or as a solution to the vastness of the territories and people over which the Chinese state has presided. Does the need for propaganda diminish as levels of education rise? Should art and literature serve the people by serving the party, as its mouthpiece, or does the PRC and its people lose something essential by turning culture into a propaganda tool?

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain major problems and controversies relating to the role of culture and propaganda in contemporary China.
  2. Analyse the importance of propaganda in setting up and upholding the People’s Republic of China.
  3. Discuss critically issues relating to propaganda, art, and culture in contemporary China.
  4. Explain, analyse, and discuss the difference between propaganda and other arts of persuasion.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second Semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 38
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 30
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 20
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Tutorial participation 30
Case study 40
Project 30

Required Reading and Viewing


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr J.P. Johansson Vig
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 7935
Email: pejoh@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr J.P. Johansson Vig
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 7935
Email: pejoh@hku.hk