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 mould Chinese society and citizens according to its wishes. It has even managed to pacify the World Wide Web with a ‘Great Firewall’. But propaganda has hardly been the sole preserve of Communist regimes. Efforts to employ methods related to propaganda were also put into practice extensively in liberal societies such as Europe and the USA, not least in some recent general elections. This course asks about the nature and goals of propaganda. Using the PRC as case study, it considers whether the propaganda regime can be seen as something that has held China back or the very solution to the vastness of territory and population the Chinese government has had to administer. But does the need for propaganda diminish as levels of education rise? Should art and literature really continue to serve the people by serving the party, or does China and its people lose something essential for its survival 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 48
Assessment: Case study 40
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Tutorial participation 30
Case study 40
In-class quizzes 30

Required Reading and Viewing

Recommended Reading

  • Bell, D. A. (2015). The China model: Political meritocracy and the limits of democracy.
  • Brady, A. -M. (2009). Marketing dictatorship: Propaganda and thought work in contemporary China. Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Hung, C. -T. (2011). Mao’s new world: Political culture in the early People’s Republic.
  • Jowett, G. S., & O’Donnell, V. (2014). Propaganda and Persuasion. California: Sage Publications.
  • Wang, P. (1965). The East Is Red (東方紅). [Film]
  • Zhang, Y., et al. (2018). Opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me9PGswBavw

Recommended Website


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

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