Two Versions of Mao's China: History Retouched as Propaganda

On January 29-30, 2013 one of the top ten micro-blogs in Sina Weibo, the most influential micro-blogging platform in China, has a set of historical photos showing two versions of the Chinese history during Mao's Era (1949-1976).

The micro-blog, in the form of a collage, published by @Pongyoung with a brief comment: “How history has been amended?”, has been retweeted 13362 times with 2237 comments within one day. The photos and their explanation were originally published by the history channel [zh] of

In order to help our readers see the difference between the two versions of the Chinese history, I cut the collage into 10 photo sets with a brief explanation.

The missing person on the second photo is Lin Biao, a former Chinese Communist Part leader who was condemned as a traitor after his failed attempt to escape to Mosco in 1971. He was killed in a plane crash during his escape.

The missing person is Peng Dehuai, who was a prominent Chinese Communist military leader. He was prosecuted during the Cultural Revolution and died in prison in 1974.

The image amendment is to single out the two greatest leaders of the era: Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.

Irrelevant people are deleted so as to highlight the leader.

The missing person is Peng Zhen, also once a CCP leader. He was purged during the Cultural Revolution for opposing Mao's views on the role of literature in relation to the state.

The umbrellas and those carrying them had obstructed the stage and thus deleted.

The photo was originally taken in 1927 among a group of intellectuals and writers – Zhou Jianren, Xu Guangping, Lu Xun (front from the left) and Sun Xifu, Lin Yutang, Sun Fuyuan (back from the left). Lin Yutang escaped to Taiwan in 1949 and in March 1977 when the photo was republished Lin Yutang and Sun Xifu were deleted.

Lei Feng, a solider of the People's Liberation Army, was portrayed as a model citizen after his death. The background of his photo was changed into a pine tree, which symbolizes evergreen for political propaganda purposes.

Many comrades who had been trained with Mao Zedong in the Red Amy Camp in 1937 went missing when the photo was published during Mao's era. The original photo only surfaced in 1986 during Deng Xiaoping's era.

The missing person is Ren Bishi, a CCP military and political leader. The photo was taken in 1940 with Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong. Ren was deleted because he was criticized for being sick and hospitalized in USSR in during the Chinese liberation war.


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  • visiondesigner

    A great article. This kind of authoritarian government using photo-propaganda is unfortunately not limited to Mao but many leaders in other parts of the world.

    • Javier Vargas

      including the USA

      • Andy Alonso

        Javier, I don’t doubt your statement, but I hope you’re not implying that the USA would go through the same extreme lengths as an authoritarian government.

  • Starlin did those also

  • Drank

    I hate chinks like Mao!

    • YiJiun

      Ok, so you hate chinks but like Mao? ;)

  • pfcwms

    A fine collection of airbrushed photos.

  • […] all six characters. The present day Communist Party of China seems a lot less effective at photographic manipulation than it did under Mao Ze-Dong. Perhaps the greater availability of cameras (especially on mobile […]

  • D'wain Rebrab

    It’s what American conservatives are trying to do with American history.

    • nodomino

      It has ever been thus.

  • YiJiun


    A picture of Mao moves a mountain of words…

  • YiJiun


    A picture of Mao moves a mountain of words…
    Chinese ink impresses through the Chink who represses

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