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From “Propaganda” to “Guided Communication”. Animating Political Communication in Digital China

Lei Qin


This essay investigates the recent boom in the use of animated cartoons for political communication in China which began in late 2013. A series of political cartoons are examined against the background of a comprehensive media revolution designed by top-following the Chinese Communist Party’s (hereafter CCP) new understanding of the role of media and public opinion. I argue, by looking closely at the creative use of political cartoons, that the CCP has adjusted its views on the role of media in the digital age – from propaganda mouthpiece, to guiding opinion unifier for popularizing the Party’s rule. Their efforts and success in stimulating a significant number of responses through the use of animated cartoons has given rise to a new communication model of mixing top-down and bottom-up flow of message. Behind the new model was the CCP’s changing understanding of the public: from “target audience of propaganda” to guided audience, and then to central players in popularizing the Party. The major media reform since Xi took office in early 2013 has laid institutional, managerial and editorial foundations to sustain this conceptual change in practice. The boom in political cartoons is the most conspicuous result of that.


cartoon; China; media reform; new media; political communication; propaganda; public opinion; Xi Jinping

Full Text:



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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2018-002-qinl

Copyright (©) 2019 Lei Qin – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie


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