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Turning Disaster into Victory


A preliminary analysis of reporting the great flood in 1963 in Tianjin ... A lesson in collectivism, on caring about the whole, and on discipline ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Turning Disaster into Victory

(No Transcript)
Turning Disaster into Victory Reporting
Disaster Relief in the 1963 Tianjin Great Flood
  • 18.12.2008

  • A preliminary analysis of reporting the great
    flood in 1963 in Tianjin
  • Part of a larger project on Tianjin Governance
  • Later this paper will be expanded to analyze
    other aspects of disaster relief in Tianjin
    (events, organization, relief effort after the
    flood, etc)

  • Tianjin Ribao (Tianjin Daily, hereafter TR)
  • Propaganda organ of local party-state
  • Maoist local state sought to overcome the
    problems in mobilization through the standard
    means on its disposal moral persuasion in public
  • No material incentives were offered (or at least
    not reported), and the whole effort relied on
    commands and immaterial rewards

  • Six types of generic articles on flood and flood
    prevention efforts
  • Mobilization and motivation articles
  • Feature articles
  • Articles on leadership decisions and general
  • The articles that dealt with assistance from
    other parts of the country
  • Production news
  • Technical instructions

  • Mobilization and motivation articles
  • Designed to support and sustain the mobilization
    through providing motivation to the cadres and
    masses alike
  • Direct propaganda contained discussion on the
    ideological / political meaning of the relief
  • Usually front page coverage
  • Permeated with politically correct (PC)
  • The articles aim at educating the masses and
    cadres on their respective duties and sentiments
    that go with them

  • Feature articles
  • Teaching through examples
  • Indirect propaganda Introducing exemplary
    frontline units and individuals
  • Readers are expected to assume similar methods
    and spirit, too
  • Based on providing representatives from every
    social group involved in the mobilization

  • As articles indicate, ideological work was
    carried out on the frontline constantly
  • Ideological education was needed especially when
    lull periods brought out discipline problems
  • The main target groups of such efforts were
    peasants and workers
  • Caused concerns on slacking in work, raised
    demands of quick return to homes, etc.

  • Frontline dyke construction sites could rely on
    existing propaganda structures right from the
  • Dispatched units had their leading cadres with
    them who were responsible for propaganda work
    also during normalcy

  • Ideological significance of the struggle
  • The campaign was declared a great struggle
    against the nature
  • For protecting socialist construction, peoples
    lives, property and security
  • The frontline of the fight was described as a
    great revolutionary smelter
  • Here people could become revolutionary soldiers
    with higher class consciousness
  • A lesson in collectivism, on caring about the
    whole, and on discipline
  • In general the struggle demonstrated the
    superiority of socialist system
  • The Role of Chairman Mao very small in propaganda

  • Much of direct propaganda was about instructing
    the grass-roots levels of the best practices on
    ideological work
  • Speaking bitterness
  • Promoting competitions between individuals and
  • Explaining the water situation to the masses

  • Speaking bitterness
  • In the old society the masters showed no
    interest in relief work, but could the present
    peoples government increase its concern on us
    and the struggle any further? You young people
    have not suffered in your lives! When there was a
    big flood back then it destroyed crops and
    houses. There were three of us, and we had
    nothing to eat, we had to walk to Dongbei to do
    hard manual work. My old father perished. Now the
    world is really not like that! With the help of
    the Party and government help and leadership we
    can get through all hardships. (TR 24.8.1963, 1
    Support fully the city reflect on past in light
    of present increase vigor.)

  • Indirect methods Examples of class
    representatives and how mass line works
  • In articles individuals and groups were portrayed
    as highly standardized characters
  • Representatives of different social groups were
    given lines that befitted their class positions
    and position in the campaign against the flood

  • Workers designated as the vanguard against the
    flood, others were instructed to listen to the
    voices of the workers, follow the working class
  • A worker My small loss is nothing compared to
    the security of the whole city, small me (xiaowo,
    oneself) should serve the big me (dawo, public).
    (TR 16.8.1963, 1 170 000 strong army of this
    city holds fast to securing the dykes)

  • Cadres
  • Expected to lead from the front through their own
    examples Where there is danger, there are
    leading cadres.
  • Party members were for example told to have
    rushed into water to fill in threatening gaps in
    dykes with their own bodies, feeding the members
    of masses with heir own expenses and providing
    them shelter while sleeping outside themselves,
  • Many consoling visits to the frontline by high
    leaders reported

  • Soldiers and militia members
  • Mobilization was based largely on ordering danwei
    militias and City army units onto the frontline
  • Ordered to be models for the rest not seeking
    easy tasks but to go for the most difficult ones,
    keeping up strict discipline

  • A soldier We must protect the fatherland and
    struggle against class enemy. But we must also
    fight against natural disasters. When I think
    about this, my body is filled with strength. (TR
    15.8.1963, 3 The sons and younger brothers -
    soldiers fighting along the Ziya rives banks.)

  • Peasants were in a slightly junior position to
    the three outlined above, but still praised for
    their contribution and spirit in the struggle
  • Getting peasants to care for common good and
    goals was emphasized.
  • Examples of peasants leaving behind their own
    communes and villages and coming to the dykes
    from tens of lis away were praised

  • Peasants In order to defeat the flood, caring
    about just ones own village is not enough!,
    Protecting the big home of Tianjin also helps
    our small home. Protecting the socialist
    construction in Tianjin will bring us the support
    of urban people and the big brother-workers and
    this will help to develop agricultural

  • Other social groups
  • Students and intellectuals were told to
    participate in struggle against the flood in
    order to strengthen their proletarian outlook
  • An experience in tempering their spirits and
    revolutionary determination

  • Production news
  • Usually found in the back pages of TR
  • Featured selected danweis in their efforts to
    keep up production targets for the flood effort
    and the national plan
  • Reportedly, this was also achieved
  • Heroism of home front emphasized

  • When it became clear during the second week of
    October that the flood was defeated, propaganda
    effort shifted its emphasis to the return to
  • Production stressed Use the Sprit of Fighting
    the Flood to Promote Production

  • The City was saved after two month of
  • In the end Tianjin City government could not only
    declare victory on the nature, but also moral
  • What was not mentioned in the TR lost lives,
    lost property, expenses of mobilization, etc
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