Will China's New Slogans Catch On? The Chinese Communist Party is trying to get people in the mood for the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. They've released 50 new slogans targeting nationalist sentiment; but are they catchy enough to swell the Chinese breast with pride?

Will China's New Slogans Catch On?

Will China's New Slogans Catch On?

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A Chinese Navy soldier of the People's Liberation Army shouts slogans during a military parade training session in Beijing in June. Liu Jian/AP hide caption

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Liu Jian/AP

A Chinese Navy soldier of the People's Liberation Army shouts slogans during a military parade training session in Beijing in June.

Liu Jian/AP

Try shouting out some of these new slogans:

  • "Warmly celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China!"
  • "Hail the great success of our country's reform and opening-up and socialist modernization!"
  • "Put people first, realize, safeguard and develop the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people!"
  • "Build a socialist harmonious society and promote social equity and justice!"
  • "Adhere to the one China policy and promote the country's great cause of peaceful reunification!"
  • "Adhere to the independent foreign policy of peace and unswervingly pursue the road of peaceful development!"
  • "Long live the great unity of all nationalities of China!"
  • "Adhering to and improving the system of regional autonomy by ethnic minorities, so as to consolidate and develop socialist relations among different ethnic groups based on equality, solidarity, mutual assistance and harmony."

"Warmly celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China!"

That's one of 50 slogans put out by the Chinese Communist Party to get people in the mood for the big celebration that started this month

Other slogans on the list are much less straightforward, like this one:

"Adhering to and improving the system of regional autonomy by ethnic minorities, so as to consolidate and develop socialist relations among different ethnic groups based on equality, solidarity, mutual assistance and harmony."

Jeff Wasserstrom can help make sense of them for Westerners. He's a professor of history at the University of California at Irvine who specializes in China, and a founder of a blog called "The China Beat." Wasserstrom tells Guy Raz that the slogans definitely sound better in Chinese, but they still don't trip off the tongue.

"You can't imagine anyone memorizing [them]," Wasserstrom says. Instead, these slogans might show up on banners or placards to be carried through the streets. Perhaps only a single character might be promoted — a kind of shorthand for the larger concept.

Like the term, "harmonious society." Wasserstrom says the term has become very popular with the government, but doesn't have much popular resonance. "But there's just one character, that is, the key character in harmony, 'he,' which could be displayed quite easily by a marching group. This was done during the Olympics — that character was spelled out in colors in a display."

Though there are probably many Chinese who will take the new slogans seriously, Wasserstrom says there's still a lot of snickering. "One reason is because slogans will often be promoting things that in fact, the government is quite worried about." For example, he says, "the government will trumpet the need for a harmonious society, acting as if it's already been achieved — when in fact it's something they'd very much like to achieve."

That might be the goal particularly for areas with large ethnic minority populations that have experienced bouts of violent discontent recently, like Xinjiang and Tibet. "I think what they're trying to do is to get people back in line in those areas to settle down and be more accepting of the central government's rule," Wasserstrom says.

The Western eye might see the slogans as blatant propaganda, but Wasserstrom says the Chinese see it more like an advertisement.

"Propaganda is simply making the case for the kind of product you have to sell — whether it's a candidate or it's a policy, or whether it's something to buy," he says. That doesn't differ much from American public service announcements or the "Courage, pass it on" billboards that sprouted around the nation after the 9/11 attacks, he points out.

What Chinese aren't used to, however, are parties or candidates with competing slogans. But even if the Communist Party is the only political game in town, that doesn't mean there's no competition. Thirty years ago, the party's message might have been the only one to see on the streets of China's cities. But now, Wasserstrom says, "these slogans have to compete with actual advertisements for products."

Mostly, the slogans determine talking points for official media, providing a sense of the things that are acceptable to talk about, Wasserstrom says. "But in fact, in new media, bloggers are actually having a lot of fun making fun of these slogans."

Underneath the amusement, however, is a genuine pride in how far China has come economically — and how large the country's presence has become on the world stage.

If Wasserstrom were to offer his own slogan to the Chinese Communist Party, he says it would be: "From a third-world economy to the world's third economy in just 30 years."