China’s message: Eight points, 16 animated gifs, one party


If you want to get your message across to young people about austerity measures in your country, what do you do?

In China, media outlets operate under tight Communist Party control, but the Party is turning to social media – over which it has less direct control – to launch its latest mobile-friendly campaign of animated gifs and to reach a different audience, particularly younger people.

As part of President Xi Jinping’s drive to fight against corruption, 16 gifs have been published addressing the eight austerity rules from the party’s discipline watchdog, or anti-graft authority.

The collection of gifs has been “read by millions of readers,” according to the country’s biggest English-language newspaper China Daily.

Chinese Characters pasted on a car which read:Image copyrightCCDI
“Forbid improper allocation and use of official vehicles”

The publication on the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) website was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the eight rules and “enhance the understanding of the spirit of the eight-point rules”.

The gifs can be downloaded for free on WeChat – China’s equivalent to WhatsApp. Given that China is the largest media market in the world, and has the world’s largest online population, a huge amount of people will have access to the animations.

Shining sun gif which says:Image copyrightAFP
Image caption“The eight point austerity rules are changing China for the better”

What are the austerity rules?

Some refer to the misuse of public money by officials, including forbidding improper use of official vehicles, or travelling using public expenses; cutting down on banquets at public expense, and stamping out privilege.

One rule refers to the banning of “high-cost entertainment,” reflected in a gif which sees a golf club being forbidden. The Party banned all 88 million of its membersfrom joining golf clubs in 2015.

Other rules include streamlining meetings, putting a stop to visits to private clubs, sticking to good family traditions and being aware of “metamorphosis of formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance”.

Some media outlets, like Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post, suggest the Communist Party is jumping on “the emoji bandwagon”.

Character for family, including a roof, which reads:Image copyrightCCDI
“Establish a good family tradition with filial piety, loyalty, integrity and honesty”

When China’s state broadcaster CCTV promoted the gifs on its Weibo page – China’s equivalent of Twitter – there was mixed reaction:

Author Yang Zhongwen gave the thumbs up, another Weibo user in Tianjing was excited by the new gifs, and Kevin in Beijing described the campaign as “incredible!”

Not everyone was impressed, with some users questioning the “poor aesthetics” behind this latest propaganda effort.

“Formalism, embarrassing, poor aesthetics,” wrote Si Mao Jun in Chongqing.

Li Mo from Fujian noted it was not at all simple to solve the problem of austerity, and the irony of the expense of the campaign was not lost on a Weibo user in Zhengzhou, Henan, who asked: “How much does it cost to make these stickers?”

The China Daily USA’s tweet prompted a hint of sarcasm, with one user claiming “I don’t speak emoji”.

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