DOI link for ‘Imparting experience’
‘Imparting experience’ book
Art with a strongly leftist ideological message was nurtured and widely promoted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from at least the 1930s. Initially, this mode of art was targeted at China’s domestic population and utilised to fulfil a number of key CCP political strategies, such as winning adherents to the Communist cause against the ruling Nationalists prior to 1949 and, thereafter, uniting the population in the project of national reconstruction following the Nationalists’ defeat. In the wake of Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, and the subsequent diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China across much of the Western world, however, political art was utilised as a resource for extending China’s cultural reach beyond the domestic and Communist bloc/Third World arenas and into the capitalist West, when the Chinese Government took the decision to tour internationally an exhibition of contemporary peasant paintings from Hu County, Shaanxi Province. These paintings, artistic representations of peasant life produced by peasants themselves, were selected for their significance as visual signifiers of New China and the progress that had been achieved since 1949 in transforming rural China under the guidance of the Communist Party. The paintings toured Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, drawing interesting reactions from the media and general public. This chapter focuses on the Australasia and, in particular, the New Zealand leg of the tour; it examines aspects of the organisational arrangements underpinning the tour and assesses some of the responses to the exhibition, gleaned from galleries and museums, the media and the general public. The chapter concludes with a tentative assessment of how effective the peasant painting exhibition, as an early example of post-Mao China’s global ‘soft-power’ strategy, was in enhancing modern China’s image in Australasia.