As I was flipping through the People’s Daily from the 1950s recently, something completely unrelated to my research caught my attention (as often happens...): political cartoons regarding foreign policy. The first one that caught my attention actually regarded American domestic politics: As the cartoon shows below, one man wears a sandwich board, and on the front his advertisement reads "Please choose the Republican party" and on his back the advertisement reads "Please choose the Democratic party." The caption below reads "2 advertisements, 1 boss."
This cartoon literally made me laugh out loud in the archives (drawing more attention to myself than usual) not only because the cartoon is quite funny, but also because it is incredibly perceptive, even though it may not mean to be. I believe the People's Daily was trying to point out that our "free" society was really ruled by one overarching archaic institution, but in fact also makes the point that our parties' platforms are incredibly similar. And when we compare our political climate to the rest of the world, that was true and still is to this day.
If I look at all of these cartoons, all of them show a certain awareness about what was going on around the world. While the People's Daily certainly had an agenda, the points that they make about the West's actions don't seem as biased as they seem astute. I find this refreshing, perhaps because a lot of what I find in the Chinese news today is much less clever in its portrayal of the West's actions around the world.
I’ve reproduced a few of my favorites below. About half of them are from 1956, where the main international news was Israel and the Suez Canal crisis. The other half are from 1966, where the main news was Vietnam.
This cartoon, from November 9th, 1955, the signs all over Japan read things such as "Japanese people cannot do _____here" such as live, work, drive, etc.
This cartoon, entitled "Passing the torch" was from November 6th, 1956. The torch reads "invasion" and as the small British man steals it, he heads towards "Egypt." While obviously the comparison to Hitler is a bit much, I find it interesting that China smartly picked up the hypocrisy in our actions. However, related to the Suez canal crisis, I find the following cartoon even more interesting:
In this cartoon, (November 1st, 1956) the strange looking man with the British flag hat is meant to represent France and England, and they spur on a bull labeled Israel as they cross the fence into Egypt. I really like the way the causality is represented here.
I find a lot of relevance in this cartoon and the next one to today's problems. In this cartoon, labeled "charity" shows an American man with a barrel labaled "Money from Arab/US Oil companies." He rides a carpet labeled "Special Saudi/American relationship" and throws a little money towards we can assume the Arab world, and it is labeled "charity fee." Even in the 1950s, China was aware of America's relationship with the Arab world and our use of policy to maintain a privaledged position in obtaining oil.
In this cartoon, the barrel reads oil, and America steals the foundation holding England up (with an evil grin). I admit I don't know a lot about the American/British/Saudi relationship at this time, but nonetheless, it is a creative cartoon.
In this cartoon, from February 10, 1966, the small support about to break underneath the bridge reads "America's domestic problems" and the tank reads "America invading Vietnam." To me, this could be read in 2 ways: As America becomes more embroiled in Vietnam, the domestic situation will inevitably crumble; OR that America used its domestic woes to support a war in Vietnam. Both are interesting arguments.
This cartoon I find quite funny. The captain, sitting and looking disheveled, looks at the other soldier, daydreaming about his girlfriend, and scolds him, telling him to focus. At the same time, however, he dreams of returning home to America. I find it fascinating that China picked up on the loss of morale in our troops as early as 1966 (or perhaps they assumed it, and it just happened to be true).
This cartoon is from February 19, 1966. The sickly looking horse is labeled as "South Vietnam." I showed this cartoon to a few friends, and one of them (not an American) looked at me and said "well...that's what you guys did." And essentially, he's right.