Propaganda art permeated every corner of life during the Cultural Revolution that they became inescapable to delegation members and their cameras. These images served to disseminate Mao’s instructions and to model mass behavior. Propaganda posters were found on the streets, in work units, and in classrooms, parks, and domestic living spaces. CCAS members observed and documented the overwhelming presence of these posters, whose contents ranged from general messages of proletarian solidarity to specific instructions for various political movements, from images of model workers and peasants to iconic illustrations of Chairman Mao.
One mural that stood out among many was the depiction of Mao waving to his followers after his historic swim in the Yangtze River in 1966. This prime moment was later rendered in various artistic formats to demonstrate Mao’s everlasting vigor and undefeatable leadership (Schoppa 2011, 245). The mural was designed to be an oversized work, dwarfing the person who stood in front of it.
At the dawn of the Chinese rapprochement with the United States, the level of hostile propaganda towards the United States remained high as indicated by a quantitative study of anti-U.S. rhetoric in the Peking Review throughout 1970 and 1971 (Garver 1980, 217). During their visits, a series of propaganda posters denouncing American Imperialism caught the eye of both delegations.
In the context of the founding statement of CCAS, those messages resonated with the sentiment of many members. Much to the second delegation’s amusement, the pastry chef at the guesthouse in Tangshan made a special cake with pink icing spelling out “Down with American imperialism” in Chinese characters. Joseph wrote in his memoir that the message on the cake was a testament to both sides’ strong opposition to U.S. policy in Vietnam (Joseph 2013, 25). Since they had learned that Chinese people drew a clear distinction between the American people and the American government, delegation members did not take offense at the cake; rather, they felt that it displayed a sense of humor.