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Reading Newspapers In Mao’s China

February 6, 2016

I loved this snippet (below) on how newspapers were read like code in Mao’s China.  The book Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes looks at the year 1976 that saw the death Of Zhou Enlai, a massive and deadly earthquake, along with the death of Mao–all which will roil the nation.

It has been noted often when talking about either the U.S.S.R. or China that people from those countries had a habit of “reading the newspapers like they were code”.  In fact, that is how Mao’s intelligence chief described it.

As author James Palmer describes it, “Readers looked for subtle hints that pointed to a shift in the political wind or the fall of political figures both local and national.  They pored over photos, wondering why X was facing Y, speculating on the order of Maoist quotations used in speeches, and arguing over why one politician’s words had been given slightly more prominence than another’s.  Part of the reason for reading newspapers this way was because it was pretty pointless to read them for news or entertainment.

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