The Shanghai Mounted PoliceWritten by Julen Madariaga on March 19th, 2009
My anonymous friend N. has sent in this picture recently taken in an underground station in Shanghai Xuhui. It is a poster depicting a (Kazakh?) horseman riding with a baby just at the moment when a Shanghai policeman has engaged him in a vicious exchange of toothiness.
Government slogans are some of the phrases that I find most difficult to translate from Chinese, perhaps because they don’t usually make sense. Anyway, here is my take: “Policemen harmoniously build peace”. And the three sub-slogans on top: “Penetrate the bases”, “Penetrate reality”, “Penetrate the masses”.
Yeah, said like this, it sounds like something out of 1984, but that’s only if you are not used to Chinese government slogans. This is a PR campaign that has been done many times before in China. The objective is to show the police close to the people, as explained in this old article in the Xuhui district website.
We already saw some similar campaigns in late 2008, and more are sure to come this year, as the government takes every possible measure to avert risks of instability.
On the other hand, I am not sure how necessary this is. From my own observations, policemen here don’t have the bad image they have in some places in the West. They tend to be quite humble, they rarely use violence, and they get yelled at by the citizens they are supposed to protect. More than once I’ve had them visit my house at midnight, just to shyly ask us to please turn down the music and try to not let more people in if we don’t mind.
So I have to say that, at least in Shanghai, the government has done a good job of managing police PR. Even I find it hard to believe that it is this same 公安 (police) who arrests activists and bloggers, the same who kicks villagers out of their old houses marked for destruction.