Grey Room

Socialist Multimedia Warfare: Cine-Exhibition of Class Struggle in 1960s China

Belinda Qian He

Shanghai Science and Education Film Studio. Buwang jiejiku yongji xuehaichou (Never forget class bitterness, forever remember the hatred in the sea of blood), 1965. 35 mm and 16 mm film, sound, black and white. Frame enlargements.


On July 11, 1965, a young man named Zhang Daocheng, a journalist for the magazine China Youth, wrote in his diary with enthusiasm about a documentary film screening he had just attended at Xinhua Theater in Beijing, China. He had missed the temporary jieji jiaoyu zhan (class-education exhibition) that his classmates had visited in Shandong in 1964 but was finally able to “visit and see” the exhibition by watching the documentary film in the movie theater. Buwang jiejiku yongji xuehaichou (Never forget class bitterness, forever remember the hatred in the sea of blood; NFCB), the 1965 film mentioned in Zhang’s diary, is a fifty-seven-minute documentary about the exhibition Buke wangji jieji douzheng Shandongsheng jieji jiaoyu zhanlanhui (Never forget class struggle: The class-education exhibition in Shandong). The film mainly contains still shots of exhibition objects at varying scales, footage of the exhibition and exhibition-goers’ reactions, various sets of photographs, re-created pictures, newspaper headline inserts, and other kinds of newsreel and found footage.

How were the exhibition/museum, cinema, and pidou (denouncing and struggling) interrelated? How did cinema function not only as documentary but as a mode of mass agitation and an impetus for the group gatherings, discussions, and struggle meetings with their trial-like encounters that blur and negotiate the legal and extralegal divide? In this article, I explore the mutually constitutive dynamics of socialist exhibition and cinema vis-à-vis pidou. Building on Denise Ho’s work on exhibitionary culture as not only reflecting but also performing Chinese communist revolution, I turn to the little-studied exhibition-cinema dynamic that I term cine-exhibition. Through the case study of the Shandong class-education cine-exhibition, I navigate various acts of exposure, denunciation, and struggle that emerged in museum exhibits, films, and other kinds of moving images in 1960s China.