Chinese government photoshop disaster goes viral

A crummy government photoshop propaganda disaster in China has turned into a meme among Chinese netizens, who are furiously remixing three enthusiastic government officials into all manner of situations:
On the evening of June 26, an Internet user made a post titled "Too fake: the propaganda photo for our county" at the Tianya Forum. "I had nothing to do today so I visited the website for our county government. The headline story was about the upgrade for the road to the countryside. I looked at the photo and I almost coughed out half a liter of blood! Even a rank amateur like myself can tell that this was a PhotoShop job, and they had the nerve to put this on the home page!" The post included a screen capture of a photo, in which three men were "floating" over a road. There were clear indications that this was a composite job. According to the caption: "County mayor Li Ningyi and vice-mayor Tang Xiaobing are inspecting the newly constructed country road at Lihong Town." This post drew plenty of readers, and the Huili County Government website was even down for a while because of the heavy traffic volume.

On the afternoon of June 27, our reader interviewed the Huili County Government publicity department director Zhang Yongzhi. According to Zhang, several county leaders went out to inspect the road. An accompanying worker took some photos for the record. But when it came to posting onto the website, the worker decided that "the background of the original photo did not look very good" so a decision was made to crop the leaders onto a different background. The Huili County Government has removed all relevant information and reprimanded the worker who handled the photo. The Huili County Government issued an apology at the Tianya Forum and the Sina.com Weibo.

These are just a smattering of the remixes collected at EastSouthWestNorth; click through below for the full set.

The Three Levitating Government Officials

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  1. First of all, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the real photos. They look like three guys inspecting a nice new road in the countryside.

    Second, the one with giant Jesus is the best.

    1. That link returns a “NO Permissions” notice, plus a 404.

      I really wanted to see that image, to go along with my recent reading of Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. But I hear Pope Benny is launching his own LulzSec-style campaign. He’s crowd-sourcing the hacking; 10,000 heretic names, 1 middling decent indulgence. Good for at least 2 mortal sins.

      1. It’s at the main link. I guess I’ll delink it in my comment. It worked when I checked it.

  2. From the people I have known most mainland Chinese even with enough motivation to visit and study or work in the US is that they are actually pretty blindly patriotic and supportive of the system. Poking fun at local officials doing something toolish like this is acceptable because it make the individuals look like asshats but it is extraordinarily rare to find a mainland Chinese person who doesn’t support the current system which provides everyone with order at nearly any cost. Maybe it is self selection but current Chinese culture seeks order and economic growth with little thought of the western neo-religion of freedom, civil rights, and democracy that most of us hold so dear.

    1. Which is why there’s never been an event like Tiananmen Square. Or a Uighur uprising. Or massive wildcat strikes.

      Chinese exceptionalism is the new Arab exceptionalism.

      1. Back way too late in the thread, I was just giving my sad anecdotal report that the freedom I would fight and die for to pass to my and your kids is considered a dangerous nuisance by many of the Chinese students and immigrants to the US, UK and middle east. My impression of these Chinese people is much like my feelings for patriot act 9-11 Amerikans, they make me afraid for the future.
        Sure some people have stood up but they are so few now and perhaps they have learned the intended lesson, don’t stick your head up, this is not Poland or East Germany in 1990.
        I desperately want freedom and individual civil rights for everyone but while I treat it as a religious obligation it seems like much of the world considers it a scary cult much like pre-collapse Communism, proselytizing religions, or Amway.

        1. rebdav, I’m honestly curious, what did you do when the Patriot Act was passed? I guessing it’s nothing as dramatic as “fight and die”? And what did you do to convince “patriot act 9-11 Amerikans” of the errors of their ways? Not “fight and die” either I assume? And while you “desperately want freedom and individual civil rights for everyone” and “treat it as a religious obligation”, what have you done for it? Not “fight and die” surely?

          Why? Is it because you realised that your fighting and dying isn’t going to accomplish much when the rest of the country or the rest of the world is largely apathetic? In the last UK election 35% of the eligible voters did not vote, and similar numbers abstained from voting in the last US election. There are just a large number of people everywhere in the world who don’t give a damn about politics as long as there’s food on the table and a roof over their heads. It probably the same in China – a large number of people just don’t care about politics and their day-to-day living never run the risk of breaking the law, however restrictive the laws may be. Hell, the apathy in China is probably worse since there’s has never been a democratic culture. And the rest of them are just like you – they want freedom, probably yearning for it with every ounce of strength in their body, but just like you they are not idealists and know that had they fought and died without popular support, they will most likely have accomplished absolutely nothing.

          1. Agreed.

            Apathy is not nation-specific. And we have a tendency here in the U.S. to project about people and places we know little to nothing about. It’s either “Those automaton Communists working in sweatshops stealing our jobs!’ or ‘poor oppressed masses yearning for Freedom: how terrible’

            When most of the people, anywhere, are concerned with the day-to-day concerns of existence: ‘I’m hungry. The wife wants a BMW. The mare wont milk. The kids need shoes. Gawd the boss is an ass. Roofs leaking, gotta fix it. Uh oh here comes the Janjaweed, better hide. Aww the maize crop is stunted again.’ etc etc

            If people are allowed to work, start a business, love who they want, eat enough, take care of the basic needs of modern life with a modicum of ease and dignity: they generally don’t feel the need to protest in the streets. And of course not everyone gets to do those things: the world is capricious and unfair.

            But if enough people are fairly free and unfettered: status quo. And even if many lack much of the freedoms and privileges we take for granted: they will continue on with the daily struggle of living their lives as best they can as human beings.

            Only when the majority feel something important is being taken from them, or basic rights violated…that’s when the sheep become wolves.

            Then governments better take heed. Though often times it come too late, and the sowing of myopic corruption and repression leads to the reaping of ash and blood.

            That being said: got many lulz from the pics above!!

          2. I have given up much in the fight for freedom, all non violent doesnt mean no consequences, but it has made my life better even if so far I have not seen concrete success. I still can have a positive affect though, hope you do too.

    2. it is extraordinarily rare to find a mainland Chinese person who doesn’t support the current system

      Of course, you won’t find anyone who doesn’t support the system. Someone is listening when you talk to them and prepared to make them disappear if they say the wrong thing. Parents of children killed by tainted milk or sub-standard schools that collapsed in recent earthquakes have been harassed, beaten and arrested for simply trying to get information.

    3. Well, that depends on what subset of emigrant PRCers you’re dealing with. Most of the scholars and a lot of migrants are sponsored by the CCP (for various reasons) or are able to leave due to connections within the country… in order to get where they’ve gotten to, most of this lot have drunk a whole lot of Kool-Aid. On the other hand, quite a few leave by, ahem, other means… these people don’t take such a bright view of the direction China is traveling in.

    4. From the people I have known most mainland Chinese even with enough motivation to visit and study or work in the US is that they are actually pretty blindly patriotic and supportive of the system. Poking fun at local officials doing something toolish like this is acceptable because it make the individuals look like asshats but it is extraordinarily rare to find a mainland Chinese person who doesn’t support the current system which provides everyone with order at nearly any cost. Maybe it is self selection but current Chinese culture seeks order and economic growth with little thought of the western neo-religion of freedom, civil rights, and democracy that most of us hold so dear.

      Most Chinese are not blindly patriotic but I am amazed so few westerners know anything about Chinese history. Most Chinese are more frightened of the country dissolving into chaos as has happened many times in Chinese history than a bad government a long way away. They would rather live with a bad government than face each other – ie a society breaking down into militias and warlords.

      Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny.
      — Lloyd Biggle, Jr. Analog, Apr 1961

  3. Some of those photoshops are pretty amusing. The original photos weren’t bad, so not sure why they had a problem with it.

    The photoshop job though, horrible.

    While many will find it amusing, these three probably have no sense of humour and will be looking to cut off some heads.

    1. I can only guess at the logic for not using the originals but:
      in the first one the officials are posed well enough, but the road looks dirty and used. In the second photo, the road looks nice and clean and new, but the officials are in the background and not posing for the photo.

      I’d have just used the second photo, it looks okay to me, but I’m not a propaganda mill worker.

  4. Actually, I’ve got to give the photoshopper props for placement of the figures. Spot on, with no extra limbs!

    It’s just that there’s no agreement/harmony between the direction/intensity of the light source and the shadows.

    1. And the god awful tinkering of the saturation slider. I find that much more offensive than the lack of shadowing/lighting correction.

  5. Any info on the one of the pics where the woman peed herself? Looks like she has a bloody arm and no one seems interested in helping her.

  6. The obvious mash-up would be the three of them inspecting Abbey Road — but I have jury duty in the morning.

  7. I like how the last photo at the link isn’t particularly funny or anything, but there is a girl in a cute outfit. Didn’t even notice the three officials in the background at first.

  8. @ rebdev –
    Why do you think so many of them migrate? They hate the crime, the shameless corruption… at least, this is what the many of the Chinese I know in Australia say. (Though they also complain the food in Western countries is shit).
    That said, i don’t think China will ever evolve into an America/UK/USA democracy, but neither will it turn into a faux democracy like they have in Japan.

    1. Please elaborate on the Japanese “faux democracy”? Last I checked, there are free elections and referendums up the wazoo at every level of government, with coalitions governments being common. And unlike, say, in the US, third-party and independent candidates stand a real chance of gaining a significant share of the vote and even being elected for regional offices.

      IMO, the remarkable thing about Japanese politics is that governments resign based on poll numbers.

  9. Of course, you won’t find anyone who doesn’t support the system. Someone is listening when you talk to them and prepared to make them disappear if they say the wrong thing.

    Um, how many PRC citizens do you know? How much time have you spent in the PRC?

    Things certainly are far from ideal in the PRC and situations like the ones you described happen but that’s no reason to make stuff up. The Chinese are not brainless automatons who are afraid to speak their minds. The “system” has allowed hundreds of millions of Chinese to lead Western-style middle-class lives (many college-educated Beijing and Shanghai residents make more money than I do in Western Europe). You and I may hold overwhelmingly negative views of their political system but it’s not hard to see how the Chinese focus on the positive things it has brought them.

    1. Um, how many PRC citizens do you know? How much time have you spent in the PRC?

      Is this the new rule, that you have to pretend that everything is hunky dory in any country that you’ve never visited? I’m sure that everyone in the USSR under Stalin would have told you what a great leader he was, but I won’t bring it up since I can’t time travel to verify it to your exacting standards.

      1. No. All I’m saying is that ordinary Chinese aren’t constantly afraid of secret police overhearing their conversations as you claimed. They may not have all the political freedoms you take for granted but they are nowhere near as oppressed (in their daily lives) as you make them out to be.

        1. My comment said that there would be someone listening when they were speaking to somebody from outside the country, a story that has been verified hundreds or thousands of times by journalists who have tried to talk to Chinese citizens about anything that the government might find controversial.

          1. Okay, you’re talking about foreign media, not private conversations. Entirely different situation. Not good, agreed, but happens elsewhere too: the US doesn’t let Iranian journalists reporting for Iranian media travel freely within the US.

          2. What are you talking about? are you implying that there is as much freedom of the press in the PRC as there is in the US?

          3. the US doesn’t let Iranian journalists reporting for Iranian media travel freely within the US.

            Thank you! That’s Futile Attempt to Establish Moral Equivalency #37!

            According to the checklist, I only have five more to find before I complete the whole set!

          4. Okay, you’re talking about foreign media, not private conversations.

            Are any foreigners, of any kind, allowed to travel freely and have private conversations with citizens who aren’t Party members? Can you just take a bus to the country and chat with the locals?

          5. China is not North Korea. While some regions, such as Tibet and Xinjiang, are “closed off” and require special permits to enter(which any good travel agent can arrange, barring times of ethnic unrest), the rest of the country is pretty much open to foreigner.

            I’ve heard through others at hostels that Westerners have hired drivers to drive to the abandoned sections of the Great Wall, and hiked and camped along the Wall for days. I know people who have rented bikes and rode unaccompanied from Chongqing to Wulong to see pandas. There are regular ferries on the Amur between Russia and the border town where my grandparents live, carrying boat-loads of Russians everyday who come to China to shop. I’ve had a European friend accompanying my mother and aunt to my grandmother’s funeral in the countryside. Hell, my family is legally speaking foreign, and we certainly travel freely in the country.

            Honestly it is difficult to imagine to the sheer number of foreigners living and travelling in China at any given time. I’ve been to China every year since 2000, and out of the ca. 20 train journeys I’ve made in the country, I’ve shared a sleeper compartment with foreigners twice. And this is to and from a city in the north-east that most people have never heard of. I’ve been there with foreign friends numerous times as well.

            It’s simply impossible for the Chinese government to monitor the interactions between its citizens and foreigners when they are letting in foreigners in such huge numbers and largely allow them to travel freely. Unless you are a big-name foreign journalist and/or travelling with a large television crew, or distributing anti-government pamphlets in the middle of Beijing, no one really cares what you do as a foreigner.

        2. I just came back recently from a month working in Shanghai. What you say is true: you don’t get the sense of living in a police state there at all. However, Shanghai is not the rest of China. It is considered a bit “outside” of the general culture in China. And even in Shanghai, I had to watch what I always wanted to say. It was a bit disconcerting. I don’t take kindly to anyone ever telling me what I can or cannot say or think.

          Also, I found that many Chinese were simply uninformed about many other things in the world because they simply are not exposed to it. At the hotel, it was a given that any guests would be using a proxy to bypass the Chinese firewall, but outside of that environment, many Chinese never even heard of such a thing and were simply unaware of there being a firewall which really limits them.

          In fact, I would say that even some of them who worked in the office were completely uninformed on certain subjects. For instance, though all of them in the office worked with computers online, and talked to people internationally, almost none of them had even HEARD of Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter (then again, maybe that isn’t so bad… =) ). It was a little strange. They all had heard of Baidu of course, and used it every day. But anything that wasn’t Chinese was barely commented on, or even known.

          At least, that was my experience. Then again, one thing I did learn in China is that when people say that they don’t know something, they don’t always mean it (as it may get them into trouble, or they may have difficulty explaining exactly, or a variety of reasons). And another thing I learned is that Shanghai alone is so vast that you can have a totally different experience from office to office, even given that China can be so Homogeneous.

          But, again, Shanghai is privileged. And if people in Shanghai are unwilling to admit that they have heard of these sites, or have critical assessments of the government (which I didn’t get into with them as I didn’t want them to get into trouble), you can bet it’s a world away from what people experience outside of the privileged cities.

          Anyway, I still love Shanghai, I am not writing this to bash on the Chinese in any way, I am probably returning in several months for another month or so, and I don’t wish to get into a flame war. I just wanted to add in my two cents and anecdotal comment (which isn’t scientific, I know.) =)

          1. “I just came back recently from a month working in Shanghai.”

            I think this right here is part of the problem.

            Speaking critically of the Chinese government will get you in trouble. Not each and every time, and you don’t get shot for it, unlike most people in the West seem to think, but in the long run it will land you in a lot of trouble. Most Chinese people know this perfectly well. Like many things, we may consider them “crimes” not so much because they are immoral acts in themselves, but simply because the law says so, and doing them will get you in trouble.

            Now, the people I know, both in the West and in China, are usually not very keen on speaking to people they barely know (e.g. someone they worked with for only a month, or worse, random person on the street claiming to be a journalist) about the petty crimes they have committed, whether it’s smoking marijuana, moonshining, being gay, using illegal proxies, or criticising their governments. They don’t think what they are doing is “really” criminal, they don’t really think you’ll report them to the authorities, but they know it’s illegal, and want to keep quiet about it. There’s nothing specifically Chinese about it.

            A lot of Chinese people harbour a lot of unflattering opinions about the Chinese government, and I hear more than my fill just from my Chinese relatives. But then again, my relatives don’t go around telling people they barely know.

            And failure to understand the subtle cultural differences within another large group of people does not make said group homogeneous. Really, with a tiny amount of generalisation we can pretty much call any group of people homogeneous – Europe: mostly white people, mostly Christian in culture, mostly cheese-eating.

            Summer Seale, I’m sorry if this sounds like I’m attacking you specifically. I’m not. I’m just trying to address some of the common misconceptions about China, with a little help from your post of course.

          2. “Summer Seale, I’m sorry if this sounds like I’m attacking you specifically. I’m not. I’m just trying to address some of the common misconceptions about China, with a little help from your post of course.”

            No offense taken. =)

            I probably could have said some things better, but posting from work is limiting in posting time. However, when I said “homogeneous”, I did mean that many in China display certain aspects of it more than others in the West. We have somebody in our office who works in China and lives there full time with a Chinese wife. He’s black. He doesn’t fit in and he knows it. It’s very difficult for him. He’s an angel of a man who is very soft spoken and patient, but you can sense the frustration at times when going out to dinner with him etc….

            BTW, I didn’t just mean racially homogeneous because, contrary to popular belief, China is comprised of many races. Most of us in the West can’t see the differences I suppose but yes, I know it’s true. =)

            I totally understand about the things you posted about though and I do agree.

          3. “almost none of them had even HEARD of Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter”

            Umm… have you heard of Sina, Renren, Baidu, Sohu, Tudou, and Taobao? Your view is American-centric, no?

  10. One: At least we’ve established that the Chinese, unlike say, the Japanese, have a healthy appreciation of irony.

    Two: Why does China apparently have a have a park statue of two nice ladies lezzin’ it up hardcore?

  11. “The Huili County Government has removed all relevant information and reprimanded the worker who handled the photo.” – “reprimand the worker” – probably means that the worker is now “missing” = dead

  12. This has got nothing to do with freedom of speech, press or anything else. Chinese love taking the piss out of stupid officials just as much as anyone else. There have been Chinese memes that poke fun at Hu Jin-tao himself. So long as you’re not influential or your remarks are unlikely to provoke serious anti CCP sentiment, racial tensions or a popular uprising it’s pretty safe to take the piss on the interwebs.. wait interweb.. they only have one.

  13. Many older folks having lived through the cultural revolution are probably scared of things ever getting back to that level terror and cruelty. Probably one reason why many are willing to put up with the autocratic government.

  14. @anon #37

    What is with the woman lying on the ground at the stairs?
    Is she perhaps deceased? Looks awful and inappropriate to joke about imo. :P :(

    I wondered about that. I expected it was a street vendor being beaten up by the authorities. Turns out I was probably right. A quick google image search on the image gave this:
    Link
    (google is giving me very strange urls ATM)

    Which led to this:
    http://tieba.baidu.com/f?kz=1112945654
    or translated:
    http://translate.google.com.au/translate?hl=en&sl=zh-CN&u=http://tieba.baidu.com/f%3Fkz%3D1112945654

    1. If you use The URL Shortener That Must Not Be Named, your comment will not appear publicly.

      1. Oh, OK, I didn’t know that. Just out of interest, what’s wrong with TUSTMNBN? Are there any acceptable shorteners? I didn’t know how to do a link like that. html “a” tag?

  15. I can second the comments above about that suggest the PRC doesn’t feel oppressed when you’re there.

    I lived there for a year with my wife and son a few years back. I studied the language; my wife (a native Mandarin speaker) occupied herself with various cookery courses and a ‘teaching Chinese as a foreign language’ course; our son went to a local kindergarten with local Chinese kids. We rented an apartment in an area with no other foreigners, commuted by bike, made friends, travelled freely around the country by train and ate lots of strange food. At no time did it feel like a police state. In fact there is often a greater police presence on the street in the UK and US.

    Given the choice I’d choose to visit China again over a return visit to the USA. No TSA and less likelihood of being mugged and shot if you mistakenly wander into the wrong part of town.

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