Your Health! My Pursuit! China’s Hospital Ship Propaganda Posters
Sing-alongs, massages and Deng Xiaoping
Earlier this month, War is Boring took a guided tour of China’s hospital ship Peace Ark, docked at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham for the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercises. We saw a modern ship—albeit heavily reliant on foreign-produced medical equipment.
We also saw lots of propaganda posters.
Most of the images were left on the cutting room floor in our post. But not publishing them would fail to present a glimpse of the surreal experience that is walking around inside the gleaming goodwill ambassador of an authoritarian state.
Exuberantly cheery, heavy-handed and with a penchant for cults of personality, China has a message for the world and it’s selling it with gusto. Here are a few examples.
The cheerful image, bolted into the side of Peace Ark’s crew elevator, is from the ship’s September 2010 mission to Djibouti.
There’s really not much more to say about this one. According to a booklet provided to us titled Boundless Love—produced by the International Communication Bureau of China’s Ministry of National Defense—the nurses are teaching school children how to sing Chinese songs.
Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, is seen here. Green is a recurring motif aboard the ship, symbolizing health.
It’s worth noting the clapping nurse in the previous photo, Head Nurse Wang Wenzhen of the People’s Liberation Army No. 413 Hospital, is a 2009 recipient of the Florence Nightingale Medal.
Okay, this is when things start getting a little weird.
We have a flotilla of warships, which is slightly out of tone with the humanitarian-centric images elsewhere. We also have Deng Xiaoping—the architect of Chinese economic reform—letting white doves fly, Prince style.
To add to the effect, we could hear upbeat Chinese martial music coming from a speaker around a corner. It’s not quite Purple Rain, but it leaves an impression.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Chinese naval vessel without an appearance by Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping.
The vessels in the photograph include Peace Ark and its armed escorts, beneath a People’s Liberation Army flag. The takeaway? Look out for numero uno.
Unfortunately, our escorts hurried us throughout the ship, so we couldn’t get a closer look at the other posters seen here at a glance.
This cheerful poster greets visitors to the vessel. Bonus points for the rainbow.
Note the lack of a naval uniform or insignia. This one’s more on the generic, civilian side.
Peace Ark can handle some pretty heavy surgeries, but its posters promote the lighter touch. Massages are big.
As we noted, Peace Ark is a Chinese ship, so it has a facility on board for traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and cupping therapy.
The nurse here applies cups, heats them up, which creates a suction effect, pulling the skin upwards.
Modern scientific studies do not support claims that cupping therapy can cure diseases—as practitioners often claim. But like massage, it can work as a stress-reliever and a relaxer.
For this final photo, we’re not using a poster. But we have to include Peace Ark’s seal.
Here’s why: Take a close look at the bright red spots in the South China Sea.