This 1987 poster reads “Less births, better births, to develop China vigorously.” The Chinese government became much more serious about the One Child Policy in the 1980s, and this poster was certainly part of that message. The government wanted people to believe that having fewer children would benefit the country as China moved towards modernization and prosperity. In other words, having fewer children was a patriotic duty.
The poster presents a family that the Chinese government presumably thought those who saw the poster would want to emulate. The parents are young, healthy-looking (or vigorous, as the caption suggests), dressed well (and western), and smiling. His hand on her back and the mother’s arms around her child lend them the aura of an affectionate family. And the father is carrying what looks like it could be a book, perhaps a symbol of education or business success. Both of the adults are depicted in motion, suggesting the forward moving trajectory of the country itself. The fact that the child is on her mother’s shoulder is important too because that indicates how the parents are investing themselves in her to help her reach higher. The toddler’s red shoes are the only red images on the poster aside from the text, but they are a subtle reminder that China itself will rise with this generation if parents act responsibly. The fact that child is a daughter could also mean that the government wanted parents to welcome girls as much as they would welcome sons and to give them the same opportunities to thrive that boys receive.
The background is a bit strange; the family looks as though they are going for a stroll through outer space. Space itself is futuristic I suppose, so it may be indicating the future and the bright tomorrow of China. And there is that little sun tucked away in the upper right hand corner. I almost missed it because it’s not red the way it often seems to be in Chinese artwork, but it is there and positioned in such a way that the little girl’s arms are almost reaching for it. This is a family ready to lead the way to a brighter future for China!