Serve the People

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The slogan displayed at Sun Yat-sen University.

"Serve the People" or "Service for the People" (Chinese: 为人民服务; pinyin: wèi rénmín fúwù) is a political slogan which first appeared in Mao-era China. It originates from the title of a speech by Mao Zedong, delivered on September 8, 1944. The slogan was also widely used in the United States by students and youth during the Asian American movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.[citation needed] The slogan was very popular due to the strong Maoist influence on the New Left, considerably amongst the Red Guard Party, the Black Panther Party, and the Yellow Brotherhood of West Los Angeles.[citation needed]


Mao Zedong wrote this speech to commemorate the death of a PLA Soldier, Zhang Side, a participant in the Long March who died in the collapse of a kiln. In the speech he quoted a phrase written by the famous Han Dynasty historian Sima Qian, "Though death befalls all men alike, it may be heavy as Mount Tai or light as a feather." (“人固有一死,或重于泰山,或轻于鸿毛。”). Mao continued: "To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather. Comrade Zhang Side died for the people, and his death is indeed weightier than Mount Tai."

The concept of "Serving the People", together with other slogans such as "Never benefit oneself, always benefit others" and "Tireless struggle" became core principles of the Communist Party of China

Role during the Cultural Revolution[edit]

During the Cultural Revolution, the speech was widely read. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was frequently seen wearing a pin emblazoned with the slogan "Serve the People" next to a portrait of Mao Zedong.

Roles in modern society[edit]

Ceremonial role[edit]

Although less often used in China today, the phrase still plays some important ceremonial roles. It is inscribed on the screen wall facing the front entrance of the Zhongnanhai compound, which houses the headquarters of the Central People's Government and the Communist Party of China.

During inspection of troops in the People's Liberation Army, the following ceremonial exchange is carried out:

Inspecting official: "Greetings, Comrades!" (同志们好 tóng zhì men hǎo)
Troops: "Greetings, Leader!" (首长好 shǒu zhǎng hǎo)
Inspecting official: "Comrades [you] have worked hard." (同志们辛苦了 tóng zhì men xīn kǔ le)
Troops: "Serving the people!" (为人民服务 wèi rén mín fú wù)

Cultural role[edit]

In 2007, actress Cameron Diaz caused a minor controversy by carrying a bag with the "Serve the People" slogan in Chinese on a tour of Peru. Many Peruvians felt the bag to be a show of support for the Maoist movement Shining Path.[1]

Writer Yan Lianke wrote a satirical novel set during the Cultural Revolution titled Serve the People about an affair between the wife of a military officer and a peasant soldier.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Davis, Caris (2007-06-25), "Cameron Diaz Apologizes for Fashion Faux Pas", People Magazine, retrieved 2010-04-28 
  2. ^ Toy, Mary-Anne (2007-07-28), "A pen for the people", The Age, retrieved 2010-04-28 
  3. ^ Schillinger, Liesl (2008-05-04), "Kissing the Cook", New York Times, retrieved 2008-04-28 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°32′34″N 94°19′37″E / 42.54278°N 94.32694°E / 42.54278; 94.32694