The flag of China is immediately recognizable by its red color and five-star pattern, but what does this iconic flag represent?
The National Flag of the People’s Republic of China, sometimes called the Five-star Red Flag, features five stars, which represent the unity of the Chinese people under the authority of the Chinese Communist Party.
The flag of China represents the unity of the people and their connection to the Chinese Communist Party, but there’s a lot more to the story of how this flag was conceptualized and what each individual star represents that we’ll discuss in this article.
The History of China’s Present-Day Flag
On the 4th of July, 1949, a notice was submitted detailing a list of requirements for the national flag of China, including the following:
- Inclusion of Chinese characteristics
- A representation of the power dynamic
- The color scheme of bright red
Through several iterations, the Chinese flag became what it is today. The bright red color symbolizes the Chinese Communist Revolution, a period of revolution that led to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. The striking red color is more specifically a homage to the martyrs who died for the cause.
The large star on the flag was declared to be the Chinese Communist Party, embodying its leading role in the nation and its policies.
Each of the smaller stars were associated with the four social classes in the coalition that supported the PRC: the proletariat, the peasants, the bourgeoisie, and the patriotic capitalists.
These stars were the four revolutionary classes as described by Mao Zedong: shi, nong, gong, and shang. Originally, the design also featured a hammer and sickle, a symbol of solidarity among the working class, in the center, but the designer Zeng felt it made the flag too similar to the Soviet flag.
These classes were originally described and labeled in accordance with Marxist philosophy. The goal behind the development of the flag was meant to represent the eschewing of traditional government, particularly the landlord system, rural exploitation, and imperialism—all of which were staunchly opposed by the ideologies guiding the Chinese Communist Revolution.
Modern interpretations of the flag have changed, with the largest star said to stand for China itself, while the smaller stars represent the country’s numerous minorities. Some argue that these four smaller gold stars don’t just represent China’s history, but also the four elements: water, earth, fire, and air.
The golden yellow color of the stars symbolizes the color of the Qing and Manchu dynasty and thus the power of the imperial family as a whole.
Such a straightforward flag design hides a massive amount of detail under the surface. From the simple red background symbolizing the blood of the martyrs to the meticulously placed golden stars identifying the four classes, the minorities of China, and the unity of the Chinese people under the People’s Republic of China, this simple design contains some very deep symbols.