Public confessions are repression spectacles that have appeared in different regimes and historical periods. This study theorizes an indoctrination dimension of repression—the turning of punishment into a control tool that displays the regime’s apparent transformative power. Whereas repression is often defined by its inhibiting dimension, this study argues that authorities stage repressive spectacles not only to deter further dissent but also as an instrument of “thought reform,” a governance tradition in China. The study finds two indoctrinating narratives based on an interpretive analysis of a dataset of televised confessions in China. First, confessions show a doctrine of political dissident as traitorous and immoral. Second, they convey a doctrine of rectification that displays the seemingly transformative power of the regime, one in which transgressors perform law-abiding citizens. These findings advance the conceptual refinement of repression by analyzing its indoctrination dimension.

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