The dramatic retelling of a decisive Korean War battle between Chinese soldiers and United Nations-led military forces broke box office records last month, becoming the third-highest-grossing film of all time in China, according to state media, amid a new impulse for patriotism. only historical records of the Communist Party.
Released in early October during China’s National Day, The Battle at Lake Changjin is set in November 1950 and tells of how Chinese soldiers forced a withdrawal of UN troops from the Choisin Reservoir in present-day North Korea.
The film has already earned $875.5 million (RMB 5.6 billion) since its opening on September 30, according to e-ticketing platform Maoyan, and it is still showing in some cinemas in China more than a month after opening. .
The Battle at Lake Changjin was commissioned by the Chinese government in the run-up to the Communist Party’s 100th anniversary this year, and it’s the latest in a series of patriotic war films to hit Chinese theaters in recent years. .
Other notable hits include the epic The Korean War, The Sacrifice, The Eight Hundred, which tells the story of the 1937 battle of Shanghai between the invading Japanese forces and the National Revolutionary Army, and The Wolf Warrior action movie franchise about contemporary soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army.
In China, the Korean War is officially known as the War to “Resist American Aggression and Help Korea”, and it has inspired multiple movies – but this time the story has changed. According to a review by the Washington Post newspaper, The Battle at Lake Changjin highlights the defeat of the United States rather than China’s close ties to North Korea.
“The Korean War has always been used as propaganda by Beijing — that’s nothing new — but I think what’s new in recent years is the heightened level of nationalism, as well as the new conditions China and the United States are in,” Adam Ni, a China watcher and editor of the China Neican newsletter, told VOA.
“The Battle of Lake Changjin,” Ni said, “speaks at the moment” of deteriorating US-China relations — as well as the party’s renewed emphasis on China’s history and an accompanying crackdown on “historic nihilism” that threatens it. official account of events questions .
In one of the most high-profile incidents, Chinese journalist Luo Changping was arrested in early October for criticizing The Battle at Lake Changjin. The New York Times. Luo wrote on social media that more than 50 years later, “few Chinese have thought about the justification of the war.”
Luo’s criticism couldn’t have come at a worse time, however, as the party celebrated its 100th anniversary on October 1. Central Committee — a gathering of more than 300 of China’s top leaders in Beijing.
“The Party sees building a historical narrative as an integral part of its power and of its legitimacy, so that’s why historical nihilism is being dealt with pretty hard – people who have visions of historical events that are different from the Party in a way. which the party considers them harmful,” Ni said.
This trend is already making its way into popular culture, where the party is “correcting the entertainment industry,” he said, by rewarding more patriotic films and expelling more submissive ones. Less than a month after the success of The Battle at Lake Changjin, the government has already announced a sequel – although other films may be less fortunate.
“The party has a lot of resources and if your agenda overlaps, if your aesthetic and creative agenda overlaps with the party’s, it can be a lucrative market opportunity because the party influences market opportunities,” Ni said. “But on the other hand, you come across ‘boy love’ (LGBTQ theme) stories or fantasy stories… you could be creatively and commercially successful, but on the other hand, you run the political risk of upsetting the party.” .”