The book, film and art that made headlines in China in 2021
FFrom “Western aesthetics” to “revisionist stories,” Chinese politics and society in 2021 – just like in recent years – have opposed certain ideas and representations. There is always another book on a “sensitive” subject like the Alliance of Eight Nations or a film featuring the United States that will create a new controversy in China. We watch the movies, books, and art that have inspired strong emotions, and of course, controversy.
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Chinese hit movies
The Korean War of the 1950s is a theme on which around ten television series and films are made in China each year. The commemoration of past wars stimulates nationalist sentiment among the Chinese. But nothing compares to the latest blockbuster sponsored by the Chinese Communist Party The Battle of Changjin Lake which aimed to squeeze the nerve of nationalism. The film, which recently won The Golden Deer at the Changchun Film Festival, is a tale of the battle which is also known as the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, after the Japanese name for Changjin Lake in North Korea.
the budget for The Battle of Changjin Lake was a whopping $ 200 million, making it China’s most expensive film to date. The film is also the second-biggest box office success in Chinese cinema history. The film made a Business $ 905 million to date, making it the top-performing blockbuster in China for 2021.
The moment of The Battle of Changjin LakeThe release of is no coincidence, as the film targets a country that is moving from a love affair with China to its nemesis – the United States. Geopolitics is not taken as lightly by the Chinese as it could be in America.
The film follows in the tradition of recent Communist Party cinema, omitting the hardships of Chinese soldiers who fought against American forces. The portrayal of Chinese soldiers as cold, hardened warriors, who defeated American forces with sheer bravery is a pastiche of the Communist Party that people have gobbled up like dumplings. Government-approved propaganda films have a history in China, but new inflated budgets and special effects attempt to create visually appealing narratives like The Battle of Changjin Lake.
No one expected the film to tell us how Mao sent over 300,000 soldiers on a suicidal mission, but there was hope of sobriety. What we got instead was on the expected lines – flaky nationalism. The film ignores the fact that 180,000 Chinese soldiers were kill in the Korean War.
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Liu Qikun’s “Drug Book”
Not just movies, writing books in Chinese has also become more and more difficult. Stories that deviate from the official line are often targeted. The recent title The Eight Nations Alliance is a righteous army by Liu Qikun, born in Beijing, was drawn in Hong Kong bookstores. However, bookstores said the book actually sold out quickly after being criticized by pro-China media. The book was published in Chinese by China Times Publishing, based in Taiwan.
This is not the first reception of this type of Liu. He immigrated to Canada in the 1980s and wrote novels that criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its control over society. In this book, he wrote that the war waged by the Eight Nations Alliance was for a just cause in order to avoid a humanitarian crisis. The battle was waged to protect the rights of foreigners and missionaries in China which were suppressed by the Qing Empire.
Chinese state media classified Liu’s book as a “drug book,” a term used for a forbidden book that does not correspond to the thinking of the Communist Party. the World time in Chinese alleged that the book violated Hong Kong’s new national security law. “Under the banner of revisionist history, the book exaggerated the killings committed by the ‘Boxers’ and the tolerance of the Qing Manchu government towards the ‘Boxers’… The book ignored the fact that countless villages and towns were reduced to ruins and a large number of people were slaughtered in China ”, wrote Ye Lan, the World time correspondent in Hong Kong.
In June 1900, Boxer rebels (those who were part of the local militia who knew martial arts – called “Chinese boxing”) and Chinese imperial troops attacked foreign diplomats from several nations in legations as they sought to push back. Europeans are present in China.
The Eight Nation Alliance comprising Britain, Russia, France, Japan, Germany, United States, Italy and Austria-Hungary counterattacked Boxer rebels and Imperial troops Chinese, leading to multiple battles and the final siege of Beijing (now Beijing). The conflict between the two parties ended with the signing of the Box Protocol in 1901.
As expected, Liu’s book sparked controversy as the official CCP account portrays the Eight Nation Alliance as an aggressor against China.
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Western standards of Asian beauty
Chinese nationalism is at odds even with the Chinese public who have come to love luxury brands. But they are also sensitive to their notion of aesthetics and beauty, as illustrated by their review of a recent photograph.
Christian Dior, the luxury brand, found itself in controversy after state media attacked a famous fashion photographer named Chen Man. An image of a woman holding a Dior bag has been criticized for its aesthetic conforming to “Western standards of Asian beauty.”
The photo, which was part of the Lady Dior exhibition at the Shanghai Art Center, has been removed after it drew attacks from Chinese state media. Beijing Daily critical work in describing the image as having “spooky eyes, a dark face, and Qing dynasty-style nail armor.”
The image is an impression of the photographer that may be loved or hated, but the kind of reaction the exhibition elicited tells you that the Chinese want their brands to attribute to their brand of nationalism.
Chen’s over-staged visual style testifies to an older aesthetic, which is now outdated among today’s youth – and testifies to a decline in the global significance of the West’s racist status quo. “ noted Daily Jing, a website focused on the luxury goods business in China.
China ends 2021 with the return of Covid-19 restrictions to Xi’an and the increase in cases, but we know for sure that just like this year, 2022 will be fraught with controversy.
The author is a freelance columnist and journalist. He is currently pursuing an MA in China-focused International Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London. He was previously a Chinese media reporter for the BBC World Service. He tweets @aadilbrar. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)