Korean War film major hit among Chinese. Journalist arrested for criticism
by Lu Haitao

The film recounts the battle of Changjin Lake between US-led UN troops and Chinese soldiers. Released during China's national holiday. State propaganda dampens criticism of Beijing's aid to North Korea in the 1950-1953 conflict. Official media root for Luo Changping's detention.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The film "The Battle of Changjin Lake" is a major hit in Chinese cinemas. On show since October 1, a national holiday in China, the film tells the story of a fierce battle fought by Chinese soldiers against U.S.-led UN troops during the Korean War of 1950-1953.

As relations between Washington and Beijing become increasingly tense, the film work on the 70-year-old conflict signals the Asian giant's tough stance and patriotic fever in Chinese society.

The propaganda film has proven a box office hit, earning over 3.5 billion yuan (462 million euros) and is expected to top the film charts nationally. As reported by the New York Times, Sun Hongyun, an associate professor at the Beijing Film Academy, commented that the film is "an extraordinary and perfect collusion of capital and political propaganda."

The authorities poured unprecedented investment into the film which cost 1.3 billion yuan (171.6 million euros). The production received direct support from the propaganda and military apparatus of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP); 70,000 soldiers of the People's Liberation Army acted as extras.

Popular actors such as Wu Jing furthered its success; in 2014 and 2017, Wu directed and starred in "Wolf Warrior I and II," patriotic-themed works that achieved great commercial success. Referring to the two action films, the new Chinese diplomats are called "wolf warriors" because of their increasingly aggressive style.

The plot and scenes of the film about the Battle of Changjin (of the Chosin Reservoir for the Americans) capture the viewers' imagination: Chinese soldiers use shoulder-fired rocket launchers to shoot down planes and even steal a US tank to engage in a battlefield race with the enemy. Official Chinese media have praised the film as a "masterpiece" and present the battle as an "epic."

However, the Korean War is a sensitive subject. According to China's narrative, China's (volunteer) troops achieved absolute victory by repelling the U.S. invasion. Beijing officials do not say that Kim Il-sung's North Korea attacked the South and provoked the war first. Propaganda claims that Washington forced the Korean conflict on China and denies that the Chinese army fought against the United Nations. The death toll among Chinese soldiers is still unknown.

China and the United States both claim victory in the battle. On November 27, 1950, Chinese forces secretly reached the Changjin area to encircle United Nations military units, which escaped the maneuver after days of fighting.

Without proper clothing for the winter, many Chinese soldiers froze to death; only a few survived. The Beijing-based fighters who participated in the operation are called the "Ice Sculpture Company."

Chinese authorities silence any criticism of the film. Luo Changping, former journalist and editor of Beijing News and Caijing, posted on Weibo (China's Twitter) that after more than half a century, it is rare for Chinese people to question whether the war was justified, as people at the time did not doubt the "enlightened decision" of national leaders.

Known for his investigations that exposed corrupt officials, Luo has been attacked in concert by official media, including the People's Daily - the CCP's mouthpiece - and its affiliate Global Times. The reporter posted an apology, but it did not prevent him from being arrested for "insulting martyrs."