Tonight two movies on China that fight over the same, contested space were featured on TV.
One is already a part of Western culture through the book Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin. The other chronicles the rise of the Communist Party and, although it will be of interest to Western viewers, is essentially a product designed for the domestic market.
I don’t know what it’s called because I can’t find the news story that introduced it to me.
It features, we’re told, a lot of Chinese film stars and viewers in China will therefore find a lot to like right there. But it also emphasises the importance and righteousness of Mao and his cohorts who fought the Nationalists across a broad swathe of China.
It is designed to counter the negative effects of books such as Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang. When it was published, in 2005, it attracted scathing comments from the Party. Now the Party has answered, reinventing Mao as an avuncular and honourable leader as opposed to Chang’s vicious, opportunistic tyrant.
Cunxin’s memoir has sold, we’re told, 500,000 copies. Living now in Australia and working as a stockbroker, Cunxin represents a pure, Westernised point of view. In his worldview, the West offers freedom. It offers opportunity and happiness. China demonstrated its enmity to Cunxin once, when he defected to the United States while dancing in Houston. Now, it has allowed Bruce Beresford, the director, to film on the mainland.
Certainly I will watch this. As for the local, Chinese product, it will depend on whether it is released in Australia. Let’s hope that it is. It will be an educational experience, if not an entirely pleasant one.