China embarks on their 60th Anniversary with celebrations, which are likely to surpass the Beijing Olympic festivities, it´s in for some partying.
However security is at an all time high throughout the mainland, especially around the politically sensitive areas of Tibet and Xinjiang.
As part of the “celebrations, sees the latest Chinese propaganda movies, aimed at getting The Yuff interested in the “humble” beginnings of the Revolution.
With more than 170 A-list movie stars from China and Hong Kong, "The Founding of a Republic," is breaking box office records – raking in $33.8 million during its first 10 days in theatres.
But this is nothing like the products pumped out by Hollywood. Instead, it’s a propaganda film made by the state-owned China Film Group.
Launched to mark the 60th anniversary of the communist era, the 135-minute movie depicts Mao Zedong’s rise, tracking the 1945-49 war in which the Communist Party of China (the CPC) led by Mao and the National Democratic Party (the KMT) led by Chiang Kia-shek fought fiercely for power.
The lengthy cast list includes many of the top names in modern Chinese film, including martial arts stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger," action movie director John Woo, among others. And most of the famous actors took little or no pay for their work – rather, considering it an honor to have just a few brief lines in the film.
Movies in China usually don’t sell a lot of tickets during the so-called "red season," the summer and early fall months that are dominated by national holidays ( July 1 is the Communist Party of China’s Founding Day, Aug. 1 is the People’s Liberation Army Day and Oct.1 is National Day). The films that are released are typically dull, mind-numbing propaganda films only viewed by students or government staff with free tickets.
But "The Founding of a Republic" seems to be an exception. The box office numbers are still skyrocketing the China Film Group says it expects the tally to pass $350 million within the next couple of weeks.
Huang Jianxin, one of the two directors of the big hit, proudly told NBC News that he believes a lot of younger movie goers were happy to buy tickets of their own accord (a ticket costs $5-10 in Beijing), not because they were told to, as was often the case with government-made propaganda films in the past. Huang acknowledged that the celebrity-packed cast was clearly a magnet for younger viewers, but added that the movie "would not attract them without a good story, no matter how many stars are in it."
There’s no question that the "The Founding of a Republic" is made in a refreshingly different way. Unlike other propaganda movies, which usually portray Mao’s Nationalist Party rivals as ruthless, cold-blooded, "counter revolutionaries," Chiang Kai-shek and his son are shown for the first time having down- to-earth father-son moments. And his officers also display a human side, even when they talk about assassinations.
The movie also contains a rare sight – a drunken Mao and a singing Zhou Enlai (the first premier of the People’s Republic of China). Still, Mao and his party, living in earthen huts and forced to save candle light for meetings, are always portrayed as righteous and invincible against the U.S.-backed, totally corrupt, Nationalist forces (who eventually lose and flee to Taiwan).
Zhang Lianjuan, an account associate at a multinational company, chose to go to the theatre as a small celebration right after her marriage registration, but she was disappointed by the film. "I don't have a special feeling for this movie, it merely went through a lot of history in two and half hours," she said. "The celebrities didn't give an outstanding performance in the movie at all."
But Zheng Yunfeng, a 30-year-old radio host in Beijing, thought it was a "well-balanced" movie. "It doesn't vilify the KMT [the Nationalist Party] as mainstream movies used to in the past. It objectively illustrates the real history – KMT had both corrupt and righteous moments at the time."
Still why would such a stellar cast take part in such a propagandistic project, and for such meager paychecks? Huang, the director, attributes it to a sense of patriotism ahead of the 60th anniversary of the founding of China.
"China’s 30 years of opening and reform has made China come back to the world stage," he said. "Fast economic growth and increasing state power has again brought back self-esteem [to the] Chinese people," said Huang.
However, he doesn’t stress the real powers behind the movie: the Central Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China and the State Administration of Radio Film and Television. The two government departments decide what’s allowed to be shown on TV, in movie theatres and in newspapers, and what books and movies are allowed to be imported into China.
Their efforts to create a blockbuster film to celebrate the Party’s 60 years in power have clearly been a big success.
Check out this excellent short video which tracks the use of propaganda in the Peoples´ Republic.
Editor adds: Spectacular show indeed, although spookily heavy on military hardware. So twentieth century. The following is a review by AFP
China today celebrated 60 years of communist rule with a military parade and lavish ceremonies on Beijing's Tiananmen Square showcasing the nation's revival as a global power.
Thousands of troops marched in tight formations, fighter jets overflew the city and the world's largest military unveiled its most sophisticated weaponry including new intercontinental ballistic missiles in a patriotic show of force.
President Hu Jintao extolled the Communist Party-led rebirth in a speech to the invitation-only crowd from Tiananmen gate, where Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic on October 1, 1949.
"The development and progress of the new China over the past 60 years fully proved that only socialism can save China, and only reform and opening up can ensure the development of China, socialism and Marxism,'' he told the crowd.
China typically holds grand celebrations every 10 years to commemorate Mao's announcement, but authorities promised that this year's festivities would top those staged in the past - and outdo last year's Olympic opening ceremony.
The government wants to send a clear message: that China, the world's third-largest economy, has re-emerged as a proud and undeniable global force.
Hu, in a high-collared Mao-style tunic, underlined this confidence in his speech before a Tiananmen Square festooned in the nation's red and yellow. "Today a socialist China that faces the future is standing tall and firm in the East,'' he declared.
An estimated 200,000 people took part in the lavish morning festivities, which unfolded under clear blue skies.
Flexing its growing muscle, China paraded long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the heart of the United States and other homegrown weaponry signaling that a nation once bullied by foreign powers is a pushover no more.
The military show was followed by a colorful parade, with tens of thousands of people marching and singing in unison in a display of China's ability to harness its vast manpower on a massive scale.
Besides goose-stepping troops, squads of pink-clad women "volunteers'' dubbed the "iron roses'' marched in go-go boots, while thousands of other participants marched while waving flowing fans, pom-poms and bouquets of flowers.
National sports heroes such as hurdler Liu Xiang and former Olympic gymnastics champion Li Ning rode on one of dozens of brightly decorated floats.
Giant portraits of China's leaders from Mao to Hu were paraded past the square, which was filled with 80,000 children flipping hand-held cards spelling out messages such as "Socialism is Good'' and "Long Live China.''
Despite the burst of pride, official insecurity also has been clearly on display - authorities have imposed draconian security in a bid to prevent an array of perceived threats from spoiling the party.
These include seething tensions in ethnic minority regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet, and widespread social discontent over a widening wealth gap, official corruption and environmental degradation.
As a result, most of Beijing's 17 million citizens were relegated to watching the pageant in their hometown on television like the rest of China.
Lu Haishi, 23, travelled all the way from Shanghai to watch the festivities with friends - on TV. "I came for the atmosphere. We've rented a room to see the parade on television in a hotel near the route, to get the atmosphere,'' he said.
Police have for weeks stepped up security checks, cleared out beggars and the homeless, and ordered residents along the parade route not to open windows during the parade.
Even the city's airport shut for three hours during the parade and knife sales were banned in some stores after two recent stabbings near Tiananmen Square.
The Mao-led 1949 communist takeover ended years of foreign domination and war, while three decades of economic reforms initiated by late leader Deng Xiaoping enriched China and propelled it back into the ranks of world powers.
State media had said aircraft could release cloud-dispersal chemicals to prevent rain spoiling the festivities and skies were clear for the parade after light rain the night before.
It was not immediately clear if the fine weather was man-made,
but state media reported last year that authorities induced rain to wring out the clouds in the run-up to the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics.