As Americans continue to suffer under a public health lockdown due to COVID-19, many of them have turned to video-streaming services to pass the time. But few probably expected to scroll through their Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, or Vudu and be exposed to blatant anti-American Chinese military propaganda.
Yet that is exactly what audiences of “Operation Red Sea,” by screenwriter Feng Ji, producer Yu Dong, and director Dante Lam, are being unknowingly exposed to.
In the movie, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) military force rescues Chinese citizens held by pirates off the coast of Somalia and battles jihadists in a fictitious nation (which is obviously meant to represent Yemen), in order to keep the jihadists from obtaining uranium yellowcake.
None of this is particularly surprising or offensive, except that the movie is overtly dishonest. It opens with the claim that it is “based on actual events,” a clue that the movie is full of things that never happened and people that didn’t exist.
Neither the PLA nor the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) have engaged in a hostage rescue operation in the Middle East. Nor have they ever engaged in a combat operation to prevent jihadist terrorists from obtaining nuclear material.
In 2015, the PLAN did send two ships into Aden harbor in Yemen, where they docked and took on board 600 Chinese nationals and 225 other foreign nationals, some of whom were employees of Chinese companies, as the civil war in Yemen began to escalate. Neither the PLAN ships nor the evacuees came under fire. Yet through movie magic, that event turns into an operation that makes the Rambo series seem absolutely pacifist by comparison.
It’s no wonder that “Operation Red Sea” was presented as a gift from Sina Entertainment to the PLA in its recent 90th-anniversary celebration, since it’s clearly a propaganda film.
That a Chinese production company would create a film that celebrates its country’s armed forces certainly comes as no surprise. There was a time long ago when Hollywood paid tribute to the U.S. military with films such as “Sands of Iwo Jima,” “The Longest Day,” “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” and “Sergeant York.”
What is surprising is that U.S.-based streaming services have embraced it so wholeheartedly and promoted it so aggressively, particularly since the whole film is geared toward an ending climax that delivers a threat to the United States.
That ending scene is established at the very opening of the movie, as about eight minutes into the film, a Somali pirate is shown escaping in a speedboat and a Chinese commando wants to chase him. His commander grants permission but adds: “Don’t cross into territorial waters.”
The commando responds, “I promise I’ll get him before we cross into territorial waters.”
The casual viewer may not catch the significance of this dialogue. But more than two hours later, during the final three minutes of the movie, the scene is suddenly switched from the Middle East to the South China Sea. The same PLAN task force is shown steaming with klaxons sounding. Over a loudspeaker, a voice says:
“Attention! This is Chinese navy. You’re about to enter Chinese waters. Please turn around immediately. I repeat, please turn around immediately!”
As this message is being delivered, a computer-generated image of a U.S. Navy Aegis cruiser and two Aegis destroyers are shown steaming toward the Chinese task force.
And then the movie ends with the message:
“CONQUER FEAR, CONQUER ALL.”
U.S. national security experts have consistently sounded the alarm about the People’s Republic of China claiming the entire South China Sea as its territorial waters. If you look at a map of the region, that would be the equivalent of the United States claiming the entire Gulf of Mexico as its territorial waters.
Understandably, other countries in the Asia-Pacific region dispute the PRC’s claim. In 2016, the Philippines brought the issue to the World Court at the Hague, where a tribunal ruled in its favor and against China’s claim.
Red China’s response?
They refused to recognize the authority of the court to rule on the matter. In other words, according to the Chinese regime, China doesn’t have to abide by international law.
The U.S. Navy routinely conducts “freedom of navigation” missions to defend the right of free movement through international waters. Unsurprisingly, none of this context makes it into the screenplay for “Operation Red Sea.” The clear implication is that the Chinese military respects territorial sovereignty while the United States is a violator, and that the Chinese military is unafraid to directly confront the United States.
Beijing has been stepping up its propaganda campaign since the CCP virus dramatically impacted the globe, with the clear intention of promoting an image of Chinese global dominance, a theme that U.S. streaming services shamefully allow “Operation: Red Sea” to advance as well.
Christopher W. Holton is director of state outreach at the Center for Security Policy. Follow Holton on Twitter @CHoltonCSP.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.