A state-run channel in China played three anti-American movies for three days in a row, from May 16 to May 18, prompting reactions from the public. Chinese netizens quickly took to social media to ridicule CCTV for blatantly stirring up nationalist sentiment with the films, which originally were produced as anti-U.S. propaganda in reaction to the Korean War.
The timing of CCTV’s programming is significant, as the latest round of U.S.-China trade talks ended on May 10 with no agreement. After the United States enacted a tariff hike on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, China retaliated with tariff increases on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods.
Since then, China’s state-run media has ramped up propaganda efforts to portray the United States as an adversary, blaming it for the lack of progress in negotiations.
According to a May 17 report by Radio Free Asia, the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Department issued an urgent notice on May 16, requesting that CCTV and all provincial-level satellite TV stations air movies with anti-American themes every day during primetime. As a result, CCTV announced on May 16 that it would change its original broadcasting schedule for the following three days to air three movies, “Heroic Sons and Daughters” (1964), “Battle on Shangganling Mountain,” (1954), and “Surprise Attack” (1960), beginning at 8 p.m.
The films portray North Korea as a righteous nation and the United States as an evil imperialist, and contain scenes of Chinese soldiers opening fire on their “American enemies.”
Following the breakdown of talks earlier in May, state media had adopted similar nationalist sentiment in reprimanding the United States. “Washington tried to bring up terms that either harmed the sovereignty and dignity of China, or that were seriously unequal and unrealistic. Those requests have made the negotiations more difficult,” read a May 12 editorial published by the state-run Global Times.
During the past week, Chinese state media also frequently has run the slogan, “Want to talk? Let’s talk. Want to fight? Let’s do it. Want to bully us? Dream on!”
Chinese netizens were shocked that in this day and age, the Party would go back to the propaganda stylings favored by former Party leader Mao Zedong.
“This kind of propaganda made me speechless. In today’s world, they still think they can mobilize mass movement with such propaganda,” a netizen wrote on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform.
“They make China more and more like North Korea,” another Weibo user said.
“They are trying to stir up nationalism. It’s actually useless,” another netizen commented.
Others ridiculed the Party’s anti-U.S. stance, given that many high-ranking officials’ families study or work in the United States. “If you really hate America, hurry up and ask your children in the United States to come back to China.”
Meanwhile, many netizens demanded that the Chinese authorities publicize details from the trade talks.
“Tell us what requests the United States raised in the negotiations.”