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Cablegate: Popular Prc Film Redraws Taiwan Propaganda

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RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #3482/01 3630527
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R 290527Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7448
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI CH TW

SUBJECT: POPULAR PRC FILM REDRAWS TAIWAN PROPAGANDA

1. (SBU) Summary: The blockbuster film "The Founding of a
Republic," released in China to commemorate the 60th anniversary of
the People's Republic of China, marks a noteworthy shift in Chinese
propaganda on Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang . While the
storyline of the movie is consistent with official PRC historical
accounts of the civil war, glorifying Mao Zedong's leadership and
the Communist Party's (CCP) defeat of the Japanese and unification
of the country, the movie features an unprecedentedly positive
depiction of Chiang Kai-shek, characterizing him as well-intentioned
but misled by others. It also emphasizes Mao's consultation with
other political parties through the Chinese People's Political
Consultative Committee (CPPCC) before making key decisions. The
film appears to be an effort to recast the image of the CCP as a
party with a long history of openness to consultation with other
political parties and, by extension, perhaps one that could
accommodate Taiwan's political parties. While reviewers and
bloggers have not commented on the shift in depiction, the film's
attendance records guarantees a broad audience for the new view of
the KMT. End Summary

Sympathy for Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT
---------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Released with much public fanfare as part of the October 1
commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC,
"The Founding of a Republic," is a docudrama providing the PRC's
version of the Chinese civil war from 1945-49, which included
appearances by 176 Chinese mainland and Hong Kong celebrities and
set new mainland box office records. Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek
are the lead characters in the film and the contrast of their
personalities is a major focus of the film. Chiang is depicted as
authoritative, well dressed, wealthy and in frequent disagreement
with other top leaders of the Kuomintang Party (KMT). Mao is
portrayed as "democratic," living and dressing simply and held in
high esteem by other leaders of the Communist Party. Despite these
characterizations, the film includes an almost sympathetic tone
toward Chiang, portraying him as well-intentioned and patriotic, but
misled and deceived by others with suspect motives. This is a
marked contrast to decades-old conventions on the depiction of
Chiang in the PRC film and television. In the past, PRC films have
generally characterized Chiang as a heartless villain.

3. (SBU) The film's portrayal of historic incidents involving the
KMT is also much more positive than in past PRC productions. It
touches only briefly on scenes of KMT crackdowns on dissidents and
the bombing of CCP safe havens, and the depictions are far less
violent than those normally seen in PRC films. Most striking is a
final scene in the movie, just prior to Chiang's retreat to Taiwan,
in which he tells his son that he does not want to be the person
blamed by history as splitting the country and orders his
subordinate to abort a final offensive against the CCP.

Let's Forget the Past
---------------------

3. (SBU) Interwoven throughout the film is another important element
that is far more prominent than in other PRC versions of this period
of history. Time and again during the film's storyline, Mao Zedong
is depicted as refusing to make key decisions without first
consulting eminent figures from outside the CCP and urging them to
join the first Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
(CPPCC,) the non-CCP political advisory body. In a particularly
noteworthy scene, just as the civil war nears its end, Mao is
depicted as extending a personal invitation to KMT Central
Supervisory Committee member Li Jishen to join the CPPCC. When Li
mentions to Mao that he himself is responsible for the death of many
communist cadres, Mao replies "let's forget the past and start a new
future."

Recasting History with Taiwan in Mind
-------------------------------------

4. (SBU) "The Founding of a Republic" encapsulates two significant
and unprecedented themes which appear to be directed at both
Mainland and Taiwan audiences. The first conceit is that Chiang and
the KMT were, at heart, patriotic and supportive of China's national
unity. Second, the film maintains that the CCP is and always has
been open to participation by other political parties, including the
KMT, in government. The significance of the film's depiction of the
CPPCC as playing a major role in helping shape Mao's views and CCP
policies is likely a message to Taiwan viewers. The PRC often
emphasizes the nominally inclusive role of the CPPCC in reaching out
to political leaders in Taiwan and Hong Kong and playing a prominent
role in bridging cross-Strait differences. Taiwan businesspersons
doing business in China are often invited to participate as official
or unofficial members in the local level CPPCC bodies. The film
codifies this theme by recasting the history of the CCP as a party
with a long tradition of relying on the CPPCC to play a significant

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role in formulating policy.

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) Chinese reviewers and bloggers have not commented on the
new depiction of Chiang, focusing their attention instead a debate
over the large number of Chinese actors who have naturalized as
citizens of other countries among the cast and the appropriateness
of casting such "foreign actors" in a "patriotic film."
Nonetheless, the film has set box office records in China,
guaranteeing a huge audience receives this revised version of
Chinese history.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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