‘The Battle at Lake Changjin’ a successful cultural export to make the world begin to listen to the voice of China
Published: Oct 17, 2021 06:39 PM
A poster of the film the Battle at Lake Changjin. Photo: CFP

A poster of the film the Battle at Lake Changjin. Photo: CFP

Eighteen days after its premier, the war epic The Battle at Lake Changjin has grossed over 4.8 billion yuan ($ 745.8 million) and smashed 24 records in Chinese film history, including becoming the first Chinese film to break 400 million yuan at the daily box office for six consecutive days. 

The Battle at Lake Changjin is just one of several nationalist films that have become big commercial hits in China in recent years, but its influence across the country is unprecedented. The blockbuster is set to become China’s highest-grossing film ever, while its biggest highlight is that it has achieved a high degree of national empathy and cultural output for Chinese films heading overseas, which is a hard-to-reach achievement for other commercial movies. 

Audiences deeply moved by the movie have spontaneously paid tribute to the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPVs) who sacrificed their lives during the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-53). According to a video on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, students from a middle school based in Central China’s Henan Province experience how Chinese soldiers ate fried flour and frozen potatoes on the battlefield after watching the film. In a voice choked with tears, one student remarks how they need to cherish their hard-won lives without complaining anymore. 

Similarly, a video of a young woman in Southwest’s China’s Yunnan Province eating frozen potatoes has gone viral on social media. In the video, the woman makes a lot of effort to bite off just a small piece, then bursts into tears.

In Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, a cinema screened the movie for 88-year-old CPV veteran Li Huawu, who lost his right eye and both hands on the battlefield. After the movie ended, he raised his mutilated right arm to salute the screen, expressing awe for history and his respects for his passed comrades, which touched many Chinese. 

The “Changjin Lake Effect” has reached all levels of society from the strong patriotic sentiment of the people across the country to the audience’s actions in paying condolences to the CPVs. It is the first film in China to have mobilized the enthusiasm of the audience so extensively and deeply and lead the world to reexamine that period of history and listen to the voice of China.

We seem to have become accustomed to watching omnipotent superheroes flying across the big screen and accepting cultural input from the West, especially Hollywood, including the beautification of the US military. 

But this time, The Battle at Lake Changjin is a movie that truly belongs to the Chinese, and has shaped Chinese heroes and told a good Chinese story. The Battle at Lake Changjin comes at just the right time, especially as the US military evacuated Afghanistan in embarrassment. 

Unlike the illusory superhero stories in the West, China’s The Battle at Lake Changjin is from real history. Our predecessors and martyrs are more remarkable and true legends compared with those heroes that only exist in movies. 

The truth is more powerful than any fictional story.