A Chinese army officer has slammed the light-hearted Hollywood monster movie Pacific Rim
as a sinister propaganda tool used by the United States government to help win support for its military shift toward Asia.
The science fiction film, written and directed by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, depicts how countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean must come together to combat giant monsters, called Kaijus, which rise up from the ocean floor to attack humans.
Despite gaining only mediocre reviews in the U.S., the movie has been well-received in China, spending three straight weekends at the top of the box office. It has so far made over $100 million there, making it one of the top grossing American films ever in China.
But that, apparently, does not sit well with Zhang Jieli, an officer in China's People's Liberation Army, who recently wrote an opinion piece in the PLA Daily,
a military mouthpiece, slamming the movie for portraying the U.S. as the "savior of mankind."
Zhang took particular offense to a crucial battle scene, in which massive, human-controlled robots, called Jaegers, fight against the Kaiju just off China's southeastern coast.
He said the scene was "deliberately set in the South China Sea," where Beijing has territorial disputes with several of its neighbors.In Zhang's estimation, this serves to "demonstrate the U.S. commitment to maintaining stability" in the region.
Zhang was referring to the Obama administration's "pivot" to East Asia, under which the U.S. plans to move 60 percent of its naval assets to the Pacific by 2020. Many in Beijing view the move as a U.S. attempt to contain China, despite assurances from Washington this is not the case.
It is not the first time that U.S. movies have been the subject of official criticism in China, which tightly censors all foreign films for what it views as subversive or otherwise controversial content.
In his opinion piece, which was reprinted by several Chinese state media outlets, Zhang said Hollywood movies have "always served as a propaganda machine to convey American values and their strategies in the world." He recommended that Chinese soldiers remain on guard against "ideological erosion" when watching American movies.
China, and its 1.3 billion inhabitants, make up the world's second biggest film market, behind the United States, and is set to become the world's largest by 2020. Many U.S. filmmakers have removed controversial content from their movies in order to get pass Chinese censors and gain access to the lucrative Chinese market.