News / Asia

China's 'Hollywood' Stokes Anti-Japanese Sentiment

A Chinese woman drags a Japanese flag on the ground during a protest march in Beijing last September. The media plays a large role in stoking anti-Japanese sentiment.A Chinese woman drags a Japanese flag on the ground during a protest march in Beijing last September. The media plays a large role in stoking anti-Japanese sentiment.
A Chinese woman drags a Japanese flag on the ground during a protest march in Beijing last September. The media plays a large role in stoking anti-Japanese sentiment.
A Chinese woman drags a Japanese flag on the ground during a protest march in Beijing last September. The media plays a large role in stoking anti-Japanese sentiment.
In 2012, the Chinese film industry produced numerous movies and television dramas with anti-Japanese themes, many of them dealing with the two wars between the countries. The trend seems set to continue in 2013, with at least nine anti-Japan productions in progress.

According to a report in the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News, Hengdian World Studio, known as China’s Hollywood, produced between 40 and 50 such shows last year alone. The newspaper estimated the number of deaths of Japanese depicted in the dramas to be one billion over the course of the entire year.

The newspaper said the production quality of many of the productions is not sophisticated, and that some the action shown is so preposterous as to elicit laughter from the audience. In one drama, for example, Chinese are portrayed as having the power to cut Japanese in half with their bare hands.

But while the dramas may appear fantastical or even amateurish, they do serve a very real purpose.

According to Doug Young, a journalism professor at Fudan University in Shanghai and author of the new book The Party Line: How the Media Dictates Public Opinion in Modern China, fanning anti-Japanese sentiment can be very useful for the government in Beijing.

“It’s a convenient way to rally the Chinese around the flag and deflect attention away from scandals like Bo Xilai and corruption,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to make people proud to be Chinese.”

Young added that latent resentment toward Japan makes it easy to stir up the population.

“The Chinese government knows it’s there, and it uses that latent distrust to its advantage when it runs into issues with Japan like the Diaoyu Islands,” he said. “In the case of Japan, it’s a very deliberate effort by the [Chinese] Propaganda Department not to stop inflammatory discussions and maybe fan the flames. They let people break the laws and do things that would never be tolerated otherwise.” he said.

Last fall, after Japan nationalized the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, which are claimed by China, anti-Japanese sentiment erupted throughout China, with widespread looting and vandalism of Japanese businesses as well as calls to boycott Japanese products.

“Whenever you need a good bad guy in the United States, you can never go wrong bringing in a Nazi,” said Young. “It’s the same way in China. You can never go wrong vilifying the Japanese, and they take advantage of that fact.”

Additional reporting by Yi-Hua Lee of VOA's China Branch

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Mary from: America
March 10, 2013 4:56 PM

Yes. You are right.


by: Mary from: philippines
March 05, 2013 9:02 AM
Thanks life, Your point of view is quite biased. What did Japanese people living now do!? What you said is just the past. You know, now they're very kind and peaceful.

Most Americans disagree with your opinion. You Are Chinese, right? I understood from his comments. Chinese people are really brainwashed.

by: Thanks life from: America
March 04, 2013 11:53 AM

Billions of lives already dead under the Japanese guns and weapons. Does Japan still need to produce movie to harm other people?

by: Thanks life from: America
March 03, 2013 8:27 AM
Thanks for this article and the author. This is good for people to read and think.

The relationship between Japan and China is pretty easy and simple to see. China has been on this earth for over 5,000 years. Chinese people work diligently and consistently. Historically, Qin Shihuang (the Qin Dynasty Emperor) unified China and then he got sick, therefore he sent a medical team to look for a "magical medicine" that can make him live forever. (Obviously, this is funny). When the doctors arrived on a nobody- lived island, where nowadays people call it "Japan", they decided not to come back to Qin Shihuang because Qin's cruel rule. Then, the doctors started to populate on the island.

That was how Japanese history started.

Time flied.

With the following three thousands years, Japan learned and studied with and from China. For example, what Chinese people wore, what Japanese people wore right after a short time; what kind of coin Chinese people use, the same kind of coin Japanese people started using in a short time. Needless to say the language, food and other aspects of culture.

To be frank, Japan didn't stop learning Chinese culture until Netherlands (Holland) and United States power came to Oriental lands, which means East Asia including China, Korea, Japan and other South East Asian countries. Japan was very sharp-eyed. It observed that the Western power was new and fresh, and probably stronger than Chinese culture, which Japan learned from at least two thousands years. After that, Japan turned its direction to follow Western power and started to invade other Eastern countries including its teacher, China.

Japan did a huge job.

In my opinion, there is no need to say how abnormal Japanese were in the past hundreds years; there is no need to say how cruel and inhuman Japanese military did to other nations, including the United States, because today United States people still remember that Japan gave United States a lesson on the Pearl Harbor. Correct?

To conclude, God is keeping an eye on everybody. Who is clean and who is not, it is very obvious to see.

Thank you very much for VOA.

by: taro from: japan
March 03, 2013 7:41 AM
The Japanese film industry has never produced movies or dramas with anti-Chinese theme. There are not too many Japanese who don't like Chinese. Actually, in Japan, I have never seen a mass demonstration against Chine. A Chinese media stirs up a demonstration.

by: ari from: Malaysia
March 01, 2013 5:28 AM
As if the American Hollywood does not not make anti japanese and anti Germany films and TV series in which the heros were always Americans and the bad guys Germans nazis and Nipponese soldiers or just plain Orientals.

Truth is, the Americans are more guilty, much much more guilty than the Chinese of making anti Japanese and German films. Not even worth saying the "Pot calling the kettle black" but the sheer hypocrisy and lie-in-your face lowlife behaviour and BS propaganda of the US.

by: Bombkiller007 from: USA
March 01, 2013 5:23 AM
Another factor for these movies that the article avoids is that these types of movies distract the people from the occupation of Tibet, Xinjiang, and parts of Mongolia. Not to mention massive human rights and crimes against humanity violations from Chinas Fascist government. As Hitler, Stalin, and every statist power knows, distracting the masses from the current issues by a "bread and circuses" cinema campaign is also good cover.

by: dib
March 01, 2013 3:28 AM
To the comment above: I don't know where your information (Hengdian is managed by CCP) comes from.
The large production of anti-Japanese movies is a result of the demand from the market. People go to cinemas because they are telling something that stuck in people's minds.

by: Steven Ribet from: Beijing
March 01, 2013 12:45 AM
It's true that China's state-controlled media, including its film industry, unrelentingly stokes anti-Japanese sentiment. More interesting, however, is how Hollywood itself is stoking anti-Iran sentiment; hyping up US public opinion to support America's next war.

More generally, US mainstream media itself is engaged in a massive effort to demonize Iran. Like the best (e.g. most effective) propaganda, it presents its coverage as unbiased, yet routinely and willfully omits facts of central importance to the current standoff.

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
February 28, 2013 9:58 PM
I would say the Japanese government is really stupid. China and Japan used to have pretty good relationship after WWII. There was a time, Japanese films were very popular in China, and when I was young the communist party worked hard on improving the friendship between Japan and China. That was the golden time of the two countries. However, Japan is inciting conflict on those tiny little islands. Those islands has been being quiet for decades. Why cant we keep it that way until we find a solution acceptable for both sides? Japan is doing really stupid, and destined to be a loser again.
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