China Central Television is the predominant state television broadcaster in China. Founded in 1958, it serves as one of the chief propaganda arms of the Communist government. In recent years, CCTV’s English-language international news coverage has undergone large-scale expansion partly as a response to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s 2007 call for further development of “soft power”.
State broadcaster CCTV slams anti-Japanese war dramas
A Chinese peasant brutally “karate chops” the enemy in half with one swipe of his “iron palm”.
Out on the battlefield, a Chinese soldier destroys an incoming fighter plane – by tossing a hand grenade into the sky.
In another scenario, a James Dean-lookalike who wears sunglasses, a leather jacket, slicked back hair and rides a motorcycle, portrays a revolutionary warrior during the Sino-Japanese war.
These are some of several bizarre plots featured in China’s huge array of anti-Japanese war dramas – 200 of which were produced in 2012 alone, by some accounts. Over half of the 300 new TV shows approved for production last year featured a revolutionary theme.
But barefaced nationalist propaganda can get stale quickly. State-run CCTV News aired a feature on Wednesday criticising the rise in “crude and shoddily produced” anti-Japanese war dramas, which were neither patriotic, historically accurate nor educational.
“I believe there should be a clear bottom line to these anti-Japanese war dramas, as they should not go as far as to insult the intelligence of audiences,” Ni Jun, associate professor at the Central Academy of Drama’s Cinema and Television Department, told CCTV.
“The history of the Sino-Japanese war was one of great tragedy and aggression. It is worth remembering as an important piece of history, not something to be spoofed”.
Anti-Japanese films and TV dramas have been on the rise in China, in part due to the territorial row over the Diaoyu Islands, but also because the genre itself has always been popular.
Ni said producers heavily exploit the anti-Japanese and revolutionary themes because they are deemed “politically safe” and tend to draw high ratings.
But an increasingly media savvy public has become more critical of the ludicrous plots of TV dramas’. The industry is beginning to respond accordingly.
Shi Zhongpeng, a 23-year-old actor who started off his career in costume dramas, told CCTV he had spent most of the last few years playing Japanese soldiers in more than 30 anti-Japanese dramas.
At Hengdian World Studios in Zhejiang, said to be the world’s largest film studio, more than 60 per cent of the 30,000 film extras working on site each year have played a Japanese soldier in such dramas, the CCTV segment pointed out.
Award-winning actor Chen Daoming criticised the mainland's anti-Japanese war dramas last month for being “entertainment-oriented” content which distorted history and misled young people.
After online complaints flooded in ahead of a debut broadcast on Sichuan, Guizhou and Henan primetime television last month, a scene from an anti-Japanese TV series Ready to Fly was nearly cut after being criticised by many as unrealistic and “ridiculous”.
The scene portrayed an attractive Chinese heroine with martial arts training who uses only a bow and arrow to successfully fend off a group of Japanese troops trying to rape her.