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🇨🇳 When propaganda sells: Blockbuster films and the Chinese State | The Listening Post (Feature)

Cinema has performed an important role in the Chinese Communist Party’s – CCP – media strategy since the early years of the People’s Republic of China. With the introduction of market sales in the 1990s, popular cinema found its own voice and with it, a space in which to satirise China’s rapidly changing society.

A space that has at times, put Chinese cinema on a collision course with the state. Since 2017 therefore, the most commercially successful films have had more of a traditional propaganda ring to them. Fusing patriotic narratives with Hollywood-style budgets and effects, films such as Wolf Warrior 2, Operation Red Sea and The Wandering Earth successfully echo an increased national assertiveness espoused under the leadership of President Xi Jinping – while also engaging audiences in a way never done before.

All three immediately became the highest grossing films in Chinese cinematic history. But the not so invisible arm of the state is never far away. And in the same period, the CCP has redoubled its efforts in the movie space, bringing the regulation of the film industry under the direct control of the Central Propaganda Department.

The Listening Post’s Meenakshi Ravi reports on the new blockbusters of Chinese cinema.

Contributors

Chris Berry – Professor of Film Studies, King’s College London
Patrick Frater – Asia Bureau Chief, Variety
Sabrina Yu – Senior lecturer, Newcastle University
Stanley Kwan – Film Director

Producer

Adam Knight

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