The “Resisting U.S. Aid and Aid Korea” movie is re-launched in China with a high profile. What kind of story does it have to tell?
The film “Changjin Lake”, released during the National Day of China, is one of the congratulatory films for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. It is called “the giant war film” by the Chinese official media. Battle of Changjin Lake”.
Many foreign media label it as a “promotional film”. CNN reported that this “customized” film by the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has received “great support” from the government in terms of scripting, filming, and film promotion.
In China, the Battle of Changjin Lake, as a frontal military conflict between China and the United States, seems to have come to a time when it is necessary to write a special book; however, in the United States, this battle and the Korean War that lasted for three years did not It has the name “Forgotten War”.
What are the reasons behind the different narratives?
Basic situation of the Battle of Changjin Lake
Date: November 27 to December 13, 1950, which lasted for 17 days
Location: Changjin Lake, North Korea, called Chosin Reservoir (Chosin Reservoir) in English
Warring parties: about 120,000 people in the Ninth Corps of the Chinese People’s Volunteers and about 30,000 in the US Marine First Division and the US Infantry 7th Division
Casualties: “The First Battle of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China” published by the Central Party History Publishing House recorded that “the Tenth Corps suffered from combat casualties, 28,954 were killed by frostbite, and more than 1,000 died from frostbite. After frostbite treatment failed, more than 3,000 people died, and the total number of staff was reduced by 48,156.” But the outside world estimates that the total loss is between 40,000 and 80,000.
According to statistics from the United States, the biggest loss was the First Marine Division, with 4,385 deaths in combat and 7,388 deaths from the cold.
The number of casualties on both sides of the war was very high, and the Battle of Changjin Lake was therefore called the “most tragic and terrifying” battle in the Korean War.
The beginning of the war
After the Second World War, North Korea supported by the Soviet Union and South Korea supported by the United States divided the north and the south with the 38 degrees north latitude of the Korean peninsula as a dividing line.
In June 1950, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung launched an offensive against South Korea. The Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th Parallel and quickly captured Seoul, the capital of South Korea (the name at the time), and broke into Busan in southern South Korea in just two months. .
In response to North Korea’s unilateral actions, the United Nations passed three resolutions in June and July 1950 under the circumstances of the Soviet Union’s boycott. First, it declared that North Korea’s armed offensive had undermined the peace; and then recommended UN members to provide assistance to South Korea to counter the North Korean armed forces. The offensive restored peace; in the third resolution, the United Nations required member states to provide assistance to the unified command led by the United States, and subsequently formed a United Nations army with the US army as the main force and the participation of the 16 nations to support the South Korean army to counterattack North Korea.
This United Nations army consists of combat troops from 16 countries including the United States, Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, France, the Philippines, Turkey, Thailand, South Africa, Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, and Ethiopia, as well as Sweden, India, Denmark, The medical teams of Norway and Italy are composed of five countries. At the same time, the South Korean army is also under the command of the UN forces.
In mid-September, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, the commander-in-chief of the United Nations Army, the coalition led by the US Army successfully landed in Incheon. The coalition forces quickly turned the tide of the battle and went northward by victory, crossing the 38th parallel, and advancing towards the Yalu River on the border between China and North Korea.
In October 1950, China secretly sent troops to North Korea: “Resisting U.S. Aid and Aid Korea to defend the country!”
However, does the United States really intend to invade China?
For decades, Chinese officials have been propagating that “The War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea was not intended by the Chinese people, but was imposed on the Chinese people by the U.S. authorities.”
However, General MacArthur, the commander-in-chief of the United Nations Army, predicted the situation at the time for two points. One was that he was full of confidence in the overwhelming superiority of the US military. He once told President Harry S. Truman that it would be in November. Before Thanksgiving in the second half of the year, North Korea’s “organized resistance was completely over.” Second, he said in November that year that the troops would be able to return home before Christmas on December 25.
On November 28, 1950, the Associated Press reported that MacArthur smiled and said to John B. Coulter, the commander of the Ninth Army of the U.S. Army: “You tell the soldiers, as long as you get to the (Yalu) River You can go home. I want to make it clear that they can all go home for Christmas dinner.”
In recent years, when relations between the United States and China have been tense, China has repeatedly emphasized “firmly safeguarding the international system with the United Nations as its core” in the international community. However, in the face of the Korean War 70 years ago, China’s official narrative has always avoided, He even denied the fact that the Volunteers fought with the United Nations in the Korean War, and emphasized that the United Nations soldiers had a false reputation and were built under the control of the United States.
The Korean War has been regarded as an important event in the 100-year history of the Chinese Communist Party and the founding history of more than 70 years. However, the narrative focus has always been the Chinese perspective, which emphasizes that this is a “war to resist US aggression and aid Korea.” In the 1950s and 1960s, China had produced many films with the theme of “resisting US aggression and aid Korea”, such as “Shangganling”, “Heroic Sons and Daughters”, and “Surprise Attack”.
The writer Wei Wei’s reportage “Who is the cutest person” centered on the volunteer army has been included in middle school Chinese textbooks for many years.
As Sino-U.S. relations returned to normal in the 1970s, literary works with the theme of resisting U.S. aggression and aid to Korea rarely appeared. Since 2001, the article “Who is the cutest person” has ceased to be a content in middle school textbooks for about 20 years. .
In 1999, before 2001, China and the United States reached an agreement on China’s accession to the World Trade Organization; in 2001, with the support of the United States, China joined the WTO.
In recent years, China and the United States have been at odds with each other from time to time, and many of the old films of the Anti-U.S. Aid Korea appeared from time to time in the movie channel of CCTV. This phenomenon seems to be a barometer of Sino-US relations.
In the four years before the “Changjin Lake” film was released, the relationship between China and the United States deteriorated sharply during Trump’s presidency. According to the top leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, “the world today is undergoing major changes unseen in a century.”
In such a political background, the old subject of bloody confrontation between China and the United States on the Korean battlefield has a new political purpose.
On October 23, 2020, at the 70th Anniversary of the Volunteer Army’s War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea, Xi Jinping once praised the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea as a “great victory”, “It is a manifesto for the Chinese people to stand in the east of the world after they have stood up, and a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The important milestones of this year are of great and far-reaching significance to China and the world.”
Compared with China’s vigorous promotion of the “Great Victory to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea,” US officials and people have very different memories of the Korean War.
The Office of the Historian, which records the history of foreign policy, summarized the Korean War as follows:
“The Korean War was arduous and unpopular in the United States. At the end of 1951, the two sides fell into a stalemate on the 38th parallel of the north latitude. The conflict seemed to be reminiscent of the trench warfare in World War I. The American public was tired of a battle without victory. In war, weary even more when negotiations are deadlocked. This deadlock has weakened public support for (President) Truman and helped the Republican presidential candidate, the highly-popular war hero General Dwight Eisenhower, be elected president. “
In the United States, the Korean War has been called “forgotten war”, “wrong war”, “war that requires lessons from history”, and so on.
The Korean War Legacy Foundation, which aims to help the public understand the history of the Korean War, concluded that American society and culture lacked proper recognition and handling of the Korean War. “Why is this? Because Americans are tired of war. American soldiers returned from World War II, determined to start a family and live a normal life. They don’t want to relive the horrors of war that they experienced five years ago.”
As for the Battle of Changjin Lake itself, China believes that this is a very strategic victory, and the United States also believes that this is a breakthrough victory.
The “Changjin Lake” movie was released in China, making “Changjin Lake Battle” a hot topic on the Internet.
In addition to heated discussions about how many soldiers on both sides participated in the war, how many died in each battle, how cruel the war was, and how the strength of the two sides disparity, and so on, some people also asked: Should war films praise war or oppose war? Is the purpose of exaggerating collective heroism for war or peace?