Chinese Film Faces Social Media Backlash for Rewriting History, Playing up Mao's Role

Mao Zedong H 2015
AP Images/Invision

'The Cairo Declaration' puts the Chinese communist leader at the center of WWII discussions between world powers, despite his not coming into power until 1949.

A big-budget Chinese film that sought to play up Mao Zedong's skills as a statesman and negotiator has come in for harsh online criticism for rewriting history. 

The Cairo Declaration, which The Guardian reports is produced by a company with close links to the Chinese military, is about the wartime summit between President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek that took place in the Egyptian capital in 1943. The three leaders met to discuss the war against Japan, as well as the future of Asia after the end of hostilities. 

The Cairo Declaration, which is released in China this month to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender, downplays the prominent role played by Kai-shek. Instead, promotional posters and trailers focus on Mao Zedong. 

Zedong, who became leader of the Chinese communist party in 1935, didn't accede to the leadership of the country until October 1949, so he played no part in the Cairo summit and didn't even attend. 

Chinese social media users have been quick to mock the filmmakers for so brazenly rewriting history, with many creating fake posters for the film featuring real and fictional characters, such as Gollum and Kim Jong-un, making an appearance at the Cairo summit. 

Even state-linked media felt that the filmmakers had erred in the use of Zedong's image in posters, with an op-ed in the Global Times calling the use of such images "inappropriate" and saying they were likely to lead to
"[m]isunderstanding." An arts critic for the Global Times even went so far as to say that "by featuring Mao, who was not present at the meeting, but excluding Chiang, the poster shows no respect for history, nor to Mao."