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Chinese TV Dramas

Controversy over Scene in Anti-Japanese War Drama Featuring Black U.S. Soldier and Chinese Nurse

Some scenes from this anti-Japanese war drama have angered Chinese netizens over ‘historical nihilism.’

Manya Koetse

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A black soldier comes to China from afar during WWII and falls in love with a Chinese villager who sacrifices her life for him. This war drama is sensationalizing the Sino-Japanese War in the wrong way, many netizens say.

“I love you, I love China,” a black man tells a Chinese woman in a clip of an anti-Japanese war drama that has gone viral on Chinese social media over the past few days (watch clip in embedded tweet below).

The scene is set on a mountain, where the man and woman hold hands when she tells him to flee from the “Japanese devils.” She repeats: “Remember: love me, love China.”

The love scene takes a dramatic turn when the two get ambushed by the Japanese army. The Chinese woman immediately pushes the man off the mountain to bring him to safety. While she cries out “love me, love China” she is attacked by Japanese soldiers and dies.

The scene comes from a 2016 TV drama titled The Great Rescue of The Flying Tigers (飞虎队大营救). The drama tells the story of Japanese soldiers chasing surviving members of a Flying Tigers aircraft after they shot it down. Various soldiers and army staff on the Chinese side try to rescue the fighters from the hands of the Japanese.

The drama’s portrayal of a romance between the foreign soldier and a Chinese woman, on the side of the Communist Eighth Route Army, has stirred controversy on Weibo this week.

“The director is retarded, this is historical nihilism,” one Weibo blogger writes.

Hundreds of netizens also criticize the drama’s director and screenwriters: “This is not even funny, what kind of scriptwriter comes up with this trash? This should be thoroughly investigated.”

The Flying Tigers (飞虎队) were a group of US fighter pilots who went to China during the final three years of the Second Sino-Japanese War to fight the Japanese invaders and defend China.

Flying Tigers.

The people behind the Flying Tigers belonged to the organization of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), who came together in 1941 to strengthen the Chinese Air Force.

In the now controversial TV drama The Great Rescue of The Flying Tigers, the black soldier is ‘Carl’ (Cedric Beugre), a surviving member of the Flying Tigers aircraft shut down by Japanese forces. The Chinese woman is ‘Xinghua,’ a female nurse who sacrifices her own life to save Carl.

The dialogues between Carl and Xinghua are pretty simple and at times almost ridiculous. While Xinghua does not speak a word of English and appears clueless, Carl is depicted as a stubborn, crude and somewhat silly character, who also seems to understand very little of what is happening around him and does all he can to be with his Xinghua after a brief meeting in the Chinese base camp (also see this scene or here).

On Chinese social media, the drama is critiqued for being a so-called ‘divine Anti-Japanese drama’ (抗日神剧): Chinese war dramas that sensationalize the history of the war by making up unrealistic and overly dramatic or funny scenes and storylines.

In 2015, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) announced a limit on these kinds of TV dramas that sensationalize the history of war, and in doing so ‘misrepresent history’ and ‘disrespect’ the Chinese soldiers who fought to defend the nation (read more).

TV series focusing on war are part of China’s every day (prime time) TV schedules. These Chinese war dramas are called “Anti-Japanese War Dramas” (抗日电视剧), literally referring to the period of ‘resisting Japan’ during WWII (in China, the 1937-1945 war is called The War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression 中国抗日战争).

The 40-episode series The Great Rescue of the Flying Tigers was aired by Yunnan City Channel but is also available online. Since there are countless reruns of Anti-Japanese war dramas on Chinese tv, it is possible that some viewers only now viewed the 2016 drama for the first time.

Some netizens call this a “new kind of fantasy war drama”, summarizing: “A black man comes from far away to China to fight Japan, falls in love with a Chinese nurse who sacrifices her own life for him and yells ‘Love me love China’ before she dies.”

Many on social media call the script “idiotic,” others question if black soldiers ever joined the Flying Tigers in the first place.

There seems to be more to the controversy than sensationalizing history alone though – relationships between foreign men and Chinese women, especially black men and Chinese women, are often met with prejudice and racism on Chinese social media. Mixing such a narrative in a drama about the Second Sino-Japanese war makes it all the more controversial.

Some see the narrative of the love between a foreign soldier and a Chinese woman as a way of ‘beautifying’ the war and ‘adoring everything that’s foreign.’

“This is not respecting history at all!”, one among hundreds of commenters says.

In the TV drama, the sentence “Love me, Love China” does have some extra meaning in the end. Although Xinghua sacrifices her life for Carl in episode 19, he eventually chooses to fight side by side against the Japanese ‘devils’ with the Chinese army, keeping his promise to “love China” like he loved Xinghua.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    zack

    September 5, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    Lol wtf China I think you have a lot of works to do on your series

  2. Avatar

    Dave

    September 6, 2019 at 2:42 am

    I am almost certain that the original Flying Tigers pilots (the AVG) were all-white.
    The US Army Air Corps did not start to train black pilots until 1941. (The Flying
    Tigers were an elite unit, and all of them had several years experience flying.)

    The AVG was disbanded on 4 July 1942, but American Air Units operating in China
    continued to be called “Flying Tigers”, which leads to confusion. These
    later units did contain black people, especially in roles like aircraft mechanic
    and ammunition loader. I doubt that any of them were flight crew.

    It is probably just as well that this story is so unlikely. The real facts would
    not meet with the approval of today’s netizens.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Op-Ed ⎪ Cyber Bullying and Fake News: What You Should Know About the Zhang Zhehan Story

Opinion: Zhang Zhehan is still being punished every day for a crime he never committed.

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Along with several other celebrities, Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan has been a hot topic in the media this year ever since photos of him taken at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine went viral online. Not only does Zhang not deserve his recent blacklisted status, Jessica J. argues in this op-ed contribution for What’s on Weibo, he is also a victim of online fake news propagation and cyberbullying. 

 

Those following Chinese entertainment news may have read about the string of celebrity crackdowns and cancellations this year, including big names like pop star Kris Wu, actress Zheng Shuang, and actor Zhang Zhehan.

However, Zhang Zhehan’s inclusion among Chinese ‘blacklisted artists‘ is raising some eyebrows and has also drawn the attention of Li Xuezheng, the Vice Chairman of the China TV Artists Association and Director of the Golden Shield Television Center.

Among those ‘canceled’ artists, Kris Wu was arrested on suspicion of rape, Zheng Shuang was fined for tax evasion – but Zhang Zhehan did not violate any laws and, according to Li, “was not officially banned or deemed immoral by government bodies” (Drama Panda).

Instead, Zhang was swiftly canceled when old vacation photos of him near the Yasukuni Shrine surfaced in August 2021, despite apologizing quickly for not knowing the significance of the buildings in the area.

[For context, read: Chinese Actor Zhang Zhehan Under Fire for Yasukuni and Nogi Shrine Photos – Ed.]

One of the photos featuring Zhang Zhehan, causing controversy in 2021.

After digging a little deeper, it becomes apparent that there is much more nuance to Zhang’s incident than can be captured in a single sentence such as “Zhang visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine” or “Zhang posed for photos at the Yasukuni Shrine.”

 

Yasukuni Shrine is a Cherry Blossom Destination

 

The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is notorious for enshrining “1,068 convicted war criminals, 14 of whom are A-Class (convicted of having been involved in the planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of the war).” The shrine is of great significance when it comes to Sino-Japanese history, as many of Japan’s war dead enshrined at Yasukuni committed atrocities against the Chinese, including during the ‘Nanjing Massacre‘ which started in December 1937 and came to be known as the most notorious Japanese atrocity of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

However, what many people think of as the Yasukuni Shrine only concerns the shrine’s religious structures, including the prayer and worship halls. These are the places where Japanese prime ministers go to pay respects to this day, resulting in recurring controversies.

The Honden Main Shrine, where nearly 2,5 million Japanese war dead are enshrined as ‘divinities,’ is usually inaccessible to the general public. No photography is allowed at the courtyard of the Haiden Main Hall, which is where people pay their respects.

Yasukuni Shrine Main Prayer Hall.

Outside of these structures, the Yasukuni Shrine grounds include an open park area famous for its cherry blossoms. In fact, it houses a “benchmark” cherry tree, which Japan’s Meteorological Agency uses to officially announce the start of the cherry season (NBC News). It’s important to note that Zhang’s photos were taken in this prime cherry blossom viewing area, and not inside the shrine itself.

When searching for “Yasukuni Shrine Cherry Blossoms” on Google, one will find many travel guides and blogs showcasing the lively atmosphere and the sea of people that come to visit during the blossom season. As recently as March 2021 (Phoenix News), Chinese media have included the area around the Yasukuni Shrine as a popular cherry blossom viewing destination. See examples from China Daily, People’s Daily, and China News. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV even covered the benchmark tree in March 2018, the same year that Zhang’s photos were taken.

Many articles that came out around August this year claimed that Zhang “posed in front of the Yasukuni Shrine” (see examples from Radii, Business of Fashion). This is false because the building in Zhang’s photo is actually labeled “斎馆” (Saikan) and is an administrative or office building on the park grounds.

The building behind Zhang Zhehan is actually an administrative building.

The cherry blossoms are clearly the main focus in all of Zhang’s photos. In 2018, there were over 31.19 million international tourists to Japan, including over 8 million Chinese visitors. Each year Japan attracts almost 3 million visitors during cherry blossom season alone.

Zhang was just one among thousands of Chinese tourists coming to view Japan’s famous cherry blossoms. If this is considered an act that hurts national sentiments, then what about the millions of other Chinese citizens that came for the same reason, not to mention the Chinese media that recommended this place as a tourist destination?

 

Signs of Coordinated Smear Campaign

 

The three-year-old photos of Zhang surfaced on August 13, a sensitive date leading up to the August 15th Victory over Japan Day, the day on which Imperial Japan surrendered in World War II.* In addition to the timing, other accusations against Zhang, including those around a wedding he attended in Japan, rest on blatant misinformation and falsified Baidu entries. (*The Chinese Victory over Japan is commemorated on September 3rd when the signing of the surrender document occurred. )

To a lesser extent than the cherry blossom photos, Zhang was also condemned for attending a friend’s wedding at the Nogi Shrine in 2019 and taking a photo with controversial figure Dewi Sukarno, one of the wives of the former Indonesian President Sukarno.

Netizens soon noticed that the Baidu entry for Nogi Shrine was created the night before on August 12. Similarly, Baidu entries for Mrs. Dewi and Nogi Maresuke, the general whom Nogi Shrine is named after, were both edited on early August 13.

Photos of Zhang at his friend’s wedding at the Nogi Shrine.

Chinese state media outlet Global Times wrote that “there were also photos of Zhang attending a wedding ceremony at Nogi Shrine, another infamous shrine that honors imperial Japanese military officers who invaded China during World War II.”

While it is true the Nogi Shrine honors Japanese general Nogi Maresuke, he died in 1912, well before the events of WWII. So where did this blatantly false information come from?

It is also worth noting that the popular Japanese idol group Nogizaka46, who held a coming-of-age ceremony at the Nogi Shrine, performed several concerts in China without issue.

Numerous other rumors, though not published by reputable media, circulated broadly on social media sites including international platforms such as Youtube and Twitter.

Almost all of them have been debunked as misinformation or complete fabrications. For example, Zhang starred in a short film titled Brother, where his character’s mentally challenged older brother raises his hand when he gets a nosebleed. Zhang took a series of photos interacting with his co-star, but the photo of this gesture was taken out of context to accuse Zhang of making Nazi gestures.

The middle image in the top row was used to accuse Zhang of making Nazi gestures. His comment is a quote from the show, and his co-star responded similarly.

The nosebleed gesture from Brother.

Netizens have also noticed that over 800 marketing accounts posted at almost the same time asking for Zhang’s works to be taken offline (Weibo search), and that so-called water armies (paid commenters) heavily manipulated the direction of social commentary and sentiments (a netizen’s data analysis).

Based on all of this information, it can be reasonably concluded that Zhang was the target of a coordinated smear campaign.

 

Consequences of Misinformation and Cyber Violence

 

Within a time span of less than a week, Zhang lost all sponsorship deals and his career suffered a massive blow.

Shows featuring Zhang, including Word of Honor and Demon Girl, were taken offline from Chinese platforms Youku and Le.com. His scenes were erased from the critically acclaimed Nirvana in Fire. His songs “Gu Meng” and “Tian Ya Ke” from Word of Honor could no longer be streamed on various platforms and variety shows featuring him either removed the episodes including Zhang, or he was simply blurred out.

In addition, Zhang faced mass silencing, erasure, and defamation on all Chinese social media platforms:

  • Zhang’s accounts on all social media platforms were closed.
  • His face still cannot be shown on Bilibili, Douban, and other platforms (videos featuring Zhang will be deleted).
  • All positive content on Zhang has been deleted or has been made unsearchable on video site Bilibili. Searching for Zhang’s name on this platform will only show videos condemning him.
  • Many netizens still refer to Zhang as a “traitor” or a “spy.”
  • Before Li Xuezheng spoke up for Zhang, anyone attempting to clarify Zhang’s situation often found their posts deleted or their accounts closed.
  • Li posted on December 5th that Zhang doesn’t even have the right to his own name: “There are only two people in the world who can’t buy things on the internet. One is notorious fascist Hitler, the other is our Zhang Zhehan.”

Since Zhang was included on the performers’ blacklist issued by the Chinese Association of Performing Arts (CAPA), Li Xuezheng has been investigating potential corruption within the industry-led organization. In doing so, Li Xuezheng is also providing a platform for Zhang and his family to speak out for the first time since they’ve been silenced.

Li recently posted a letter from Zhang’s mother, garnering over one million likes within a day. In the letter, Zhang’s mother described the harrowing experience her son and her family have gone through over the past few months.

She wrote:

Not only have the dreams and achievements he [Zhang] has worked for for more than ten years been crushed, but the entire internet is also filled with one-sided rumors and slander. His positive actions, his love for the Party and the country are erased, and his works have all been de-platformed. My son told me that he did not enter the Yasukuni Shrine, he did not visit it, let alone pay any respects. The information spread on the internet is false… We never got a chance to clarify. We feel completely powerless and hopeless.”

This part, in particular, was difficult to read:

The little nephew he loves is only four years old and dares not look at him, saying that his uncle is a bad person. When my son heard this, he went to his room and cried… He is really a strong person ordinarily, but at this moment he was broken.”

Zhang Zhehan was canceled in August over misinformation that cannot stand up to scrutiny, yet numerous reputable media entities continue to spread misinformation without further investigation.

As a consequence, Zhang’s works were de-platformed, his presence erased, his voice silenced, and even the right to use his own name is lost, all without any legal backing. In a country governed in accordance with law, a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty. But it’s been over four months now, and despite having committed no crime at all, Zhang is still being punished every day without rescission.

By Jessica J.

Jessica J. (alias) is the initiator of the Teddyfoxfluff blog which collects and translates Weibo posts relating to the Zhang Zhehan controversy. To read more, visit her blog here.

For more about Zhang Zhehan on What’s on Weibo, see our overview here

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Memes & Viral

Dutch Vlogger Discovers Her Boyfriend’s Photo on a Chinese TV Drama

Dutch vlogger Rianne Meijer was surprised to discover her boyfriend being somebody else’s lover in this Chinese television drama.

Manya Koetse

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The Dutch influencer Rianne Meijer has gone viral in the Netherlands and on Chinese social media after she posted a TikTok video in which she shared the discovery of her boyfriend’s photo in a Chinese TV drama.

“Remember this picture? This is a picture that I posted with my boyfriend a while ago,” Rianne says in the TikTok video, then showing a scene in Chinese TV drama in which a photoshopped photo of Rianne’s boyfriend is featured.

Although Rianne stood next to her boyfriend in the original photo, her face was replaced in the photoshopped edition featured on the Chinese TV drama.

“They look good together, it’s fine!” Rianne jokingly responded to the scene.

Rianne Meijer is an online influencer and YouTuber with some 1.5 million fans on her Instagram. She is known for often posting funny videos and photos, sometimes together with her boyfriend Roy.

The scene featuring Roy’s photo comes from the Chinese TV drama Summer Again (薄荷之夏), which premiered on iQiyi in the summer of 2021.

The scene shows a lady named Mi Ya (played by actress Li Borong 李柏蓉) talking about her relationship with a man named ‘Andre.’

On the Chinese social media site Weibo, many netizens found the incident “embarrassing” and did not understand why the staff would just steal someone’s portrait: “Couldn’t the production team even find a foreign guy to take a picture?”

Others also thought the incident was very funny: “This is the reality of our global village. You’d think nobody would find out, but it’s really not so secret.”

According to Rianne’s most recent Tiktok post update, the show’s production staff has since sent her an apology. She also writes it’s “all good,” adding: “They are so sweet and this gave us a good laugh.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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