Chinese movie channel CCTV6 opts for wartime love story after Xi Jinping and Donald Trump agree to meet

Sarah Zheng

Just hours after presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump confirmed plans to meet in Japan later this month, China’s state broadcaster appeared to adjust its programming schedule to celebrate the news by showing a film in which a Chinese woman and an American serviceman fall in love during wartime.

The use of cinema to reflect and influence public opinion is not uncommon in China. After trade negotiations between Beijing and Washington faltered last month, and Trump made good on his threat to increase the tariff rate on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods, movie channel CCTV6 wasted no time in packing its schedules with anti-American fare.

Films like The Great Artery of Iron and Blood and Heroic Sons and Daughters, which depict Chinese soldiers valiantly defying US forces during the Korean war, flooded the airwaves.

And on May 18, the station even went so far as to explain on social media that its decision to replace a scheduled comedy with the 1960 Korean war-themed Qi Xi was because it wanted to “use cultural products like movies to echo the current era”.

The film Lover’s Grief Over the Yellow River stars Paul Kersey and Ning Jing who were married at the time. Photo: Weibo

Comedy was once again the victim on Wednesday morning, when the scheduled Dating Fever was apparently elbowed out to make room for the 1999 production Lover’s Grief Over the Yellow River. But this time, the last-minute replacement was not a vent for vitriol, but rather 180 minutes of love-conquering-all positivity.

Directed by Feng Xiaoning, the film – which was also listed as the “Pick of the Day” – tells the story of a US pilot who falls for a local guerilla fighter while helping the Chinese see off an invading Japanese force during the second Sino-Japanese war.

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The romance was enhanced still further by the fact that the two lead roles were filled by American Paul Kersey and Chinese Ning Jing who were married at the time, though they later divorced.

While CCTV6 did not respond to requests for comment on the scheduling change, people on Chinese social media had no doubt it reflected a softening in tone.

The film tells the story of a US pilot who falls for a guerilla fighter while helping the Chinese during the second Sino-Japanese war. Photo: Weibo

The Post reported earlier that the trade war had resulted in many Chinese television and film production houses turning their backs on American talent, with a number of actors saying they had been told by casting directors and agents that there was an unofficial ban on hiring them.

One actor, who declined to give his name, said he was abruptly dropped from three television roles in just a few days, including one show due to be shot in the United States.

South Korean actors experienced similar treatment in 2017 after tensions rose between Beijing and Seoul in response to the latter agreeing to deploy an American missile defence system.

CCTV6 said on Weibo – China’s Twitter-like platform – on Wednesday morning that Lover’s Grief Over the Yellow River showed the “unyielding spirit of the Chinese people from the perspective of foreigners”.

In one scene, Kersey’s character, who speaks in both Mandarin and English, stands beside the eponymous waterway and describes it as “the mother river of China” that is “truly a symbol of the spirit of that nation”.

The use of cinema to reflect and influence public opinion is not uncommon in China. Photo: Weibo

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