War Remembered, Revolution Forgotten: Recasting the Sino-North Korean Alliance in China’s Post-Socialist Media State
From October 1950 to July 1953, the nascent Chinese state entered into a strategic alliance with North Korea; hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers shed blood on the Korean peninsula in defense of the socialist homeland and advancing Communist internationalism. But since the end of the Korean War, China has moved from revolutionary idealism and political radicalism in Mao’s era to the current post-socialist pragmatism and materialism. As the ideological winds shift, China’s contemporary propaganda apparatus must redefine the Korean War in order to reconcile the complexity of the war and wartime alliance with contemporary political concerns and popular views. By focusing on a documentary film, The Unforgettable Victory, produced by China’s leading state-run film studio in 2013, this article explores the ways in which the official media of the post-socialist era presents the past revolutionary war. The new film celebrates the splendid valor of Chinese soldiers, civilians’ heroic sacrifices, and the war’s nationalist legacy; however, it purposefully forgets the revolutionary fervor and internationalist sentiments that once forged the Sino–North Korean alliance and empowered wartime mobilization. This article examines the process of remembering and forgetting, and reveals government propaganda’s latest efforts to demobilize contemporary viewers while infusing the past revolutionary war with ideological clarity and political certainty in post-socialist China.
Keywords: Korean War, China, documentary film, post-socialism, media marketplace, propaganda, war memorialization