The Founding of a Republic《建国大业》Movie Review

I am back in the tropics for now, and during my lengthy flight across the northern Pacific Ocean, I came across the above-titled movie courtesy of StudioCX, the inflight entertainment of Cathay Pacific. Unlike some inflight movies which is aired when automatically, Cathay’s inflight entertainment is one of the best I have come across. With a great LCD screen, one can choose when to play, pause and stop the movie. On top of all the shows available, there’s still a power plug so that we can use the laptop in case we want other entertainment. (Yes, its all in Economy Class).

Ok, enough with the advertisement for Cathay, but just for the fact that they provided me with a memorable in-flight movie, I think they deserve this advert. The movie, as you all would have guessed by now, was a nice one indeed. With the economic spotlight on China and the many articles written about China’s rise on the world stage, this movie provided a fair insight into the modernization of China and the founding of Communism in China. Truth be told, with all my interests in China and its history, China after Qianlong was a bit fuzzy until now. I, of course, knew that the Qing dynasty ended and that there was civil strife and foreign invasion on China. This movie, perhaps shows what China could have become, how it became ruled by the CPC (Communist Party of China) today and why it became a unique form of socialism-capitalism model which forged the face of the nation today.

Just from the title, it is trying to tell viewers not to see China as a communist state, but as an industrialized nation that serves its people to the best of its ability. While the film is produced by the state-owned China Film Group and might have people saying its communist propaganda, it has been a relatively fair insight into history. The movie starts off with the young but nascent Communist Party being put in the spotlight after gaining the popularity support of China’s inner rural provinces, and shows the constraint Chiang Kai Shek had to face in this young republic. While the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) had the support of warlords, it was one that was doomed by internal strife, corruption, nepotism and cronyism. One just have to see the present state of Taiwanese politics to believe that this might be true after all. Initially the Kuomintang led by General Chiang had an agreement on allowing multi party representation on China’s first parliamentary session. It was one that had the support of the China Democratic League. However, the power-hungry Chiang had other plans in mind to ensure that he remained in charge. That is how things turned nasty, inciting further civil unrest, which eventually resulted in Beiping (present Beijing) falling into the hands of Mao Zedong and the Kuomintang ruling southern China. Mao’s liberation movement was supported by not just the communists but also by other minority party leaders which was supposed to be given status in the new parliament. Eventually though, the Kuomintang government led by Li Zongren (Chiang’s interim successor) even wanted to split China into 2 halves from the Yangtze. This was, fortunately, not a term agreed to by the CPC. It was alleged, though, that the CPC always wanted a new parliament set up based by representation of all parties. In fact that was the reason why China’s legislative meeting was called the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Foreigners might say that it is just a facade, and that everything is handled by the Communist Party (after all they are the largest representative in the legislature). Who is to say then that other government legislative isn’t a facade either? What matters, in my opinion, is the result of the legislature, not what is the legislature composed of! To quote Deng Xiaoping, cats, black or white doesn’t matter, as long as it catches the rat, it is a good cat. To that extent, that is how I see the Chinese method of governance work right now. It doesn’t matter the party and how the country is run, as long as the results are there and people’s lives improve, the method of governance works.

Besides introducing the political ideology at work in China today, it shows what the CPC tries to achieve – that is to be able to allow equal representation at the provincial level from people of all walks in life. That was what China’s 5 stars represent – the 4 classes of citizens rallying around a central government. This really got me thinking, as under Marxism thought, there was all along only one class in a state, which is the worker class. But the ideology in Communist China was that it supported individual classes and recognized the various specializations that forms the backbone of a nation. It was through this portion, which I believe, allowed the modern market reform to be implemented. In fact, it was something the CPC already had in mind! Another insight that one can obtain from the movie was the US-China relations which can only be best described as lukewarm today. There was a reason for it – the United States had a lot of support for Chiang’s Nationalist government through active lobbying by her wife, Madam Soong. It might be due to caution that the present Communist-led government of China had towards the United States as it was only not too long ago did the United States recognize the People’s Republic of China as the official China.

With that, I encourage anyone who is keen to know more about modern China today to watch this movie. While it is not a blockbuster by any standard, it does feature a stellar star-studded cast ranging from recognizable international stars like Andy Lau, Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Zhang Ziyi to China’s stalwarts like Hu Jun, Ge You, Zhang Guoli and Chen Kaige. While this movie showed China’s foundation as a nation, I only hope that this foundation might not just be preserved but also be strengthened to ensure the prosperity of Asia and the world.

The Founding of a Republic《建国大业》Poster. Poster from SINA.
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