China Power

China’s Red Dawn?

How much does a remake of 80s blockbuster Red Dawn say about US attitudes toward China?

Its release date may have been postponed indefinitely from the planned November of this year, but the remake of a Hollywood blockbuster is still an interesting sign of the times. Russia is an occasional irritant for US foreign policy these days, but it’s no longer seen as an impending threat to the American way of life (indeed, Russia’s favourability rating has climbed from 44 percent in the US in 2007 to 49 percent now, according to the latest Pew Global Attitudes report).

So, with European style fears over a Londonistan situation not really applying in the United States, and for those not convinced the UN is training a black helicopter-equipped army in the Midwest, the most obvious target for a remake of 1980s hit Red Dawn is China.

According to a number of sites that have apparently viewed the script, the premise is that the US so inflames Chinese anger after deploying troops to Taiwan (it ticks Russia off as well by having Georgia admitted to NATO) that China decides to launch an invasion of the US Pacific Northwest. The Chinese also engage in some good old-fashioned propaganda, setting up Chinese/American ‘friendship centres’ and distributing anti-capitalist posters.

The original Red Dawn starred the then little known Patrick Swayze, while the remake stars rising (Australian) star Chris Hemsworth.

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So, is this going to be a blockbuster vehicle for Hemsworth that taps into a genuine fear?

The fact that the movie, which is virtually complete and is apparently in the post-production stage, has lost its firm November release date doesn’t bode well for its prospects. After all, listen to some aspiring US politicians and you’d think that the US was already occupied by a foreign power (the Obama administration—in case you missed it, the Republican Party nominee for the US Senate race in Nevada somewhat madly/disturbingly seems to have floated the possibility of armed insurrection).

But according to the same Pew survey, US opinions are actually pretty neutral, with 25 percent seeing China more as a partner, 17 percent as an enemy and 52 percent as neither. Meanwhile, China’s favourability rating this year is about steady from last year at 49 percent, and a full 10 percent higher than two years ago.

Meanwhile, popular New York-based site The Awl has already had a scathing thing or two to say about the movie after reviewing a copy of the Red Dawn script it obtained. Abe Sauer wrote:

‘It’s basically porn for survivalist militia types who believe it is “real” scenarios like this that justify everything from the sale of assault rifles to electing nationalist fear-mongers. Even worse, it’s just another in a long, tired, example of how America’s thinking about China has not progressed past Rohmer’s “Fu Manchu.”’

It’s a point taken up in China’s Global Times earlier this month, with one writer concluding:

‘A movie about the possibility of China invading the US should not cause much concern. What really deserves attention is Americans' lack of understanding of Chinese.’

That said, there’s one misunderstanding of China of which its policymakers might be proud. As far back as February 2008, about 40 percent of Americans already believed China had the world’s largest economy.