The movie “Born under the Red Flag”, directed by Sue Williams, is a touching representation of China’s evolution after Mao Zedong’s ruling. The beginning of the movie briefly reflects a quarter of century under the oppressive governance of Mao’s dictatorship and his reforms that generated terror: Cultural Revolution or the “Sent - Down Youth”, to name a few. Besides generating terror, these reforms and the entire political program that Mao developed created a closed China, isolated by foreign relations and in tensioned and hostile relationships with United States.
Soon after Mao’s death, it was Deng Xiaoping who opened China’s diplomatic relationship with foreign countries and got close to U.S., knowing that this approach would generate economic prosperity, which was the main vision of his political program. The movie mostly focuses on Deng’s economic reform, which interacted with the social and political systems of the country.
The video shows how Deng soon became the Chinese leader and from this position on how he followed his pragmatic creed, according to which “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches mice” (Deng Xiaoping), reflecting his open thinking to modernizing China. He continued focusing on the communist ideology, considering it the most fitted solution for avoiding the chaos. He developed the country’s economy, seizing the opportunity to attract foreign investment, by creating four economic zones in the South of China and proposing financial incentives to the country’s external business partners that would invest in China. The movie presents satisfied Chinese, benefiting the outcomes of the reform and change that Deng generated.
Although this produced huge economic prosperity for China, it also created a significant discrepancy between the South and the North. In the North, people were not feeling the economic boom and the change in their lifestyle, as then ones in South did, considering them under the influence of capitalism. And it was, in fact, capitalism, adapted to socialist economy. Deng sustained the democratic movement to prevent the spiritual pollution, he supported the peasants’ movement thru which they kept the products of their lands, after giving a part of their crop to the government, and he demolished the communes. His reforms were popular in South, but the North was frustrated, feeling their ideals of freedom, smashed and masked under this reform. The movie shows that he was harshly criticized by students, intellectuals, workers and foreign investors for the socio – political crises that occurred at the end of the eighties, when he banned the students’ demonstration with bullets, tanks, blood and deaths of hundreds.
The video presents facts and emotions of the people who lived, worked and studied under Deng’s governance. Although the movie presents a chronological reflection of Deng’s years, it does not lack the artistic expression. It transmits the ideological passion that was not suffocated even after different demonstrations were banned, it mingles the diplomatic games carried around between socialism and democracy, but most of all, it reflects the living conditions, sufferings, sorrow, disappointments and moments of release and happiness from the life of a complex but unified nation, at the edge of transformation, which threatens the people’s steadiness and uniformity. This is the result of capitalism, brought in by Deng to modernize China, to bring it on the global economic scene, as a major actor, which produced, as a natural outcome, a clear distinction between the rich and the poor.
The movie represents an accessible history page, comprising the key moments from China’s social, economic and political life after Mao Zedong, signalizing a comparison between the life during Mao and China during Deng. It suggests, moreover, the adaptability power of the Chinese people and the strength of the communist ideology that manages the biggest nation of the world, thru order, discipline and control.
Williams, Sue. China a Century of Revolution. Part 3: Born under the Red Flag. China: Ambrica Production. 1997. Film.