No Sacrifice, No Victory: Building Chinese collective narratives

Whoever has won the US presidential elections, China is ready. The movie Sacrifice (金剛川 2020) tells us why.

by Wong Tsz (王子)


The time was June 1953, the Korean War had been going on for three years, Chinese volunteers were still fighting tirelessly in a war they believed was necessary to defend their motherland. The mountains of Kumsong set the foreground of the last major battle of the war. In the valley of the mountains lies the Kumsong River (金剛川). Chinese engineers were ordered to build a bridge on the river to ensure the logistical support to the troops stationed in the mountain. The bridge was destroyed seven times by UN artillery and air raids and seven times it was rebuilt by brave Chinese volunteers. The movie Sacrifice – the original title of which is “Kumsong River” (金剛川) – narrates the perspectives of three soldiers at this scene.

The reasons behind China’s involvement in the Korean War were manifold: a communist alliance, the wider impact of Maoism, Chinese national security interests, economic incentives       from Soviet Russia to its eastern neighbors and the need to consolidate domestic political control in mainland China shortly after defeating the Nationalists. The official terminology in China for the Korean War is ‘抗美援朝’ – ’Resist US Aggression and Aid (North) Korea’-, a term that avoids explicitly mentioning of the term ‘war’: the Chinese were helping the Koreans while the Americans were the demon. This perspective would of course be interpreted very differently in South Korea and in the West. The Korean War was the first ‘hot’ war of the Cold War, and the distress of a communist expansion in East Asia was clear and imminent. For many years, this conflict  has been a very sensitive part of Chinese history – but things are changing.

Continue reading “No Sacrifice, No Victory: Building Chinese collective narratives”

President Xi’s “Chinese Dream”

For ordinary Chinese citizens, political reform is an important step to achieve their “Chinese dream”. It is only a matter of time until the leadership faces the challenge and takes significant steps to meet global standards.


Yu Xichao│

China successfully completed its leadership transition to the “fifth generation” in the recent Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “Two Sessions”[1]. The meeting formally appointed Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang as the new President and Premier of the People’s Republic of China. Thus, Xi became the most influential man in the world’s most populous nation, and he will govern this huge, complex and increasingly powerful state for the next ten years. In the conclusion of his speech to the National People’s Congress (NPC), he urged the nation to pursue and achieve the “Chinese dream”.

So, naturally, the question everyone is asking is what is the “Chinese dream”? And how can it be achieved?

President Xi said “The Chinese dream is a dream of the whole nation as well as of every individual”. According to Xi, the “Chinese dream” is based on two levels: the national level and the individual level.

On the national level, the new government promises to strive for “great renaissance” by making the country militarily and economically strong without seeking “hegemony”. China, under the previous Hu-Wen leadership, accomplished the so-called “economic miracle” with an average of nearly 10% GDP growth annually. A long period of “peaceful rise” resulted in China’s global-power status. Now, China plays a significant role in shaping the global political and economic order. Meanwhile, China is also demonstrating more confidence in its foreign policies.

China’s remarkable economic growth benefited from Deng’s “Reform and Opening up” policy of 1978. Xi confirmed Deng’s economic reform as essential to the achievement of the “Chinese dream” and thus stressed the importance of continued economic development.

Fuguo Qiangbing (literally meaning “To enrich the country, strengthen the military”) is an ancient Chinese wisdom, originated about 2,500 years ago, which hints that growing economic power should necessarily be accompanied by growing military strength. So, Xi urged China’s military to improve its ability to “win battles and… protect national sovereignty and security”. Xi’s words have realistic meaning, implying the emerging challenges in today’s surrounding environment of China, in particular the escalation of tensions with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines over territorial disputes.

As China becomes stronger, it does not mean that China will seek hegemony. The concepts of Confucianism are deeply rooted in Chinese society, whose virtue of peacefulness is strongly embedded into Chinese culture. Nevertheless, China’s bitter experience in the modern period, particularly after the Opium War of 1840, has proven that the country needs a powerful military strength to protect itself from external forces that it does not desire.

China’s rise is based on its peaceful development policy. So, there is an unwavering commitment to continue this policy and to benefit from it. Meanwhile, Chinese leaders have continued to stress the country’s unshakable commitment to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The “Chinese dream” and “great renaissance of the Chinese nation” cannot be achieved if they cannot protect the country they live in.

In terms of the “Chinese dream” on the individual level, Xi promised to incessantly bring benefits to the Chinese people. It is true that Hu-Wen’s government achieved remarkable economic success, but the majority of Chinese citizens have not yet enjoyed the benefits of their country’s economic development. It is only the ruling elites and interest groups that have benefited from the economic accomplishment that every Chinese citizen participated in.

Meanwhile, many social problems have emerged, threatening the stability of society. The environmental crisis,  the wealth gap between the elite and the poor majority, food safety, and corruption have become real, urgent social issues. Under these circumstances, many Chinese people have reason to believe that their living conditions are getting worse.

As the new leader of this fast-changing state, Xi understands these difficult challenges within society. Therefore, he proclaimed that “the Chinese dream, after all, is the dream of the people”. Thus, “all Chinese people deserve equal opportunities to enjoy a prosperous life, to see their dreams come true and to benefit together from the country’s development”.

In reality, Chinese people are well aware that their country’s political development is far behind its  economic development. They have been calling on their new leaders to bring about political and social reforms to meet global standards, especially in the fields of democratization and freedom.

Every political reform is risky and needs a strong and powerful leader to implement it, especially in the case of China because it could involve conflict with vast interest groups. No doubt, there will be far-reaching consequences and billions of people’s lives will be affected.

For ordinary Chinese citizens, political reform is an important step to achieve their “Chinese dream”. It is only a matter of time until the leadership faces the challenge and takes significant steps to meet global standards.

Now, China is also facing historical change. The question is: will President Xi successfully lead the nation to achieve the “Chinese dream”?


[1]“Two sessions” or “Lianghui” refers to the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). They are held once a year in March. NPC is the highest state body and the unicameral legislative house in the People’s Republic of China. CPPCC is a political advisory body consisting of delegates from a range of political parties and organizations, as well as independent members.

Eminaldo profileYu Xichao, Contributing Writer

Xichao originally comes from Dalian, China, and completed his BA in International Relations at Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. He is currently studying MA Euroculture at the University of Göttingen as a home university, and the University of Strasbourg as a host university. His research interests include international relations, modern history, Asian studies and EU affairs